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MEGA-LOBBYISTS: THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF CHIEF EXECUTIVES

MEGA-LOBBYISTS

by Morgan Duchesney


MEGA-LOBBYISTS: THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF CHIEF EXECUTIVES

 

Why does the most influential and powerful business lobby group in Canada rate only three mentions in a mainstream newspaper like the Ottawa Citizen over the entire course of 2010? This odd phenomenon can be likened to the fabled satanic deception whereby the Prince of Lies has convinced the world that he does not exist. The influence of the CCCE, formerly known as the Business Council on National Issues (BCNI) is matched only by the degree to which that influence is masked and sheltered.

 

The 1986 Competition Act: Privatizing the Legislative Process

 

In 1985 the BCNI approached Andre Ouellette, Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, with an offer he apparently couldn’t refuse. BCNI CEO Thomas D’Aquino had, “…previously decided that Canada needed a new competition act.” (Newman, Peter. C. 2008) He spent $1 million to hire a team of 25 lawyers who by 1985, “…had produced a 236-page master plan. Incredibly, it became Canada’s new Competition Act, virtually word for word.” (Ibid.) The legislation was soon passed into law with little debate or fanfare and Canada’s business environment was irrevocably transformed. According to Newman, the 1986 Competition Act contained,

 

… no provisions for class-action laws suits; corporate monopolistic conspiracies were so vaguely defined that they were just about impossible to prove; and prosecutions were moved from criminal to civil courts. It was the only time in the history of capitalism that any country allowed its anti-monopoly legislation to be written by the very people it was meant to restrain. (Ibid)

 

While the Competition Act has endured tinkering since 1986, most of its provisions are still in force and haven’t really improved the competitiveness of the Canadian economy. The recent global recession aside, there is a simple reason for this: corporate Canada’s failure to invest in research and development. In spite of this dangerous investment failure and endless tax cut demands, public subsidy for private profit continues unabated and the mythology of the so-called free market is alive and well. According to Mark Milke of the Fraser Institute,

 

Bailouts and subsidies to business by Canadian governments surpassed $200 billion between 1994 and 2007, adding up to $15,126 per taxpayer…our governments have a long history of spending public money on corporate welfare in attempts to pick winners and losers among various business sectors.

 

The investment situation has changed very little since 2007 but there may be hope if official sentiments are any indication, “The Bank of Canada has said investment in capital spending by businesses must be a key driver for the economy for coming years.” (Ottawa Citzen, Jan.13, 2001 pg. A4) However, stiff corporate resistance to investment still exists, whereby, “…Jason Myers, president of the CME [Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters], [says] business investment expansion is partly conditional on the federal government following through with its plan to reduce the corporate tax rate to 15 per cent in 2012.” (Ibid.) 

 

The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) - Unacceptable Secrecy

 

Critics of this North American security plan in both the U.S. and Canada fear the loss of national sovereignty and the arbitrary imposition of a common border and currency for the entire continent. Of course, these critics also and naturally fear being folded into the United States, with its overwhelming economic and military advantage over Canada and Mexico. The extreme secrecy of the deal did not help to relieve peoples’ fears in this respect.  The SPP died in 2009 because of public opposition to the elitist and secretive behavior of its planners, chief among them the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), which includes the leadership of the CCCE.

 

The original SPP was ostensibly designed to improve North American security, and as,

“Colin Robertson, a senior fellow at the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute told the National Post the agreement is an attempt by the Canadian government to link security to improved access to the U.S. for Canadians. “  However, the SPP will soon be replaced by the New Border Vision, another secret deal with similar ramifications. Of particular concern to critics is the proposed use of biometric technology and its attendant privacy concerns. No matter what form the next secret deal takes, the public may rest assured that the unaccountable CCCE will be working to keep Canadians in the dark.

 

Public Risk for Private Profit – Canadian Style

 

The following statistics from the 2007 Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) report: On the Dole: Businesses, Lobbyists and Industry Canada’s Subsidy Programs may be slightly dated but that is mainly a function of the severe difficulty involved in wresting timely corporate subsidy facts from the government of Canada. The subsidies listed below were paid through Industry Canada’s controversial Technology Partnerships Canada (TPC) program.  Below is a list of CCCE member corporations and an incomplete account of the sums they’ve recently received in the form of grants and low interest loans. The abysmal repayment rate for these so-called loans as calculated by the CTF ranges from 7-20 per cent.

 

Bombardier               March 26, 1997      $87, 000,000

CAE                          March 30, 2001      $73, 400,000

IBM Canada             March 9,   2001       $33, 000,000

Irving Oil Ltd.            May 28, 1998              $ 497, 200

Research in Motion  May 31, 2000          $39, 600,000

SNC Lavelin:            May 31, 2000            $8, 700,000

MDS Inc.                  Sept. 5, 1997             $2, 800,000

 

This list merely represents those corporations with direct CCCE membership and is in no way a complete representation of Canadian public subsidy for private profit beneficiaries. Of special note are the following CCCE member energy companies who each receive an unspecified share of the nearly $2 billion [yearly] in available government subsidies or tax incentives. They are as follows:

 

Canadian Oil Sands Ltd.

Direct Energy

Enerplus Resources Fund

Encana Corporation

First Energy Capital Corporation

Irving Oil Ltd.

Shell Canada Ltd.

Suncor Energy Inc.

Talisman Energy Inc.

Ultramar Inc.

 

Why would the government of Canada give public money to already profitable corporations? This practice seems to defy so-called free market ethics.

 

Profitable Intimacy among Canada’s Business and Political Elite

 

In a quiet display of ruthless hypocrisy, Canada’s TD, RBC and Bank of Nova Scotia, all CCCE members; proudly claimed that they required no public bailouts like U.S. banks during the recent financial crisis, but, “…a list revealed by the U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday revealed the country’s [Canada] five big banks tapped U.S. government funds when private lending channels seized.” (Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 2, 2010, pg. A2.) In defense of Canadian bankers, the Fed said, “Participation in the [loan] programs ‘reflected the severe market disruptions during the financial crisis and generally did not reflect participant’s financial weakness.” (Ibid.) Perhaps it merely reflected the banks’ refined tendency to opportunism.

 

Current CCCE CEO John Manley is eminently qualified for the role of corporate welfare lobbyist, having served as public finance officer for corporate Canada during his term as Industry Minister. Not surprisingly, Canada’s considerable debt and deficit during the early 1990s did not preclude the provision of generous corporate welfare to deserving recipients.  In an act of enormous entitlement and hypocrisy,

 

...Canadian Steamship Lines [Paul Martin’s family firm] and its subsidiaries have received $161 million in contracts, grants and contributions from the [federal] government over the last 11 years [1993-2003]...CSL companies were awarded 420 contracts and contributions worth $45 million during the nine years that Mr. Martin was finance minister. (Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 3, 2003, pg. A1)

 

Ironically, this gift was delivered during Martin’s reign as Finance Minister, period of so-called restraint when infrastructure, the military, health care, education and social services were on the chopping block.

 

While some corporate welfare is supposedly delivered in the form of repayable loans, details are always sketchy.  A pity that indebted university students and small business owners don’t receive the same largesse or enjoy the privilege of having their unpaid debts miraculously converted to grants. Maybe they simply need a better lobbyist.

 

Author Bio:

 

Morgan Duchesney is an Ottawa writer and martial arts instructor. His political philosophy has appeared in The Media Co-op, Humanist Perspectives, Adbusters, Canadian Charger, Muslim Link, the Ottawa Citizen and the Peace and Environment News.

 

 


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