By Harvey, Janice
CCPA Monitor , Vol. 14, No. 5
I just listened to an interview on CBC Radio with former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley on why the proposed Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) agreement with the United States and Mexico is important to Canada, why giving up some sovereignty at border crossings into the U.S. is worth it, why behind-closed-doors negotiations on this deal are justified, and how our representative democracy precludes any need for the federal government to hear from civil society on whether the tradeoffs inherent in the "partnership" are acceptable.
I also heard Thomas d'Aquino, CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and an architect (along with Manley) of the SPP, disparage protesters at the Montebello SPP summit in August by saying that, if he couldn't get an audience with the Prime Minister, he wouldn't hit the streets in protest to trash the whole initiative. "That's not democracy," he said.
Manley's and d'Aquino's definition of democracy is that of a business boardroom culture in which money buys access and influence. It is significant that there is now little to distinguish political culture-which for many Canadians Manley represents-from the corporate culture which d'Aquino has long personified.
The language of serving and protecting the public good and pursuing a just society is now spoken only in isolated closets on Parliament Hill. To speak that language brands one immediately as archaic and backward, the political equivalent of the country bumpkin.
Modern politicians speak the language of the boardroom, of the bottom line, competitiveness and efficiency, of unleashing capital in this global economy from parochial national constraints. Public discourse has been suffused with language carefully crafted by high-priced public relations firms to delude and disengage the majority. Who, after all, could object to either "security" or "prosperity" when neither word conveys any sense of the intent or content of the SPP agenda?
Manley displayed lingering vestiges of the political culture when asked about the invitation of 30 handpicked business executives to join Messrs. Bush, Harper and Calderón at Montebello while lesser citizens had to gather behind the barricades outside. He wouldn't have done that, he said, because it inevitably becomes a target for criticism, a bad public relations move. D'Aquino, a regular participant in political summits on behalf of North America's most powerful corporations, doesn't possess even that level of self-serving sensitivity.
What neither Manley nor d'Aquino seems to understand is that, for most Canadians, democracy means they have a right to know what their government is up to, and a right to express their views on major policies before they are finalized-especially when the trade-offs being negotiated include restrictions on Canadian sovereignty. …