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On June 11, the Global Elite Gather in Montreal: Will the Maple Spring Say Hello?

On June 11, the Global Elite Gather in Montreal: Will the Maple Spring Say Hello?

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Paul Desmarais Jr., leaving a Power Corporation shareholders meeting as students protest on May 15, 2012

 

From June 11-14, Montreal will be hosting the International Economic Forum of the Americas at the 2012 Conference of Montreal, which will bring roughly 150 speakers from the global elite to speak to an audience of other elites and sympathetic media spokespersons. This year’s conference will include as the keynote speaker, Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve System (the U.S. central bank), who was once considered for nearly 20 years to be “the most powerful banker in the world,” and as such, was largely responsible for causing the global financial crisis, along with the heads of the central banks of Portugal, Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico and Canada. There will be delegates from 24 countries around the world gathering at the Hilton Bonaventure Montreal Hotel to discuss the theme of “A Global Economy in Transition: New Strategies, New Partnerships” in front of roughly 3,000 participants. Along with formal discussions, “the Conference of Montreal will also enable the world’s various economic and political players present on this occasion to strengthen their relationships and develop new business opportunities.”

Here is the website in English: The Conference of Montreal

Here is the website in French: Conférence de Montréal

Here is a Facebook Event for a protest/manifestation at the Forum.

This conference will include key policy-makers and power-holders in Canada, North America, and around the world. It provides a forum through which the global elite may meet, talk, debate, shape consensus, and discuss policy-objectives of their respective nations and institutions. The ideology of those present is relentlessly pro-globalization, pro-Capitalist, and pro-power. The speakers are often advocates of neoliberalism, globalization, fiscal austerity, privatization, corporatization, imperialism and social control. This conference takes place in the midst of Quebec students standing up against educational austerity and protesting against policies which benefit the rich at the expense of the many. Will the ‘Maple Spring’ say hello to the global elite as they gather in Montréal?

The event, which is hosted by Power Corporation, owned by the billionaire Desmarais family, and a host of other corporate sponsors, receives 25% of its funding from public sources, including the Government of Canada and the Province of Québec, which alone contributes nearly $200,000 to a Conference hosted by billionaires. But remember, while public subsidies are available for billionaires to discuss how to make billions more, there is no money for education, social services, health care, or your future.

What is the Conference of Montreal / International Economic Forum of the Americas?

The stated “Mission” of the IEFA/Conference de Montréal is “to heighten knowledge and awareness of the major issues concerning economic globalization, with a particular emphasis on the relations between the Americas and other continents.” The Conference “strives to foster exchanges of information, to promote free discussion on major current economic issues and facilitate meetings between world leaders to encourage international discourse by bringing together Heads of State, the private sector, international organizations and civil society.” Among the stated “Objectives” are:

* To give its participants access to privileged information while fostering free and extensive discussions on various aspects of economy, with contributors and experts from among the best qualified;

* To promote relations between governments, international organizations, business people, members of the civil society, workers associations and universities;

* To allow its participants from various areas in the world to have business meetings during which they can develop their company or organization internationally

The International Economic Forum of the Americas/Conference of Montreal began in 1994 “at a time when the globalization of the economies was beginning to emerge at an increased rate” with the founding of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the end of the Cold War, development of NAFTA and other free-trade agreements, and thus, there was “the idea that Montreal could be the host city for an international yearly economic conference concerned with this phenomenon of the globalization of economies.” The first Conference took place in 1995.

The 18th annual conference of the International Economic Forum of the Americas will include “some of the most important international decision makers have already confirmed their attendance.” The focus of this year’s Forum will include: “the financial crisis and its impact on the world economy”; “International trade, and in particular the new Americas-European Union economic space, including the Canada-European Union trade agreement: this important trade agreement, which should be finalized in 2012” and will include “a number of executives from Canadian and European companies [who] will take the opportunity to meet at the 2012 Conference of Montreal to form new business ties for this new and important economic space”; and of course, “developing and extracting natural resources.” The full program can be reviewed here: Program 2012.

This year’s speakers list includes representatives and leaders from: the C.D. Howe Institute, the World Economic Forum, Bombardier Inc., Citibank, the European Commission, McKinsey & Company, Rio Tinto Alcan, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Rector of the University of Montreal, the President of the Canadian Bankers Association, the Governor of the Bank of Canada (a former Goldman Sachs executive), J.P. Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, Governor of the Bank of Portugal, former Canadian Ambassador to Egypt, Power Corporation of Canada, Canadian Ambassador to the United States, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Conference Board of Canada, the World Bank, Scotiabank, PepsiCo, McGill University, Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Deutsche Bank, the Chairman of the Bank for International Settlements (the central bank to the world’s central banks and the most powerful financial institution in the world), the Brookings Institution, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the World Policy Institute and the World Bank, among many others.

At the 2007 Conference of Montreal, Premier Jean Charest stated that, “Quebec is deeply committed to the process of globalization,” and that, “Quebec has built an economy open to the world which has allowed us to reach a very high standard of living because globalization has worked for us.” By “us” he means his friends and informal advisers at Power Corporation and the Forum. In his speech to the Conference, Charest stated that, “We believe very much in equality of opportunity.” Apparently, this is not the case for students.

The Founding Chairman of the International Economic Forum of the Americas is Gil Rémillard, Counsel for the law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, and between 1985 and 1994 he held several different positions in the Quebec government, including Minister of International Relations, Minister of Public Security, Minister of Justice, Attorney General, and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Forum is Paul Desmarais Jr., Co-CEO of Power Corporation of Canada alongside his brother André Desmarais, both sons of one of Canada’s richest billionaires, Paul Desmarais Sr, collectively making up Canada’s most powerful family. Paul Desmarais Jr. sits on a number of corporate boards, including: Power Corporation of Canada, Power Financial Corporation, Investors Group Inc., The Great-West Life Assurance Company, Great-West Lifeco Inc., London Insurance Group Inc. and London Life Insurance Company; in the United States: Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company; in Europe: Pargesa Holding S.A. (Switzerland) and Groupe Bruxelles Lambert S.A. (Belgium). He is a member of the Board of Directors of Gesca Ltd, Les Journaux Trans-Canada Inc. and La Presse Ltd in Canada; Suez and TotalFinaElf in France, among others.

Another member of the Board of Governors of the Forum is the wife of Paul Desmarais Jr., Hélène Desmarais, Chair of the Board of Directors of HEC Montréal (Canada’s leading business school), Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Montreal Enterprises and Innovation Centre (CEIM), Vice-President of the Board of Directors and member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal (which praised the passing of Bill 78), and is a member of the Board of directors of The Montreal Economic Institute, a right-wing think tank which has been promoting more neoliberalism in Québec and blaming the student strike for the “financial cost” it has made to Québec; and she is a board member of the C.D. Howe Institute, one of Canada’s most influential think tanks.

Another member of the board of governors of the Forum is Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice Chancellor of McGill University, who is also a member of the Trilateral Commission and is on the board of directors of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Other members include the presidents of the Chamber of Commerce of Canada and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), the CEO of Rio Tinto Alcan, a major mining company; the CEO of GDF Suez, a French electricity and gas company; the CEO of Hydro-Quebec; and the executives of the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, UNESCO, the OECD, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Energy Agency (IEA), as well as Louis Lévesque, Canada’s Deputy Minister of International Trade.

The Forum’s official ‘Partners’ include first and foremost, the Desmarais-owned Power Corporation of Canada, followed by the Royal Bank of Canada, Rio Tinto Alcan, Cisco, Total, GDF Suez, McKinsey & Company, SNC Lavalin, Hydro-Quebec, BNP Paribas, Bell, Citibank, Desjardins Group, the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec, with media partners including the Financial Post and La Presse (owned by the Desmarais family).

