NACC: Canadian American Business Council peddles corporate members; details of July 2006 meeting of Canadian representatives in Toronto kept secret
“Still, history teaches that a lie, repeated often enough, can sometimes be mistaken for the truth. That is why, on the eve of this month’s leaders’ summit in Montebello, Quebec, involving Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President George W. Bush and President Felipe Calderón, it is vital that supporters of the SPP speak up and dispel the myths being propagated by extremists on both the left and right of the political spectrum.”
– Thomas d’Aquino, Chief Executive and President of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and chair of the Secretariat advising Canadian members of the North American Competitiveness Council (FOCAL POINT, August 2007)
Membership does have its privileges. Just ask Canadian National Railway and the Campbell Soup Company both of which secured a seat among the privileged few on the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), a group of high-level American, Canadian and Mexican business leaders tasked with directing the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) process, to tell government what needs to be done to further the goal of marrying policy issues with business priorities.
The two companies, along with the Royal Bank of
In a March 24, 2006, letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and
“The purpose of this letter is to respectfully request official involvement in the North American Competitiveness Council. Specifically, we would like to nominate the following US and Canadian companies: EDS of Plano, Texas; Campbell Soup Company of Camden, New Jersey; Royal Bank of Canada of Toronto, ON; and Canadian National Railway of Montréal, Québec.”Up until that point it is assumed that the CABC involvement was in an “unofficial” capacity.
“All four companies play an important role in the Canada/US partnership and will bring a distinct Canada/US focus and perspective to the table,” Dove and
Lost in the shuffle is the important role that many non-profit organizations play in the Canada/US partnership not to mention the citizens of both countries who no doubt would bring to the table a distinct and unique perspective on issues. None were invited.
The four companies nominated are represented on the CABC board of directors. With the exception of the Campbell Soup Company they are also members of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE).
As members of the CABC, CN and Royal Bank are listed by the organization as ‘sustaining partners’ providing $25,000 or more annually, while EDS and Campbell Soup are identified as ‘gold sponsors’ at $10,000.
Financial information available at BusinessWeek.com shows that in 2006 the four companies enjoyed revenues of over $50 billion. The total annual compensation for their respective CEOs is considerable:
Campbell Soup Company: $7.3B
Douglas R. Conant, CEO & President: $3,677,044
Canadian National Railway: C$7.7B
E. Hunter Harrison, CEO & President: $5,700,000
EDS Corporation: $21.3B
Michael H. Jordon, CEO: $1,572,000
Royal Bank of
Gordon M. Nixon, CEO & President: $5,832,511
(Nixon is the current Chairman of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives)
The CABC bills itself as the premier voice of the Canadian American business community in
According to its 2006-07 Annual Report a key CABC policy priority is that it “promotes the importance of free trade and opposes protectionism.”
CABCs advisory board includes six former Canadian Ambassadors to the
Burney is chairman of the CanWest Global Communications Corp. board of directors. CanWest in turn is a member of the CCCE and its President and Chief Executive Officer, Leonard J. Asper, is a director. CanWest’s stable of conservative newspapers across Canada have been very supportive of the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) and the Security and Prosperity Partnership. The flagship National Post has twice endorsed Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper for Prime Minister.
It is interesting to also note that Allan Gotlieb is the chairman of the Donner Canadian Foundation an organization responsible for providing “seed money” that helped establish the right-wing Canadian think tanks Atlantic Institute of Market Studies (Halifax), the Montreal Economic Institute (
One of the more preposterous claims about the NACC comes from the Council’s own report to Ministers: Enhancing Competitiveness in
“In June 2005, the three governments released detailed work plans identifying key initiatives that together formed an ambitious agenda of collaboration. Since then, governments have worked hard to implement these initiatives.”
By March 2006, the Leaders were already seeing “significant results” but apparently decided that it should provide “a voice and a role for the private sector in the SPP process.” So it created an NACC “made up of senior representatives…with a mandate to provide high-level business input that would assist governments in enhancing
The problem with the NACC report to Ministers though, is that it does not go back far enough in time to explain that the SPP was never really a government initiative in the first place. It was an idea put forward by a private sector that already had a powerful and influential voice in policy making. The government’s role in this process seemed to be one of receiving the idea, doing the initial groundwork of putting a framework in place, institutionalizing it, then rolling it out to the public as some kind of government initiative before dutifully turning it back over to the private sector to carry on its merry way.
The origins of the SPP can be traced back to January 2003 when the CCCE launched its Security and Prosperity Toward a New Canada-United States Partnership in
This initiative proposed a strategy with five major elements:
1) Reinventing borders
2) Maximizing regulatory efficiencies
3) Negotiation of a comprehensive resource security pact
4) Reinvigorating the North American defence alliance
5) Creating a new institutional framework
If these sound familiar it is likely because all have been generally incorporated into the SPP.
In its report to Ministers the CCCE describes itself as “a not-for-profit, nonpartisan association of Canada’s business leaders committed to the shaping of sound public policy in Canada, North America and the world.”
“Widely recognized as Canada’s most influential business organization, the Council has played an important role in most of the major public policy developments in Canada over the past quarter century. In particular, it was the driving force in the Canadian private sector in the development and promotion of the
This hardly sounds like an organization in need of “a voice and a role.”
The same can be said about the CABC. In its letter to Secretary Gutierrez and Minister Bernier, the Council noted that it “is the premier voice of the Canadian American business community.” Since its establishment in 1987 “the Council has provided the Canada-U.S. business community a window into the bilateral dialogue at the very highest levels and, on the issues of deepest concern to our members, played a direct role in helping to make sound policy.”
