Our Prime Minister-CEO

By David Ng

Prior to the election last spring, in an effort to style himself as a Richard Gere-type humanitarian rather than as a Cheney-like corporate raider, Paul Martin agreed to meet with the Dalai Lama. China–Canada’s fourth largest export market–urged Martin not to meet with him, and warned that it could threaten bilateral trading. Martin, ever aware of business interests, decided to meet with the Dalai Lama on the condition that it was as a religious and not as a political leader. Last week and post-election, Martin was less guarded when he welcomed Chinese investments in Canada’s natural resource sector.

Noranda Inc., the country’s biggest mining firm, is in talks with the Chinese state firm Minmetals on selling 100 per cent of the corporation for an estimated $5 billion. Martin issued a warm welcome, without mixed messages, from one ex-CEO to all others. The message: Canada will welcome business regardless of concerns over sovereignty and human rights.

Martin has run Canada as a CEO. Liberal priorities are those of business while those of Canadians have been placed on a to do list. While Martin and the Liberals were reducing social spending to pre-1951 levels, they were simultanously instituting a large tax cut in 2000 with the bulk of the cuts going to large coporations. The Liberals have sold off many public Canadian companies, and recently completed the sale of Canada’s final shares in Petro-Canada. Policies of tax cuts, deficit reduction, and privatization have all been geared towards the opening of Canada for foreign investment.

Foreign ownership over Canadian resources presents risks to Canadian sovereignty. It creates an interest group of considerable power and direct access to government. Paul Cellucci, U.S. Ambassador to Canada and Bush adminstration mouthpiece, warned Canada of economic consequences for not joining the war in Iraq. It is U.S. economic dominance over Canadian industry that gives force to his right-eous arguments. We will not be able to maintain our political independance without our economic freedom.

Mutual investment between Canada and China supports China’s repressive and undemocratic regime while undermining our own democracy. Canada has a large amount of trade with China. Investment in Canada’s resource sector is needed to ensure resource availability for China’s growing economy. This policy supports a Chinese government that is a violator of human rights. Notably, state-owned China Minmetals Corp., the likely buyer of Noranda Inc., has been accused of profiting from forced labour in China’s prisons.

The process that supports China’s regime will undermine our control over our resources, and create corporate dependency based on friendly relations. Corporate pressure will make it difficult to challenge China on rights issues. It is the toxic convergence of state and big business that results in democracy and human rights becoming slogans of the masses rather than priorities of western governments.

John Ralston Saul describes Canada as an “unconscious civilization,” one that is unaware of the forces that are undoing us. Foreign ownership over our economic system is one such force. In 1993, Canadians voted for the Liberals to take us in a new direction. Instead we got more free trade, tax cuts, privatization, and a public policy that has made Canada ripe for a foreign corporate takeover.

Martin met with the Dalai Lama as a religious leader because he did not want to cross the political boundaries set by the business class. After all, a CEO can find religion, but a politician is responsible to the people.