The ‘Power’ Behind the Conference of Montreal

The Desmarais family is unquestionably Canada’s most powerful family. The Desmarais family, wrote Christa d’Souza for the London Telegraph, are “Canada’s equivalent of the Rockefellers or Vanderbilts.” Founded in 1925, Power Corporation of Canada is an investment company involved in communications, business, and especially finance. In the 1960s, the company began to invest in energy, finance, industry, and real estate. In 1968, financier Paul Desmarais took over the leadership of Power Corporation, and rapidly expanded the assets held by the company, including by the 1970s: Canada Steamship Lines (transportation); Consolidated Bathurst (pulp and paper); Investors Group, Great-West Life, Montreal Trust (financial services); and Gesca (communications). Power Corporation expanded across Canada, Europe, and into China. Paul Desmarais stepped aside as Chairman and CEO in 1996, though remaining as the controlling shareholder, and had his two sons, Paul Jr. and André, become Chairman and President and Co-CEOs. Power Corporation owns Gesca, a communications company which in turn owns La Presse as well as six other daily newspapers in Quebec.

Paul Desmarais Sr. is one of Canada’s richest individuals, which is, of course, no surprise, and as Konrad Yakabuski wrote for the Globe and Mail, “Desmarais has been personally consulted by prime ministers on every major federal economic and constitutional initiative since the 1970s. Most of the time, they’ve taken his advice.” Power Corporation has taken large stakes in major European companies such as Bertelsmann, Total and Suez. In the mid-1960s, a protégé of Desmarais was a young Montreal lawyer named Brian Mulroney, who would later become Canada’s Prime Minister. Paul Sr. groomed his sons, and especially André, who is now perhaps the most well-known Canadian businessman in China. André also married the daughter of another Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien. Desmarais Sr. also got involved in French banking through Paribas, and later, Pargesa, which handled investments in a wide range of European corporations, and shot Desmarais into the accepted ranks of French nobility and the old-monied European elite. Paul Desmarais Jr. is close friends with the recent French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and socializes with Spanish royalty, the Rothschilds, and other European oligarchs. The Desmarais family have strong connections to Canada’s four major political parties: the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, and the NDP. This has included close ties to Lucien Bouchard, former leader of the Parti Québecois and Premier of Quebec; Jean Chrétien, former Canadian Prime Minister; Brian Mulroney, former Canadian Prime Minister who worked for Power Corporation; Bob Rae, an NDP leader; and Paul Martin, another Liberal Prime Minister who worked for Power Corporation. In the 1990s, the international advisory board of Power Corporation included former Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau. Brian Mulroney was sure to create friendly ties between the Desmarais family and soon-to-be Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who put two Desmarais-connected politicians in his cabinet, Peter Mackay and Maxime Bernier.

Quebec author Robin Philpot wrote a scathing critique of the power of the Desmarais family several years ago, suggesting that, “Over the last several years, [Paul Desmarais Sr.] has spun his web to such an extent that it now enables him to call the shots,” especially in promoting his right-wing economic vision, with “a disproportionate influence on politics and the economy in Quebec and Canada.” Of course, it’s not only Canadian politicians with whom Desmarais is close, but French and American politicians as well, including Sarkozy, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Desmarais owns seven of the ten French-language newspapers in Quebec, and has been close to nearly every Quebec premier, apart from Parti Québécois leaders Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry. Philpot alleged that Desmarais “has a lot of influence on Premier Jean Charest,” who is the current premier imposing tuition increases. When Desmarais received the French Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) from Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean Charest was in attendance, of which Philpot stated, “He took him along like a poodle.” Philpot added, “It’s a very unhealthy situation for a government to be indebted to a businessman that has his own interest at heart. They get their hands tied.”

Paul Desmarais Sr (left), Nicolas Sarkozy (middle), Québec Premier Jean Charest (right)

 

In rural Quebec, the Desmarais family has an estate the size of Manhattan, with a private golf course and pheasant shooting range, as well as a music pavilion where opera is performed. This is the home of Paul Desmarais Sr. Guests, such as former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, come play golf on this vast estate, and are flown in on helicopters belonging either to Power Corporation or Desmarais personally. The Desmarais family has even had the internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil perform on their massive 15,000-acre estate. King Juan Carlos of Spain has even been a guest from time to time. André Desmarais is himself a member of the Trilateral Commission, founded by David Rockefeller, and is also on the International Advisory Board of David Rockefeller’s former bank, JP Morgan Chase, alongside other notables such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both brothers have regularly attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group, of which David Rockefeller is a top official (founded in 1954 as an elite think tank linking Western Europe and North America). A son of Paul Desmarais Jr., Paul Desmarais III, is a banker with Goldman Sachs. At times, the influence of the family is shyly acknowledged. As French President Sarkozy stated upon awarding Paul Desmarais Sr. with the French Legion of Honour, “If I am the president of France today, it is thanks in part to the advice, the friendship and the loyalty of Paul Desmarais.”

Here is a video documenting a party thrown for the wife of Paul Desmarais, Sr., including notable guests Quebec Premier Jean Charest and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush

 

Protesting Power: Students Protest Outside Shareholder Meeting of Power Corporation

On May 15, 2012, as Power Corporation (with total revenue of $7.2 billion) held its shareholder meeting announcing its first quarter earnings of $264 million, and its main subsidiary company, Power Financial, announced quarterly profits of $455 million, demonstrators met outside to ensure that Power was met with protest. The National Post reported that, “one of Canada’s wealthiest and most politically connected families has come under attack as the force and rhetoric of Quebec’s student protests move from the streets into corporate shareholder meetings.”

Student protesters met by riot police outside of Power Corporation’s shareholders meeting on May 15, 2012

 

Riot police guarded the hotel’s main entrance as protesters chanted (in French): “We must fight the thieves in ties,” and “Your wealth is our poverty.” A student group had called for the demonstration, but Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand commented, “There are radical groups that systematically want to destabilize the Montreal economy… They are anti-capitalists, Marxists.” As Paul Desmarais Jr. was announcing the company’s profits and stating, “we have a solid risk management strategy,” police on horseback outside were pushing the protestors back: “risk management.” A reporter asked Desmarais about “the protests that have shaken Quebec’s political class and caused millions worth of dollars in lost productivity,” to which he replied, “How could you not be concerned right now in terms of what’s going on?” He added:

Like all citizens, we are concerned. But we want this issue to be resolved hopefully in a respectful fashion. Let’s start with respect. With a democratic way. Within the rule of law. And that we come to an agreement that makes sense and where everybody invests in the future of our students. But everybody’s got to participate in that.

The two brothers, Paul Jr. and André, told reporters that, “they were being unfairly criticized as the company’s annual meeting became the latest target in the ongoing protests in Quebec.” Paul commented: “We’re a very caring company and I think a very caring family and we care about the society around us and we’ve always demonstrated that.” Police outside used pepper spray on protesters, one of whom commented, “I think Power Corp. is a very good example of the one per cent and it shows how private companies can be more powerful than some countries.” Desmarais would not directly answer when questioned about whether or not he supported Charest’s tuition hike, instead saying, “Frankly I’m not elected. Why should I meddle in things of people who are elected to resolve these problems. Our job is to manage our company.” The two brothers explained that, “they were reluctant to publicly comment on public issues except when they’re asked to by governments on financial issues.” That is to say, they will not publicly comment on the private advice they give to our politicians.

