Power Behind the Throne: the Canadian Council of Chief Executives

by | Jan 29, 2013 | Videos | 0 comments

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by James Corbett
January 29, 2013

The Royal Institute of International Affairs in the UK. The Zionist organization of America in the US. In this series of Eyeopener reports, we have been looking at some of the less-scrutinized organizations of influence in world affairs, and this week we cast our eyes north of the border to an institution of considerable influence over the Canadian government that, like these other groups, few amongst the general population have ever heard of: the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

The Council describes itself as a “not-for-profit, non-partisan organization” populated by the CEOs of Canada’s largest corporations. The organization, again in its own words, “engage[s] in an active program of public policy research, consultation and advocacy.” In other words, it is a corporate lobby group, and as its members control $4.5 trillion in assets it has been one of the most powerful lobbies in Canada since its inception as the Business Council on National Issues in 1976. Earlier this week I had the chance to talk to Canadian researcher Morgan Duchesney of HoneyBadgerPress.ca about the Council, its influence, and its activities.

That the Council wields enormous power in the Canadian political arena is beyond dispute. Its membership roster is a Who’s Who of Canadian business and politics, including current President John Manley, who was named Time Canada’s “Newsmaker of the Year” in 2001 for his role in crafting cross-border anti-terrorism strategies with the first U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and served as Deputy Prime Minister in the Chretien cabinet from 2002 to 2003. Other members of the council are household names, if not personally than for the companies they helm: Air Canada, Bombardier, CN, Deloitte, Encana, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, KPMG, Royal Bank of Canada, and many other firms at the heart of the Canadian economy.

Even amongst this list of business elite, one name in particular stands out: Desmarais. Both Paul Desmarais Jr. and his brother Andre, co-CEOs of Power Corporation, are members of the Council. The Desmarais are often called Canada’s Rockefellers for their enormous wealth, influence, and political power. Their company, Power Corp., has the dubious distinction of having direct ties to every Canadian Prime Minister of the past three decades.

Last year I talked to Andrew Gavin Marshall, host of the Empire, Power and People podcast here on BoilingFrogsPost.com, about the Desmarais and their central role in Canadian business and politics.

With the power of business dynasties like the Desmarais’ Power Corp. behind the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, its ability to shape, influence, and even dictate Canadian foreign in domestic policy is indisputable. But how exactly is this power and influence being wielded?

As Duchesney outlines in his article on the Council, the CCCE’s forerunner, the BCNI, was responsible for the highly influential 1986 Competition Act:

In 1985 the BCNI approached Andre Ouellette, Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, with an offer he didn’t refuse. BCNI CEO Thomas D’Aquino had, “…previously decided that Canada needed a new competition act.” D’Aquino 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.”

The act contained no provisions for class-action lawsuits, left the crime of criminal conspiracy so vague as to be unprosecutable, and moved prosecutions under the act from the criminal to the civil courts.

More recently, though, the Council has been using its political leverage to further integration with the US in a NAFTA-on-steroids plan that sees regional government as the inevitable, desirable outcome. The Council was in fact responsible for launching the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a three-party dialogue between Canada, Mexico and the US that was officially launched in 2006, but began as an initiative originating with the Council in 2003. In 2007 The Corbett Report published internal documents from the SPP talks demonstrating that the North American Competitiveness Council, a type of trilateral CCCE representing the 50 largest North American corporations and including many of the Canadian Council’s members, was responsible for shaping and furthering the SPP talks.

The SPP eventually folded under intense criticism from all sides over its excessive secrecy, but far from retreating from the idea of North American regional government, the Council and its members still openly promote the destruction of national borders and the creation of a continental security perimeter and free trade zone as a desirable goal to strive toward.

Once again, exactly as with the Royal Instiute of International Affairs, we find an organization operating very much in the public spotlight that is capable of wielding inordinate control over national policy in the interest of the very few. No conspiracy theory is needed to explain the operations or influence of a group like the Canadian Council of Chief Executives because there is nothing theoretical about it: the Council uses its political and economic influence to advocate (and even draft) legislation favourable to their interests and agenda. This process is all the more insidious because it happens in the plain light of day, and yet still goes virtually unnoticed by the population of Canada.

The obvious next question is what can be done about the influence that groups like this wield over the political process. This is a question that will be taken up in a future installment of this series. For now, Canadians are encouraged to use the resources in this presentation as a starting point for their own research into the influence of the CCCE, and viewers around the world are encouraged to identify and delineate the similar organizations that are shaping the national policies in their own country.


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