security and prosperity manleys your man

Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee prepared to have an election, 'cause Tweedle-dum wasn't doing a thing to help tens of thousands of laid-off Canadian workers, and Tweedle-dee was fighting mad.

Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee prepared to have an election, ‘cause Tweedle-dum wasn’t doing a thing to help tens of thousands of laid-off Canadian workers, and Tweedle-dee was fighting mad.

But no problem, the guys put their heads together and came to a compromise. Canadian workers could go to hell, and they’d have a jolly summer off while a few of their pals got to sit on a joint big-business-party committee to study the workers’ problem.

That same week, elsewhere in Ottawa, a rather more grown-up matter was being settled. Tomas Daquino, considered by many to be a more powerful player than any prime minister, stepped down as chair of the Canadian Council of Chief Executive Officers, the lobby group representing the 150 biggest corporations in Canada (give or take a corporation or two for natural market fluctuation), and was succeeded in his post by John Manley, once a Liberal deputy prime minister. If he’s able to run the show the way Daquino did, Manley now has the power to blue-pencil Canada’s federal budget, whether it be Tweedle-dum’s or Tweedle-dee’s.

But while acting as the power behind the throne of Canada will be one of his duties, Manley has inherited a far larger task with his new job. He is now Canada’s lead hand on the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or as it is colloquially known, Deep Integration.

In March 2005 at Waco, Texas, the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States announced the signing of a new agreement, above and beyond NAFTA, to be known as the SPP. This latest deal has received very little public notice, because unlike free trade in its various incarnations, security and prosperity are being handled at the executive level of government, without oversight of Parliament.

Following hard on the heels of the Waco summit came a 2006 meeting in Cancun, Mexico, where the same three leaders announced the formation of the North American Competitiveness Council, a group of CEOs from some of the world’s richest corporations who advise governments on the prosperity side of the partnership. So far their advice has been right on the mark: despite hard times all over the world, CEOs of even the most bankrupt of giant corporations remain prosperous.

A third SPP summit was held in Montebello, Quebec, in August, 2007, but you’re not alone if all you can remember about that is the video footage of three cops dressed up as rioters (except for their shoes) trying to get a bunch of peaceful protestors to throw stones. A fourth summit in New Orleans was similarly underreported.

No, the press outlets aren’t conspiring to keep the SPP secret, there’s just very little news to gather, in the ordinary way of news-gathering. With no oversight by the legislative branches of government in any of the three countries, there has been no debate, no press releases beyond the occasional official announcement, no explanation from anyone in charge as to where all this might lead. It’s almost impossible for the ordinary citizen even to know what the SPP is.

According to its own website, “The SPP provides the framework to ensure that North America is the safest and best place to live and do business.” Columnist Murray Dobbin describes it as “the secretive scheme to annex Canada to the United Sates.”

Which, if either, of these views is supported by the facts? This is a question worth considering, because in either case, the agreement will change the nature of Canada. But will it make it a better, safer, more prosperous place, or will it turn us into an American colony ?

Without doubt, Dobbin is right on the secretive part. SPP meetings are subject to the highest level of security, and cloaked in secrecy. Even the list of those who attend is almost impossible to get your hands on, but one thing is known: aside from the politicians and their minders, the only guests are selected from the A-list of big business executives. So with one proviso we can accept one of the SPP’s claims too. The agreed-upon framework will make North America a better place to do business—if you are a giant corporation.

Incidentally, now that Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee have shaken hands, Parliament can go out for summer, and the budget can be implemented as whole. It’s all a done deal, including “$29 million to meet priorities under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.”

To believe that the SPP is good for North America, you have to believe that its billionaire proponents have the best interests of the continent at heart, or at least that their interests and yours are the same. There used to be an adage to express this last view, one that’s fallen out of vogue a bit lately. They used to say, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”

Al Pope won the 2002 Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.