So the name is Power, and it fits. The Desmarais family spend their leisure time with King Juan Carlos of Spain (who recently had to apologize for going on an elephant hunting trip in Africa while 50% of youth in Spain are unemployed), they have had Cirque du Soleil perform on their family estate (larger than the island of Manhattan) with guests that include presidents and prime ministers, and have close business and even family ties to every Canadian Prime Minister since Pierre Trudeau, and almost every Quebec premier, especially the current “poodle” Jean Charest. They are billionaires who sit on the boards of the major Canadian and international think tanks which set policy for our nations. The International Economic Forum of the Americas / Conference of Montreal is simply another venue through which elites gather to form consensus and debate, discuss, and promote policies which benefit the few at the expense of the many. Their rhetoric is replete with talk of “democracy” and “fairness,” but their actions speak louder than their words, their bank accounts weigh more heavily than their hearts, and their ideas more easily become policy. The elite do not go and protest in the streets, demanding justice and equality, because they call up their friends, our politicians, who they have cocktails with in social gatherings, play golf with, travel with, intermarry with, and who grant their favoured politicians financially bountiful positions on corporate boards when they leave political life. They do not have to agitate in the streets to have their voices heard because they are the patrons of our politicians and policy-makers, they are the real constituents of our constitutional “democracies,” they are the captains of corporations, barons of business, and Kings of Capital.

So this year, let the real masters of our political, economic, and social world hear the voices of the real people. Let students and others peacefully assemble and protest outside the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel from June 11-14, and have the elites inside hear the people say that we know who they are, those who rule our nations and undermine our democratic ideals.

They are the bankers and corporate executives, the heads of our universities and owners of our media, our politicians and their advisers, the patrons and “intellectuals” of the think tanks that lobby governments and set policies, the heads of foundations and civil society monopolists. Most especially it is the bankers who sit atop a vast network of social, political, and economic institutions. The bankers are the modern monarchs of our globalized state-Capitalist society. In Canada, our country is dominated by the ‘big five’ banks: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC Group), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), the Bank of Montreal (BMO), and the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank).

Peter Kruyt is Chairman of the Board of Governors of Concordia University in Montreal, and is also Vice-President of Power Corporation. The Chancellor of Concordia University is L. Jacques Ménard, the President of BMO Financial Group, as well as being on the boards of a number of other corporations and schools. The rest of the board of governors of Concordia is dominated by bankers and business executives. The Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University is Heather Munroe-Blum, who sits on the board of directors of the Royal Bank of Canada as well as the board of governors of the International Economic Forum of the Americas, as well as sitting on a number of other boards. The Chairman of McGill University is Stuart Cobbett, who also sits on the board of Citibank Canada. Another member of the board of governors of McGill University is Kathy Fazel, who is also an executive with the Royal Bank of Canada. Another member of McGill’s board is Daniel Gagnier, former Chief of Staff to Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Another board member is Samuel Minzberg, who sits on the board of HSBC Bank Canada. Clearly, bankers and business executives run our schools.

In 2008 and 2009, Canada’s banks received a “secret bailout” from the Bank of Canada (run by a former executive at Goldman Sachs) and the Federal Reserve of the United States (owned by JP Morgan Chase and all the other big U.S. banks). Canada’s banks are always said to be the “best in the world,” and a model to follow, since they magically weathered the financial crisis untouched. As it turns out, that was BS. Canada’s banks were bailed out to the tune of $114 BILLION. That amounts to $3,400 for every single Canadian man, woman, and child, or 7% of Canada’s 2009 GDP. So Quebec students want to maintain tuition costs at less than $2,500, and we are called “entitled brats.” But Canada’s big banks, which are making record-high profits, and getting record-low tax cuts, sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars in cash reserves, while their increased profits come from the increased debt of the Canadian population, and yet, they get the equivalent of $3,400 from each and every Canadian, which we then have to pay for through increased taxes and increased costs (such as tuition). But it’s the students who are “entitled.”

TD Bank told the Government of Quebec in 2007 to increase university tuition. In 2008, TD Bank got $26 billion in support from the Bank of Canada (meaning Canadians citizens have to pay for that through taxes… just to pay the interest on that debt!), and $8 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve (which U.S. taxpayers have to pay for). In March of 2012, TD Bank and Royal Bank (Canada’s two biggest banks) announced record profits. That same month, it was announced that the average Canadian household debt was $103,000, making income security for Canadians an “elusive dream.” More than half of the jobs created since 2008 have gone to people aged 55 and over. Increases in hourly wages did not keep pace with inflation last year, and thus, income inequality is growing. Nearly two million Canadians have student loans totaling $20 billion, with the average student debt in Canada at $27,000 upon graduation. We are told that 70% of new jobs will require a university education. A four-year degree for a student in Canada costs an average of $55,000, expected to rise to $102,000 by 2030. This was reported by TD Bank, which then stated, “we argue that students have to recognize an investment in higher education is really a long-term one.” Things are much harder for students and youth today than for previous generations. Increasing tuition in Quebec could inflate an already over-inflated student debt bubble which could do for youth what the mortgage crisis did for housing, and would end of costing the government more in the end; thus, “there is no need for additional funding for Quebec universities.” Meanwhile, all the banks have inflated a massive housing bubble in Canada which itself could pop in the near-term future, recreating here what took place in the US in 2008.

So, who is really “entitled” here? Is it the students and youth, who are simply demanding a chance to have a future, to not be disciplined and chained down with debt before we even leave our home, get a degree, or have our first job? Or is it the banks, that control the economy, inflate bubbles that create crises, get bailed out by our governments (which we have to pay for), that tell our governments to increase tuition, that get tax cuts from our governments and sit on hundreds of billions of dollars in cash reserves, and who make record profits? These banks support and sponsor the International Economic Forum of the Americas, as does the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada. So our governments have money to support a conference held by billionaires, bankers, and financiers… so that they can all get together once a year and talk about how “ineffectual” government support is, so that they can praise the “free market” while their “invisible hand” reaches into our pockets, as our politicians sit comfortably in theirs. They spew and steam about “handouts” to poor people, and then take $114 billion from the Canadian people, who are already deep in debt. These reverse-Robin Hoods take money from the poor and give it to themselves… and then charge us interest.

This system is simply too insane to consent to. Canada’s elites, like most elites, represent a class of parasites, living off and at the expense of the people, while their local and global connections to and profits from organized crime enshrine them as a type of ‘Mafiocracy’ ruling class.

Perhaps the Maficocracy should hear the voices of the Maple Spring.

From June 11-14, 2012, the International Economic Forum of the Americas gathers in Montreal, Quebec.

On June 11, at 8:30 a.m., the Maple Spring will say hello!

 

Let your voice be heard peacefully:

June 11-14

Hilton Bonaventure Hotel

900, de la Gauchetière W.

Montreal, Quebec

 

Peace and Solidarity!

 

For more information on the ‘Maple Spring’, see:

The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

What Really Happened at the Montréal May Day Protest? From Peaceful Protest to Police Brutality

Ten Points Everyone Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement

From the Chilean Winter to the Maple Spring: Solidarity and the Student Movements in Chile and Quebec

Quebec Steps Closer to Martial Law to Repress Students: Bill 78 is a “Declaration of War on the Student Movement”

Writing About the Student Movement in Québec: You’re Damn Right I’m “Biased”! … Confessions of a Non-Neutral Observer

The Maple Spring and the Mafiocracy: Struggling Students versus “Entitled Elites”

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

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Meet Canada’s Ruling Oligarchy: Parasites-a-Plenty!

Meet Canada’s Ruling Oligarchy: Parasites-a-Plenty!

