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Corporate Canada and the Rise of the Christian Right
In April 2003, just seventeen months after the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, Thomas d’Aquino, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (ccce), hosted several dozen Canadian business leaders at an exclusive meeting in Washington that included Tom Ridge, then secretary of homeland security, Spencer Abraham, then secretary of energy, and Richard Perle, one of the key authors of the Bush doctrine on national security. The Canadian business community had come to express its grave concern about the effect of U.S. security measures on the flow of traffic and goods across the Canada—U.S. border. The delays and disruptions caused by intensified security measures brought home to the ccce its vulnerability in the event that Canada should find itself outside of Fortress North America. Eighty-seven per cent of all Canadian exports go to the United States and some 40 per cent of Canada’s gnp is tied to Canada—U.S. trade. This dependence is a direct result of the two trade agreements, the Canada—U.S. Free Trade Agreement (fta) and its successor, the North American Free Trade Agreement (nafta), for which d’Aquino and his friends had lobbied furiously in the 1980s. No major country in the world is as dependent on a single trading partner as Canada, post-nafta.
But now d’Aquino and his colleagues had come to Washington to convey their dismay. They were shocked to realize that nafta was not enough to keep the border open and keenly aware that the Bush administration was prepared to rewrite unilaterally the terms and conditions of entry into its markets, regardless of any previous agreement. They were worried that their historically privileged relationship with Wall Street and Washington would be eroded as the United States forged ties and bilateral trade agreements with other states, such as Mexico and China. And they understood that, following the invasion of Iraq, Britain and Australia were seen as closer and more loyal military allies than the northern neighbour, which had withheld its support for the war. So Canada’s business leaders were anxious when they walked into the Washington meeting.
They got an earful. One badly shaken ceo said later that Richard Perle told the group that Canada had better figure out where its interests lie. The message was clear: security trumped all other concerns. If Canadian business leaders wanted the border to stay open, they would have to help build a security perimeter around North America and support America’s military, energy, and economic interests abroad.
THE POLITICS OF DIVISION
Nine eleven changed everything. It gave a directionless U.S. president new energy and a cause. It drastically altered the context of international politics and set the stage for an aggressive new U.S. foreign policy. It led to the erosion of civil liberties everywhere. On the home front, in the period leading up to the 2004 election campaign, post-9/11 manoeuvring saw the entrenchment of a powerful alliance of big-business interests, neo-conservative politicians, and Christian evangelicals that appears set to dominate United States politics for years to come.
American political culture is deeply divided: gone is the broad liberal consensus that defined political competition in the years after the Second World War. (The nature of this revolution is explored more fully in Chapter 2.) The Canadian political scene is marginally less partisan. Evangelical Christians have not yet challenged the separation of Church and state in Canada as they have in the United States. And other differences remain, notably the Canadian public’s attachment to certain social values that are largely absent from the American political scene. But these Canadian values are under attack as never before and the business community continues to play a leading role in the assault. Deep integration with the United States would serve the interests of big business very nicely. If it happens — and the process is much further advanced than most Canadians realize — then the nature of Canadian politics and society is likely to be altered profoundly and irrevocably.
THE CCCE TAKES CHARGE
A striking similarity between Canadian and American political structures at present is the extraordinary influence both in the Prime Minister’s Office and in the White House of the heads of the continent’s most powerful corporations. No one embodies that influence in Canada more completely than Thomas d’Aquino, head of the ccce, Canada’s foremost corporate lobby. D’Aquino has been a driving force behind Fortress North America for almost thirty years. He claims, and would like to believe, that North American economic integration is “irreversible.” The ccce is made up of the ceos of the 150 largest corporations in Canada, many of them branch plants of U.S. transnationals. D’Aquino founded the predecessor to the ccce, the Business Council on National Issues (bcni), in 1976 and it became the private-sector leader in the development and promotion of both the fta and nafta. The bcni spent millions of dollars to sell these deals to the Canadian people. (In his memoir, Wrestling with the Elephant: The Inside Story of the Canada—U.S. Trade Wars, Gordon Ritchie, deputy chief trade negotiator for the fta, boasted that “in a radical departure from past practice,” he brought the bcni into the negotiation process as a partner to government. Needless to say, no labour, environmental, or human-rights groups had similar access to power.)
Member chief executives of the ccce head companies that collectively have annual revenues of more than $600 billion and control a majority of Canada’s private-sector investments and exports. In addition to d’Aquino, the ccce Executive Committee includes a who’s who of the corporate elite in Canada, among them: Chairman Richard L. George, president and ceo of Suncor Energy Inc.; Honorary Chairman A. Charles Baillie, ceo of Toronto Dominion Bank; Vice-Chairman Dominic D’Alessandro, ceo of Manulife Financial; Paul Desmarais, Jr., head of Power Corporation of Canada; Jacques Lamarre, ceo of snc-Lavalin Group; Gwyn Morgan, ceo of EnCana Corporation; and Gordon Nixon, of the Royal Bank of Canada. Members of the ccce enjoy easy and regular access to the halls of power in Ottawa and Washington. D’Aquino is a good friend of many influential Republicans, including George Bush, Sr. On a fishing trip they took together in Labrador in the summer of 2002, Bush convinced d’Aquino that his concerns about delays at the border would not be taken seriously in Washington until Canada was prepared to meet U.S. security demands.