So far the media has yet to pick up on it, but the Security and Prosperity Partnership is coming back for another round at the political trough, and it’s time for the disturbingly unaccountable (on this score) leadership of Canada, the United States, and Mexico to have another go at “deep continental integration.” The recent meeting between the Canadian and American defence ministers (Mexico’s either couldn’t or wouldn’t attend, having come down with a convenient illness) was, it seems, merely a precursor.
I’m confident of the fact that there’s a broader push going on because of this morning’s Globe and Mail, where diplomat-turned-propagandist Colin Robertson expounds on the importance of integration. “Integration,” in this particular case, means the suppression of the power of democratically elected officials in any of the three countries in favour of a series of secretly negotiated, extra-Parliamentary (and extra-Congressional) technocratic agreements. I don’t mean this to sound as though it’s a conspiracy theory. Indeed, the American and Canadian governments are actually quite open about the fact that they’re negotiating important agreements behind the scenes.
The Globe and Mail op-ed page is an important window into Canadian elite thinking because it regularly publishes pieces on the “important” issues of the day, written by those individuals who are judged to have “important” things to say. (This writer is not one of them.) On the other hand, regularly are these relations of power so visible as this morning. Today, in addition to Robertson’s piece, former CRTC vice-chairman Richard French unsurprisingly defends his former agency’s horrendous new metered-use-fee ruling in favour of Bell on the grounds that politicians shouldn’t pick fights with apolitical commissions, while Mark Sedra of the University of Waterloo Centre for International Governance Innovation pontificates on the importance of social media powered by handheld computers for political revolution.
Now, Sedra’s link is merely an indirect one: he works at a Centre funded by RIM, the maker of the Blackberry. French’s is more insidious. What the Globe and Mail fails to mention, but his University of Ottawa bio does, is that he’s a former vice-president of Bell Canada, in addition to other executive posts in the telecommunications sector. So we have a former head of Bell writing in to argue that the government should not protect Canadian consumers from the predatory behavior of his company. Well, that explains his take on the matter.
But I digress. Robertson’s column urges us to “take our continental partnership to the next level.” He says that Harper and Obama are about to announce a new continental perimeter-based border policy. If he’s right, this is everything that they were going to try and create in the Security and Prosperity Partnership, except that the SPP meetings stopped in the midst of public outcry and scurrilous Quebec cops trying to instigate riots by dressing up as anarchists and parading around with rocks. Robertson says he understands that “the Canadian debate will be noisy… Concerns over privacy, standards and sovereignty need to be assuaged and the case made for how the initiative serves the national interest.”
Well, f@#$ him. From what Robertson says, the foundations of the new agreement have already been laid and the decision has been made to move forward. As I will explain in a moment, he’s well-connected enough that I believe him. In which case, it’s a little too late to have a debate isn’t it? In a democracy, you have to have the debate and “make the case” first. The debate and case-making, according to Robertson, are going to be a mere sham, a retroactive charade the governments will act out once the agreements are already made. Lately the punditry have been marveling over the fact that just 15% of Canadians follow federal politics. But why should they, when the important decisions aren’t being made within the sphere of federal public politics?
Who is Robertson, you may ask? I have actually met him before; he, along with the rabidly ideological Michael Hart, taught a graduate seminar I once took at Carleton University. Once upon a time, he was a diplomat in Foreign Affairs, where, among other things, he was a free trade negotiator and a diplomat at various missions in the U.S. He left the Department on leave to the academy, which is to say he was loaned to Carleton’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs to help build up a case for continental integration within the right-leaning segments of the political science community. (And of course, if you want right-leaning political scientists, Carleton is almost as good as the University of Calgary.) He’s still listed as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at NPSIA, which is an impressive scholarly achievement for someone whose bio there doesn’t bother to list a single degree (actually, he does have an MA, from NPSIA as it happens).
At some point, it seems, Robertson was also offered a position at the next-leading right propaganda outlet in the academy, the University of Calgary’s Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. CDFAI is half-funded by the Mannix family, a powerful Alberta energy family whose contributions to that branch are an open secret that can be easily discerned from the occasional financial document. Both schools, incidentally, are also beholden to the military, which doles out (if I recall correctly) somewhere around $100,000 per year to each school through the Security and Defence Forum.
People in the academy maintain a thin veil of objectivity by claiming to be scholars, living a life of the mind and so on. They often neglect to mention that they are very well compensated officials whose offices are paid for by others — and usually not students. It is entirely unsurprising that in such places one should find a variety of academics and current or former civil servants clamouring for the pursuing of a corporate agenda. It does raise the interesting point, though, of whether Robertson is still a “career foreign service officer” (as his bio at both places indicates) or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s retired, or at least intends to retire rather than return. If that’s not the case, though, then it raises the question of which level of government above him approved the placing of a bureaucrat into the academy to operate as a political advocate for government policy on free trade and American integration.Tweet