Class War and the College Crisis, Part 7

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Paul Desmarais Sr. (left), Nicolas Sarkozy (centre), and Quebec Premier Jean Charest (right)

Part 1: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

Part 2: The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

Part 3: Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals

Part 4: Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Part 6: The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

As hundreds of thousands of students in the province of Québec continue to strike into their 13th week against tuition increases, as the provincial government continues to employ legal repression and state violence against the youth, as Canadian families are over $100,000 in debt, as a looming housing crisis begins to rear its ugly head, as youth unemployment increases, student debt explodes, jobs vanish, poverty deepens, and oppression increases, it’s time to meet those responsible, those who are doing better than ever, those who are making record profits, sitting comfortably in their estates which are larger than the entire island of Manhattan, who travel by helicopter and private jet, who co-mingle with the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Spanish royalty, presidents and prime ministers at home and abroad: meet Canada’s ruling oligarchy.

As this series, “Class War and the College Crisis,” is more focused on the issue of education, I will focus here on the composition of the oligarchy in terms of how they control our educational system. This part in the series will be part article and part research annex. First, I will introduce the reader to Canada’s most powerful family, our version of the Rockefeller’s south of the border, or the Rothschilds in Europe, and of course, all these families are close in both business and social circles. Such is the nature of being an elite in a globalized world. The Desmarais family, located in the province of Québec, are without question the most influential and powerful family in the country, and it’s no wonder, considering their power is vested in an investment company known as Power Corporation.

Why is Power Corporation important?

The name says it all: it has Power. Founded in 1925, Power Corporation of Canada is an investment company involved in communications, business, and especially finance. Power Corporation was founded by A.J. Nesbitt and P.A. Thomson, two partners in the Montreal investment firm, Nesbitt, Thomson and Company, who wanted to consolidate Canada’s power sector, and established Power Corporation as a ‘holding company,’ meaning, it owns other corporations. In the 1960s, the company began to invest in energy, finance, industry, and real estate. In 1968, financier Paul Desmarais took over the leadership of Power Corporation, and rapidly expanded the assets held by the company, including by the 1970s: Canada Steamship Lines (transportation); Consolidated Bathurst (pulp and paper); Investors Group, Great-West Life, Montreal Trust (financial services); and Gesca (communications). Power Corporation expanded across Canada, Europe, and into China. Paul Desmarais stepped aside as Chairman and CEO in 1996, though remaining as the controlling shareholder, and had his two sons, Paul Jr. and André, become Chairman and President and Co-CEOs. Power Corporation owns Gesca, a communications company which in turn owns La Presse as well as six other daily newspapers in Quebec.

The Desmarais family, wrote Christa d’Souza for the London Telegraph, are “Canada’s equivalent of the Rockefellers or Vanderbilts.”[1] Indeed, it would appear that the Desmarais are very much akin to the Rockefellers, the most powerful family in the United States, and one of the most powerful families in the world (perhaps only challenged by the older European-based Rothschild banking family). The Rockefeller family developed the Standard Oil empire, which branched off into several different oil companies, including Exxon and Chevron; founded the Rockefeller Foundation as an engine of social engineering, founded the University of Chicago, became a dominant force in global banking (through Citibank and JP Morgan Chase), highly influential in politics (Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and Senator Jay Rockefeller), and of course, remain a dominant influence in think tanks, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, and the Trilateral Commission, which ultimately play a major role in shaping policies of industrial nations.

The Desmarais family, while not as powerful in a global sense as the Rockefellers, have nevertheless made themselves a powerful name in the global oligarchy, and most certainly the most powerful family in Canada. Paul Desmarais Sr. is one of Canada’s richest individuals, which is, of course, no surprise, and as Konrad Yakabuski wrote for the Globe and Mail, “Desmarais has been personally consulted by prime ministers on every major federal economic and constitutional initiative since the 1970s. Most of the time, they’ve taken his advice.” Power Corporation has taken large stakes in major European companies such as Bertelsmann, Total and Suez. Peter Munk, a friend of Paul Desmarais and the CEO of Barrick Gold Corporation (a major mining company profiting off of genocide in the Congo), said that, “Paul built that business with an enormous capability for networking that no one in Canadian history has ever matched. And the boys got introduced to his contacts. They were educated well, they married well. And they’ve behaved.” In the mid-1960s, a protégé of Desmarais was a young Montreal lawyer named Brian Mulroney, who would later become Canada’s Prime Minister. Paul Sr. groomed his sons, and especially André, who is now perhaps the most well-known Canadian businessman in China. André also married the daughter of another Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien. Desmarais Sr. also got involved in French banking through Paribas, and later, Pargesa, which handled investments in a wide range of European corporations, and shot Desmarais into the accepted ranks of French nobility and the old-monied European elite. Paul Desmarais Jr. is close friends with the recent French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and socializes with Spanish royalty, the Rothschilds, and other European oligarchs.[2]

The Desmarais family have strong connections to Canada’s four major political parties: the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, and the NDP. This has included close ties to Lucien Bouchard, former leader of the Parti Québecois and Premier of Quebec, Jean Chrétien, former Canadian Prime Minister; Brian Mulroney, former Canadian Prime Minister who worked for Power Corporation; Bob Rae, an NDP leader, and Paul Martin, another Liberal Prime Minister who worked for Power Corporation. When André Pratte, the chief editorialist of the Desmerais-owned paper La Presse, wrote in 1994 that, “Power Corp. controls everything, everyone knows that. Chrétien, [then Quebec premier Daniel] Johnson, it’s Power Corp,” Paul Desmarais Sr. intervened directly with the paper to ensure that Pratte was demoted. Claude Masson, the deputy publisher of La Presse at the time, stated that, “When you bite the hand that feeds you, there are consequences.”[3] Indeed, the hand bites back.

The Desmarais’ also have close connections with James Wolfensohn, the former President of the World Bank, who has extensive ties to the Rockefeller family. Paul Jr. married Hélene Blouin, the “founder and CEO of le Centre d’entreprises et d’innovation de Montréal, an incubator for tech businesses; a director of the Montreal Board of Trade; chairman of HEC Montréal; and a co-founder of the Montreal Economic Institute, a think tank that has become Quebec’s leading policy advocate on the non-partisan right.” André married France Chrétien, daughter of Jean Chrétien, and he even served as a press secretary to Jean Chrétien while he was Minister of Justice in the Pierre Trudeau government. In the 1990s, the international advisory board of Power Corporation included former Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau. Brian Mulroney was sure to create friendly ties between the Desmarais family and soon-to-be Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who put two Desmarais-connected politicians in his cabinet, Peter Mackay and Maxime Bernier.[4]

Quebec author Robin Philpot wrote a scathing critique of the power of the Desmarais family several years ago, suggesting that, “Over the last several years, [Paul Desmarais Sr.] has spun his web to such an extent that it now enables him to call the shots,” especially in promoting his right-wing economic vision, with “a disproportionate influence on politics and the economy in Quebec and Canada.” Of course, it’s not only Canadian politicians with whom Desmarais is close, but French and American politicians as well, including Sarkozy, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Desmarais owns seven of the ten French-language newspapers in Quebec, and has been close to nearly every Quebec premier, apart from Parti Québécois leaders Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry. Philpot alleged that Desmarais “has a lot of influence on Premier Jean Charest,” who is the current premier imposing tuition increases. When Desmarais received the French Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) from Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean Charest was in attendance, of which Philpot stated, “He took him along like a poodle.” Philpot added, “It’s a very unhealthy situation for a government to be indebted to a businessman that has his own interest at heart. They get their hands tied.”[5]

Jean-François Lisée, the director of the Center for International Studies and Research at the University of Montreal stated that, “They are in a class all by themselves… There’s the Desmaraises, then there’s everyone else.” However, as one man close to the family said, in regards to their influence in politics, “We live in a village in Canada, and there are a lot of circumstances which come together which make it appear as if there’s some great manipulation… These are the coincidences of life. It might be more notorious than substantial.”[6] Indeed, the elite live in “a village,” and that’s the whole point, which is, I might add, “substantial.”

