Canada's Military Lobby

Article excerpt

In this country today a battle is being waged over Canada's role in the world. On the one side is a powerful alliance between those who want Canadians to give up their sovereignty and integrate with the United States and those who reject a role as a peace-broker and embrace the Bush doctrine of military and economic totalitarianism. On the other side are the majority of Canadians, who steadfastly refuse to give up the idea that Canada should be an independent force for good in an increasingly unipolar and violent world.

The most powerful lobby in Canada is composed of corporations engaged primarily in finance, energy, manufacturing and natural resources, with military industries making up only a small part. Canada's corporate lobby is not driven by a demand for more military contracts--though it will not object to them--but by greater integration with the U.S. market as a whole.

Organizations like the Business Council on National Issues (BCNI) have in the past promoted deregulation, privatization and especially free trade. Its greatest achievement was the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which was later expanded to NAFTA in 1994. More recently, the BCNI--renamed the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE)--was alarmed by the closing of the Canada-U.S. border after 9/11. As the U.S.'s ambassador to Canada at the time explained to an audience of CEOS in Toronto, "Security will trump trade."

In response, the CCCE launched a campaign to support the Bush Administration's security and military agenda--be it the invasion of Iraq or assistance with "Star Wars"--under the dual assumptions that U.S. security measures won't impact Canadian trade because we will be inside their "security perimeter"; and that the ensuing goodwill with the President would help end U.S. protectionist measures like softwood-lumber tariffs (despite the fact these are determined by the U.S. Congress).

As CCCE president Tom d'Aquino exhorted a 2003 meeting of mandarins in Ottawa, "Now we must integrate our plans for achieving economic advantage within North America with a strategy for assuring the security both of our own borders and of the continent as a whole."

The Military Lobby

Much smaller but no less successful than the corpora-te lobby, the military lobby comprises corporations seeking contracts and hawkish policy groups, or "think tanks."

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Organizations like the Conference of Defence Associations and various academics funded by the Department of National Defence (DND) produce a steady stream of hawkish reports and analysis for the media and politicians.

On the industry side, the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries reports that in 2000 (the latest figures available) there were more than 1,500 firms with significant defence interests (i.e. more than $100,000 in defence revenues) comprising an industry worth roughly $7 billion per year.

A third of the industry's revenues are derived from arms exports, half of that to the United States. As a result, both the Washington-based Congressional Research Service and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ranked Canada as the sixth-largest global arms exporter in 2004.

These companies build everything from wheeled tanks to tactical helicopters. But most Canadian defense companies are branch plants or subcontractors, building components for U.S. systems, like gearboxes for the Apache helicopter.

According to Project Ploughshares, the industry is dominated by a handful of companies who typically win the lion's share of Canadian military contracts: CAE Inc. …