In rural Quebec, the Desmarais family has an estate the size of Manhattan, with a private golf course and pheasant shooting range, as well as a music pavilion where opera is performed. This is the home of Paul Desmarais Sr. Guests, such as former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, come play golf on this vast estate, and are flown in on helicopters belonging either to Power Corporation or Desmarais personally. As one of Canada’s richest billionaires, this is a simple matter. Power Corporation, which owns a controlling share in Power Financial Corporation, an insurance giant, has established ties with one of Belgium’s richest men, Albert Frere, with whom they have been in business for decades, and together hold significant shares of Total SA (the third largest oil company in Europe), Lafarge SA (the world’s largest cement maker), and GDF Suez SA (the world’s second largest utility company).[7]

The Desmarais family has even had the internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil perform on their massive 15,000-acre estate. King Juan Carlos of Spain has even been a guest from time to time. André Desmarais is himself a member of the Trilateral Commission, founded by David Rockefeller, and is also on the International Advisory Board of David Rockefeller’s former bank, JP Morgan Chase, alongside other notables such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both brothers have regularly attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group, of which David Rockefeller is a top official (founded in 1954 as an elite think tank linking Western Europe and North America). The Desmarais also hold a major international meeting of elites in Montreal every year, the Conference de Montreal, drawing in thousands of top policy-makers, industrialists, bankers, strategists, and international elites from the major nations of the world. A son of Paul Desmarais Jr., Paul Desmarais III, is a banker with Goldman Sachs. At times, the influence of the family is shyly acknowledged. As French President Sarkozy stated upon awarding Paul Desmarais Sr. with the French Legion of Honour, “If I am the president of France today, it is thanks in part to the advice, the friendship and the loyalty of Paul Desmarais.”[8]

So while Quebec students are being asked to pay double their current tuition to reduce public spending, the Desmarais family is hob-nobbing around with a top public-sector individual responsible for investing $150 billion in Quebecers’ public-sector pension and insurance plans, Michael Sabia. Though apparently a weekend stay at the Desmarais estate by Sabia did not involve business discussions, it was merely “friendly.” No doubt. Meanwhile, Power Financial profits rose 37% in March of 2012, earning the company $533 million, while Power Corporation itself earned $314 million in the same amount of time, with its profits also increasing by 37%.[9]

The Canadian Oligarchy Assaults Democracy

In the 1970s, just as the United States elite were organizing for their assault on the democratic advances brought about by the activism and popular mobilizations of the 1960s, so too was Canada. With the Powell Memo and the Trilateral Commission’s “Crisis of Democracy” report in the early and mid 1970s, we saw the emergence of a vast array of right-wing pro-business think tanks which sought to – and successfully did – promote neoliberalism and thus, created enormous repercussions for universities and education. Canada was not to be left behind in the elitist assault on democracy.

As William Carroll and Murray Shaw wrote in the journal Canadian Public Policy: “Integral to the rise and consolidation of neoliberal hegemony were the emergence of new centres of class-wide business activism and the retooling of established policy institutes along neoliberal lines.” A few major think tanks and policy institutes were integral to this approach for Canada. The Conference Board of Canada was founded in 1954 when the New York Conference Board opened an office in Montreal, later moved to Ottawa, and now one of the largest think tanks in Canada, linking academia, government and corporate elites. The Private Planning Association of Canada (PPAC) was founded in 1958 by members of the Canadian American Committee (CAC), “a group of business and labour leaders from Canada and the US” who were seeking closer and deeper ties between Canada and the United States, specifically in relation to trade. When the PPAC merged with the C.D. Howe Memorial Foundation in 1973, the C.D. Howe Institute was formed. The C.D. Howe Institute became a major force pushing for free trade agreements such as NAFTA, and by the mid-1990s, was portraying social programs as a major source of Canada’s economic problems.[10]

The Business Council on National Issues (BCNI) – now known as the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) – was founded to create consensus on policy issues among Canada’s top 150 CEOs, making it less of a think tank, and more of a “shadow government.” Founded in 1976 in order to bring together the corporate elite of Canada into forming a more long-term strategic position with the government, directly lobbying the state. The mandate of the Council is “to ensure that Canadian chief executives play an influential role in the international financial, trade, investment, environmental and foreign affairs domains.” Since the era of the Trudeau Liberals, politicians have come and gone from power, but the Council, “the voice and organizational embodiment of corporate rule, is a permanent presence.” Another major player is the Fraser Institute (FI), dedicated to mythical “free market” policies and neoliberalism, founded in 1973 with money from fifteen different mining executives, and is essentially a replica of the American Enterprise Institute in the United States. The Fraser Institute is perhaps the most quoted institution in the Canadian media, ensuring that its neoliberal ideology is firmly entrenched in popular ‘information’ (i.e., propaganda). One study from 1998 showed that over the course of a year, the left-wing think tank, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives was quoted in business news stories 16 times, while the Fraser Institute was quoted in over 140 stories.[11]

Today, Hélène Desmarais, wife of Paul Desmarais Jr., is on the board of the C.D. Howe Institute, alongside top officials from GE Canada, Manulife Canada, HSBC Canada, Enbridge, Barrick Gold, BMO Financial Group, and a number of other top financial and industrial corporations. Power Corporation is listed among the C.D. Howe Institute’s supporters, alongside other notable entities such as: Astral Media (a major media conglomerate), Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barrick Gold Corporation, BMO Financial Group, Bombardier, Canadian Bankers Association, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, CIBC, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian Oil Sands Limited, Cargill Limited, CN, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Desjardins Group, Deutsche Bank, Enbridge, Encana, Ford Motor Company, HSBC, Google, Imperial Tobacco, JP Morgan, National Bank of Canada, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, RBC Financial Group, Rio Tinto Alcan, Scotiabank, Shell Canada, SNC Lavalin, Standard Life Financial, Swiss Bankers Association, TD Bank Group, and many others. The C.D. Howe Institute also gets a good deal of financial support from several Canadian universities, including Carelton, HEC Montréal, Laval, McMaster, Queen’s, Ryerson, Calgary, Lethbridge, Western Ontario, Université de Sherbrooke, U. of Alberta, UBC, Ottawa, Saskatchewan, U of T, and Wilfred Laurier University.[12]

Looking at Power

The board of directors of Power Corporation includes: Pierre Beaudoin, President and CEO of Bombardier; Marcel R. Coutu, President and CEO of Canadian Oil Sands Limited and Chairman of Syncrude Canada, director of Great-West Lifeco (owned by Power Corporation), and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives; Laurent Dassault, Vice President of Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault (a Paris-based investment and financing company), and a director of a number of European companies, including SITA, Generali France, Kudelski, and the Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild Europe (a major banking house owned by the Rothschild family); Guy Fortin, Vice Chairman of Sanpalo Investments, former senior partner at Ogilvy Renault, Chairman of the Canadian Tax Foundation; Anthony R. Graham, President of Wittington Investments, formerly with National Bank Financial Inc., Chairman of President’s Choice Bank, on the board of Power Financial, Loblaw Companies, George Weston Limited, Brown Thomas Group Ltd, Holt Renfrew & Co., the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Council for Business and the Arts in Canada, and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives; Robert Gratton, former Chairman and CEO of Montreal Trust, director of Power Financial, member of the Harvard Business School Canadian Advisory Board, the Conference Board of Canada, the C.D. Howe Institute, and the Trilateral Commission; Isabelle Marcoux, Vice Chair of the board of Transcontinental Inc., on the boards of George Weston Ltd., Rogers Communications, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal; Donald Mazankowski, director of Power Financial, former member of the Canadian House of Commons and member of Parliament for 25 years, former Canadian Minister of Transport, Deputy Prime Minister, President of the Queen’s Privy Council, and Government House Leader, and is a former member of the board of governors of the University of Alberta.

Other board members include: Raymond L. McFeetors, Vice Chairman of Power Financial and Chairman of Great-West Lifeco, a director of London Life, Canada Life Financial, Canada Life, Crown Life, IGM Financial, Investors Group, Mackenzie Financial, Putnam Investments; Jerry E. A. Nickerson, Chairman of Nickerson & Sons Ltd., director of several Power Corporation companies, honorary director of the Bank of Montreal; James R. Nininger, on the Board of Management of the Canada Revenue Agency (responsible for administering the tax laws of Canada and most of the provinces), on the board of Canadian Pacific Railway, former President and CEO of The Conference Board of Canada (a major research institute/think tank); R. Jeffrey Orr, President and CEO of Power Financial, a board member of several Power group subsidiaries, former Chairman and CEO of BMO Nesbitt Burns and Vice Chairman of the Bank of Montreal’s Investment Banking Group, and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives; Robert Parizeau, Chairman of Aon Parizeau, Inc., director of National Bank Life Insurance Company, former Chairman of Gaz Métro, former director of Van Houtte, and director of the National Bank of Canada for over 20 years, and is a director of the Institute of Corporate Directors; Michel Plessis-Bélair, Vice Chairman of Power Corporation, director of several Power group subsidiaries, and a director of Lallemand Inc., Université de Montréal, Hydro-Québec, and is a member of the International Advisory Board of École des hautes etudes commerciales (HEC) of Montréal (Business School of Montreal); John A. Rae, director of a number of Power subsidiaries, a director of Fednav Ltd, BNP Paribas (Canada), McGill University Health Centre Foundation, former Executive Assistant to Jean Chrétien, National Campaign Chairman for Jean Chrétien’s 1984 and 1990 leadership campaigns, and Coordinator of the National Campaign of the Liberal Party of Canada for the 1993, 1997, and 2000 elections, and is also Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of Queen’s University; Henri-Paul Rousseau, a director of several Power group subsidiaries, board member of the Global Financial Markets Association, former President and CEO of the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (which manages public pensions for the province of Quebec), former President and CEO of the Laurentian Bank of Canada, former CEO of Boréal Assurances Inc., and former Senior VP of the National Bank of Canada; T. Timothy Ryan, Jr., President and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the leading trade association representing global financial market participants, CEO of the Global Financial Markets Association (GFMA), a director of a number of Power subsidiaries, as well as a director of Lloyds Banking Group, Lloyds TSB Bank, HBOS, the Bank of Scotland, and the United States-Japan Foundation, formerly a top official with J.P. Morgan, is a private sector member of the Global Markets Advisory Committee for the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC), the Council which oversees all sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies; and Emoke J.E. Szathmary, President Emeritus of the University of Manitoba, former President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Manitoba, Provost and Vice President of McMaster University, and former Dean of the Faculty of Social Science of the University of Western Ontario, is currently a director of a number of Power subsidiaries, and is a director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, and the Board of Governors of McMaster University.

And of course, we have the Desmarais family themselves, including Paul Desmarais Sr., Paul Desmarais Jr., who is not only a director of several Power subsidiaries, but is Vice Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of Pargesa, a director of Group Bruxelles Lambert, GDF Suez, Total, Lafarge, and is a member of the European Institute of Business Administration, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the International Economic Forum of the Americas, a trustee and Co-Chair of the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Institute, founder and member of the International Advisory Board of the McGill University Faculty of Management in Montreal, and the founder and member of the International Advisory Committee of HEC (business school) in Montreal. André Desmarais is not only on several Power subsidiaries, former Special Assistant to the Minister of Justice of Canada, a director of Pargesa in Europe, CITIC Pacific Ltd. in China, is a member of the Chairman’s International Advisory Council of the Americas Society (founded by David Rockefeller), and is Honorary Chairman of the Canada China Business Council.

As for Power Financial, while there is a great deal of overlap between the two boards, there are some unique names on the board of Power Financial. Among these are J. Brian Aune, President of Aldervest Inc., former Chairman of St. James Financial Corporation, is Governor Emeritus of Concordia University; V. Peter Harder, President of the Canada China Business Council, former Canadian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Deputy Minister of the Treasury Board, Solicitor General, Citizenship and Immigration, and Industry Canada, and is a director of IGM Financial, TimberWest, Telesat Canada, Energizer Resources, Northland Power, Pinetree Capital Ltd, and is an independent advisor to the Auditor General of Canada.

The Oligarchy of Education

Canada’s universities, like all universities, are governed by bankers and corporate executives, foundation officials, and think tank presidents, media moguls and millionaires. Given the current situation in Quebec, where hundreds of thousands of students have been taking to the streets in a strike against tuition increases, with over 200 protests in Montreal over the past three months alone, I will focus here on the two major English-speaking universities in the province: Concordia and McGill. This is important to focus on, simply because throughout this crisis, the university administrations have been claiming to be “neutral,” though they have actively set themselves against the students, filing legal injunctions against picketing, hiring private security firms to patrol the schools, and even calling in riot police to disperse striking youth. The schools have claimed to be neutral on the issue of tuition increases, though they have not – in any way – applied pressure or lobbying efforts on the government to reverse its position. In fact, it has been the exact opposite. When we look at who actually sits on the boards of the school administrations, it becomes clear that these are the very same elite who, in their various other social positions, lobby the government to increase the tuition, who sit on the boards of the banks that hand out student loans and charge exorbitant interest rates, who profit off the debt and poverty of the masses.

So let’s start with my own school: Concordia University.

The Chancellor of Concordia is L. Jacques Ménard, the President of BMO Financial Group, one of Canada’s largest banks, a director of Claridge Inc., and a director of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (a think tank promoting elite interests). The Chairman of the Board of Governors of Concordia is Peter Kruyt, President and CEO of Victoria Square Ventures, a director of La Presse (the largest French-language newspaper in Quebec), a director of Picchio Pharma Inc., a director of CITIC Pacific Ltd., Chairman of the Canada China Business Council, and a Vice President of Power Corporation, a company he has been working for since 1980 when he was Executive Assistant to the CEO, Paul Desmarais.

Norman Hébert, Jr.: CEO of Group Park Avenue Inc., former board member of Hyrdo-Québec, Chairman of the Board of Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ, a provincial crown corporation which sells liquor).

Hélène F. Fortin: a director of Larose Fortin CA Inc., member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, former Assistant to the Vice President of Quebecor Inc. (a major media conglomerate), and a former director of CBC and Hydro-Québec.

Brian Edwards: founder of BCE Emergis, one of North America’s largest electronic commerce companies, Chairman of the Board of Miranda Technologies and Biotonix 2010 Inc., and is on the boards of Camoplast Inc. and Impath Networks Canada Corporation, and Transat AT.

Jean Pierre Desrosiers: on the boards of KPGM, Aéroports de Montréal and D-BOX Technologies Inc.

Rita Lc de Santis: a partner at Davies, Ward, Phillips & Vineberg, former member of The Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada, Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal, Business Development Bank of Canada and Hydro-Québec.

James Cherry: President and CEO of Aéroports de Montréal, former executive with Bombardier, Oerlikon Aerospace Inc., CAE Inc. and ALSTOM Canada Inc.

Baljit Singh Chadha: Director of the Canada-India Business Council, Pesident and founder of Balcorp Ltd.

Charles Cavell: former President and CEO of Quebecor World Inc., former Chairman of the Board of Sun Media Corp, a director of Adaltis Inc., Novelis Inc.

Tim Brodhead: former President and CEO of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, former Executive Director of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), past chair of Philanthropic Foundations Canada.

Joelle Berdugo Adler: founder of ONEXEONE, and CEO of Diesel Canada.

Jonathan Wener: President and CEO of Canderal (a major real estate investment company), a trustee of the Fraser Institute, member of the board of the Laurentian bank of Canada, Silanis Technologies, and former president of the Urban Development Institute of Canada.

Annie Tobias: former official at Deloitte & Touche

Michael Novak: Executive Vice President of SNC-Lavalin Group, a global engineering and defense contractor.

Marie-José Nadeau: Executive Vice President of Hydro-Québec, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and General Secretary at Cascades Fine Papers Group Inc, and is a director of Metro.

Andrew T. Molson: Chairman of the Board of Molson Coors Brewing Company, is a partner and chairman of RES PUBLICA Consulting Group, a Montreal-based holding and management company, is Chairman of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and a director of The Montreal Canadiens, DundeeWealth Inc., Groupe Deschênes Inc. and Montréal International, and is president of the Molson Foundation.

Tony Meti: President of G.D.N.P. Consulting Services, Inc., a former Senior Vice President at National Bank Financial Group, a director of ADF Group, Saputo Inc.

Jacques Lyrette: Executive at Innovative Materials Technologies, former CEO of ADGA Inc., an engineering consulting company.

Arvind K. Joshi: CEO at St. Mary’s Hospital Center, member of the advisory board of the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University.

Suzanne Gouin: President and Chief Executive Officer, TV5 Québec Canada, former director of Hydro-Québec.

McGill University:

H. Arnold Steinberg: Chancellor of McGill University, formerly worked for Dominion Securities (now RBC – Royal Bank of Canada – Dominion Securities), has been a member of the boards of Bell Canada, Teleglobe, Provigo, National Bank of Canada.

Heather Munroe-Blum: Principal and Vice Chancellor of McGill, is on the board of the Internationalization Committee, and the Membership Committee of the Association of American Universities, a member of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) of Canada, the U.S. National Research Council’s Committee on Research Universities, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Trilateral Commission, and is co-chair of the Private Sector Advisory Committee of the Ontario-Quebec Trade and Co-operation Agreement, on the boards of the Trudeau Foundation, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Conférence de Montréal, and the Royal Bank of Canada. She has served on the boards of the Conference Board of Canada, Montreal Chamber of Commerce, Four Seasons Hotel, and Hydro One.

Stuart Cobbett: Managing Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Stikeman Elliott LLP, and is a Director of Citibank Canada.

Lili de Grandpré: founder of an organization strategy consulting firm, CenCEO Consulting, formerly with the Mercer Consulting Group and Bank of Montreal.

Michael Boychuk: President and CEO of Bimcor Inc., and is a member of the advisory board of Centennial Ventures, a U.S. private equity firm, former Senior Vice President and Treasurer of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada.

Gerald Butts: President and CEO of WWF-Canada.

Daniel Gagnier: former Chief of Staff to Quebec Premier Jean Charest, former VP at Alcan, former Chairman of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, current chairman of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and a board member of the Asia-Pacific Foundation.

Banking on Power

In Canada, there are five major banks which dominate the national banking sector (and together wield enormous influence over Canada’s monetary system through the Bank of Canada). These banks are the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the Bank of Montreal (BMO), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). To understand how these banks wield influence over Canada as a whole, it would be useful to examine the boards of directors of the banks, drawing the overlap of leadership between the ‘Big Five’ and Canada’s major corporations, think tanks, foundations, media and educational institutions. For the purpose of this report, I will simply take a look at the board of directors of the biggest bank: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and show how it overlaps with the other institutions which dominate our society.

W. Geoffrey Beattie: on the board of directors of General Electric (GE), President of the Woodbridge Company, a privately held investment holding company (the majority shareholder of Thomson Reuters, a major media conglomerate of which he is Deputy Chairman), and he is also a board member of Maple Leaf Foods Inc. and Chairman of CTV Globemedia, a major Canadian media conglomerate.

Richard L. George: President and CEO of Suncor Energy, on the board of the Canadian Pacific Railway, former Chairman and current board member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), was a member of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), which was formed in 2006 to advise North American governments on the process of ‘North American integration’.

Paule Gautier: the first woman president of the Canadian Bar Association, on the boards of Metro Inc., TransCanada Corporation, and Transcanada Pipelines, an associate member of the American Bar Association, and is on the board of CARE, a supposed “humanitarian” organization, and she was a former director of the Institut Québecois des Hautes Études Internationales at Laval University.

Timothy J. Hearn: former CEO of Imperial Oil Limited, former chairman of the C.D. Howe Institute (a major pro-business think tank) where he remains as a board member, former member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), is co-chair of a fundraising campaign for the University of Alberta and is chair of the fundraising campaign for Tyndale University, and is on the Advisory Board of the Public Policy School at the University of Calgary, a director of Viterra Inc., and is Chair of the board of directors of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

Alice D. Laberge: former CEO of Fincentric, a current Commissioner of the Financial Institutions Commission, on the board of the Minerva Foundation, and a member of the Financial Executives Institute, and a former director of BC Hydro and Power Authority, and is on the board of directors of the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Jacques Lamarre: former President and CEO of SNC-Lavalin, a major global engineering, construction, and military contractor; is on the board of Suncor Energy, the founding member and former Chair of the Commonwealth Business Council, former Chairman of the board of directors of the Conference Board of Canada, a leader at the World Economic Forum, a former director of Canadian Pacific Railway, a member of the C.D. Howe Institute’s British North American Committee.

Brandt C. Louie: Chairman and CEO of H.Y. Louie Co. Limited, a food retail distribution company, Chairman of London Drugs Limited, Vice Chairman of IGA Canada Ltd., former Chancellor of Simon Fraser University (SFU), Governor of the Vancouver Board of Trade, Governor of the British Columbia Business Council, a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), and is a member of the Dean’s Council of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and is a current director of the Gairdner Foundation. He is also a board member of the World Economic Forum, Grosvenor (a property company), and the Fraser Institute, a major right-wing pro-business think tank.

Michael H. McCain: President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods Inc., Chairman of the Canada Bread Company, board member at the American Meat Institute, the Richard Ivey School of Business Advisory Board, a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), and a former director of Bombardier Inc.

Heather Munroe-Blum: the Principal and Vice Chancellor of McGill University, board member of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, a member of the Trilateral Commission, has attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group, is co-chair of the Private Sector Advisory Committee of the Ontario-Quebec Trade and Co-operation Agreement, on the board of the Trudeau Foundation, and is on the board of the Conférence de Montréal (the International Economic Forum of the Americas), which is chaired by Paul Desmarais Jr.; and she has also been on the boards of the Conference Board of Canada, Montreal Chamber of Commerce, Four Seasons Hotel, and Hydro One.

Gordon Nixon: President and CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada, a director and past Chairman of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), on the board of directors of the International Monetary Conference, and has been on the boards of Daimler/Chrysler, Catalyst, EnCana Corporation, and Queen’s University School of Business; is a director of the Institute of International Finance and has attended Bilderberg Group meetings.

David P. O’Brien: Chairman of the Board of the Royal Bank of Canada, Chairman of EnCana Corporation, a director of Enerplus Corporation, Molson Coors Brewing Company, and TransCanada Corporation; he is also the Chancellor of Concordia University, and is on the board of the C.D. Howe Institute. He was the former Chairman and CEO of Canadian Pacific Limited.

J. Pedro Reinhard: a director of the Colgate-Palmolive Company, a director of Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, a chemical company; former Executive Vice President and Dow Chemical Company, is a former board member of the Coca-Cola Company, and is President of Reinhard & Associates, a financial advisory practice.

Edward Sonshine: was President, CEO and a director of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, Chairman and a director of Chesswood Income Fund, and is Vice Chairman and a director of Mount Sinai Hospital.

Kathleen P. Taylor: President of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, is a director of The Hospital for Sick Children Foundation, a cabinet member of the United Way of Greater Toronto and a member of the Industry Real Estate Financing Advisory Council of the American Hotel and Motel Association and the International Advisory Council of the Schulich School of Business of York University.

Bridget A. van Kralingen: Senior Vice President of IBM, and was Managing Partner of Deloitte Consulting, and is a member of the board of advisors at Catalyst Inc.

Victor L. Young: a director of Imperial Oil Ltd., former Chairman and CEO of Fishery Products International Limited, and is a current board member of McCain Foods, former Chairman and CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and was a director at BCE Inc. (Bell Canada).

Our Parasitic Elite

Canada’s elite, like all elites, are parasitic to the social good and wellbeing of the people. They own the banks and financial institutions, own our central bank which sets the interest rates, gives loans and collect on debt, pushing people deeper into servitude and slavery; poverty as punishment. They control our media, which shapes our views and ‘opinions,’ they sit on the boards of our universities, putting future generations into debt before they have a chance at life, and control the ‘knowledge economy’ for which they have defined the purpose of education. They influence and control our governments and political leaders, sit on the boards of the think tanks that write policy and promote political agendas, they run the foundations and claim themselves to be benevolent philanthropists, when philanthropy is at best, moral masturbation for the wealthy, a way to feel good about their vast disparity of wealth, and at its more organized levels, is simply a means through which to engage in social engineering and social control: to give a little in order to continue taking so much. The profit off of the foreign wars our country wages and supports, blood plunderers of the Congo, Afghanistan, and Libya. The Canadian elite rule the country as a proxy for the American Empire, acting as a resource suction-cup for the behemoth below us, providing the United States with most of its oil, water, electricity, and timber. These rapacious parasites claim they hold the answers to the crises they cause and profit from; a super-class which can only be understood as a sprawling, venomous, and vacuous social succubus.

With a massive student movement in Quebec nearing its fourth month of strikes against tuition increases, the media has set against them in a massive propaganda campaign, the legal system has set against them in declaring injunctions against picketing students, the provincial state has dismissed, derided, and engaged in fallacious negotiations designed only to win public sympathy for the government, while the police have been incredibly oppressive against the youth: employing pepper spray, tear gas, smoke bombs, concussion grenades, beatings with batons, mass arrests, shooting students in the face with rubber bullets, and a disturbing trend of driving police cars and trucks into crowds of students. These are images you expect from a military dictatorship like Egypt, but not from a supposed “democracy” like Canada. In the midst of this social upheaval and state repression, the propaganda campaign against the students has been so successful that the majority of public opinion stands with the government and against the youth. Through every institution, and with every means made available, the elite have set themselves against the student movement. It is time the students and Canada at large recognize our elite for what they are: parasites!

While this rhetoric is perhaps a little inflammatory, it remains apt. A parasite is much smaller than its host, and it benefits at the expense of the host, changing its behaviour and health. The word “parasite” comes from the Latin word parasitus which is itself derived from the Greek word, parasitos, meaning, “one who eats at the table of another.” The elite have been eating at our table for far too long. They have long over-stayed their welcome. It’s time to make it known that we have no patience or place for them at our table any longer. This will not be easy, this will not be simple; this will take a long time and a great deal of effort. But if we don’t start now, if we don’t begin to take and create a society of, by, and for the people (what was once referred to as ‘democracy’), then elite parasitism will continue to sap the strength, health, environment, wealth, and the very hope and lives of future generations. They will continue to spread like a social cancer until the host is dead.

The youth are always told that the future is ours, but that remains up to us to make it so. The past and the present belong to the parasites, so if we do not stand up and struggle now and forever, we have no future to inherit, no world in which to grow and no hope in which to gaze. We have only debt bondage, state violence, table scraps, impoverishment, punishment, and oppression. The youth in Quebec are trying to just begin to stand up, to say ‘No More!’ and demand for themselves and others a chance at a future. The success of the strike is secondary to the newly-discovered strength of the students. They have been dismissed and derided, insulted and oppressed, from the left and the right, from so-called Progressives and self-congratulating Libertarians. Because the students do not articulate the same philosophy as those of other critics, they are presented as naïve and ‘entitled.’ Those who insult and deride without empathy or understanding only expose their own naivety.

The fundamental and historical importance of the present situation in Québec is not the cost of tuition, it’s the mass mobilization of youth: it is an expression of a popular and growing dissatisfaction with the way things are and an articulation and drive to create something different, to chart a course for the way things can be. Those who fail to see and recognize that, fail to see the development of progress through history, not immediate, but evolving, not instant, but incremental and persistent. If nothing else, this generation can look back and say, “At least we tried. At least we started.”

What will you look back and say?

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Christa d’Souza, The art of being Louise MacBain, The Telegraph, 26 June 2004:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3619575/The-art-of-being-Louise-MacBain.html

[2]            Konrad Yakabuski, Like Father, like sons?, The Globe and Mail, 26 March 2006:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/like-father-like-sons/article170466/singlepage/#articlecontent

[3]            Ibid.

[4]            Ibid.

[5]            Marianne White, “Author delivers high-voltage critique of Paul Desmarais Sr. — the man behind Power Corp,” Ottawa Citizen, 21 October 2008:

http://www2.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=2e3cff7f-05a2-44fc-afc1-616c5c40f64f

[6]            Ian Austen, “The Name Is ‘Power’ and It Fits,” The New York Times, 26 January 2007:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/26/business/26fund.html?_r=1

[7]            Lisa Kassenaar, “Desmarais family keeps a low profile,” Edmonton Journal, 1 August 2009:

http://www2.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/business/story.html?id=b40b4563-fe56-4612-920d-a66e9e7da838

[8]            Lisa Kassenaar, “Buffett Loses to Desmarais as Power Exceeds Return,” Bloomberg, 30 July 2009:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aEl4wizkuSTQ

[9]            Christinne Muschi, “Great-West Lifeco helps boost profit at Power Financial,” Reuters, 14 March 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/great-west-lifeco-helps-boost-profit-at-power-financial/article2368991/print/

Kevin Dougherty, “Sabia-Desmarais meeting was “friendly”, not lobbying, Caisse de dépôt says,” Montreal Gazette, 7 February 2012:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Sabia+Desmarais+meeting+friendly+lobbying+Caisse+d%C3%A9p%C3%B4t+says/6116318/story.html

[10]            William K. Carroll and Murray Shaw, “Consolidating a Neoliberal Policy Bloc in Canada, 1976 to 1996,” Canadian Public Policy (Vol. 27, No. 2, June 2001), pages 196-200.

[11]            William K. Carroll and Murray Shaw, “Consolidating a Neoliberal Policy Bloc in Canada, 1976 to 1996,” Canadian Public Policy (Vol. 27, No. 2, June 2001), pages 200-202.

[12]            C.D. Howe Institute, Members and Supporters: http://www.cdhowe.org/members-and-supporters