In April 2004, the CCCE followed up on its earlier report with New Frontiers: Building a 21st Century Canada-United States Partnership in
The report’s introduction shows that its big partnership ideas were already heading in the right political direction:
“While 2004 will bring elections in bothThe CCCE points out that “Some of the paper’s 15 recommendations expand on the NASPI framework in areas such as tariff harmonization, rules of origin, trade remedies, energy strategy, core defence priorities and the need to strengthen Canada-United States institutions, including the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Other recommendations focus on the process for developing and executing a comprehensive strategy, including the need for greater coordination across government departments, between federal and provincial governments and between the public and private sectors.”
Canadaand the United States, political interest in new approaches to North Americacrosses partisan boundaries. Prime Minister Paul Martin has made clear his intention to reinvigorate Canada’s relationship with the United Statesas part of a broader strategy for strengthening ’s influence in the world. Stephen Harper, the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, has called for a continental “strategic partnership”, one that would link freer flows of goods, services, labour, capital and technology with improvements in continental security.” Canada
The report’s 15th and final recommendation seems conveniently tailored for the CCCE:
“In addition to making the most of the opportunities created by economic integration, the business community should contribute to the process of strengthening institutional ties betweenThe NACC did not include this important piece of background information in its February 2007 report to Ministers. It also neglected to reference a somewhat similar recommendation made by a trinational, Independent Task Force on the Future of North America that was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in association with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales. The report Building a North American Community (May 2005) noted:
Canadaand the . To provide formal channels for advice from the Canadian private sector, the federal government should appoint a private sector advisory group to support its new Cabinet Committee on Canada-United States Relations.” United States
“To ensure a regular injection of creative energy into the various efforts related to North American integration, the three governments should appoint an independent body of advisers. This body should be composed of eminent persons from outside government, appointed to staggered multiyear terms to ensure their independence. Their mandate would be to engage in creative exploration of new ideas from a North American perspective and to provide a public voice forIt shouldn’t require too many guesses to figure out who the “eminent persons” in question might be.
Throughout the process leading up to the creation of the NACC it appears that the CCCE and CABC had a bit of an unfair advantage in that individuals connected with the organizations attended critical meetings where the possible formation of a Council was discussed. The fact that the CABC letter to Gutierrez and Bernier predates by one full week the announcement by the Leaders in Cancún at the conclusion of their summit that a North American Competitiveness Council was being established is evidence of that.
On January 10-11, 2006, in partnership with UPS, the Council of the
Canadian representatives at the meeting included two staff from the Privy Council Office (PCO). This is significant since according to its 2005-2006 Performance Report the PCO “worked with the interdepartmental community in
Among the key findings of the
On March 15, 2006, the Council of the
Among the meeting participants was Karen Phillips, the Vice President of North America Government Affairs for Canadian National Railways, and Randolph Dove, the Executive Director of Government Affairs for EDS Corporation. As mentioned previously both companies are members of the CBAC and CCCE.
The second Security and Prosperity Partnership summit meeting was held by President Bush,
A NACC backgrounder notes: “As part of the agenda, the leaders also met with a group of private sector representatives on March 31, five from each country. The proposed structure of the NACC was addressed during this meeting and the private sector representatives pledged their commitment to the process.”
The document does not reveal the names of the five Canadian private sector representatives that attended the meeting.
A September 13, 2006, story in Maclean’s, however, did identify one of the participants. In Meet NAFTA 2.0 it was reported that Annette Verschuren, the president of Home Depot
It should be noted that Home Depot is a member of the CCCE where Verschuren is a board of director. The Home Depot is also a gold sponsor of the CABC.
In an address given at the 16th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters on April 23, 2007, in Markham, Ontario, David Stewart Patterson, the CCCEs Executive Vice President, discussed the Leaders meeting in Cancún saying “A group of CEOs from each of the three countries was invited to take part in a roundtable discussion about what issues mattered most within the broad scope of the SPP.”
So it has been established that the corporate executives were invited, with at least one flying in on Prime Minister Harper’s jet, and that they stayed at a luxury hotel. No doubt this was all courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer who, from Day One, has been shut out of the SPP process completely.
To no one’s surprise a White House news release on March 31, 2006, announced “the creation of a North American Competitiveness Council (NACC).”
“The Council will comprise members of the private sector from each country and will provide us recommendations on North American competitiveness, including, among others, areas such as automotive and transportation, steel, manufacturing, and services. The Council will meet annually with security and prosperity Ministers and will engage with senior government officials on an ongoing basis.”
Some three years after the idea was first launched by the CCCE the corporate elite had finally gotten the private sector led Council it wanted.
On June 13, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Canadian membership of the North American Competitiveness Council. In his address to the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters in April, the CCCEs David Stewart Patterson, said “the Prime Minister personally appointed individual CEOs as members.”
To date the Harper government has not provided information as to the membership requirements, the selection process, or the terms of the members he appointed to the NACC. Nor is it clear who will be paying the group’s expenses.
On June 15, 2006, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Mexican Economy Minister Sergio Garcia de Alba and Canadian Minister of Industry Maxime Bernier met with North American business leaders to officially launch the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC).
The Canadian private sector representatives invited to attend were:
Dominic D’Alessandro, President and CEO, Manulife Financial
Paul Desmarais, Jr., Chairman and Co-CEO, Power Corporation of
Richard Lee George, President and CEO, Suncor Energy
Hunter Harrison, President and CEO, Canadian National Railroad Company
*Linda Hasenfratz, CEO, Linamar Corporation
*Michael Sabia, President and CEO,
James A. Shepherd, President and CEO, Canfor Corporation
*Annette Verschuren, President, Home Depot
Of the ten invitees only Hasenfratz, Sabia and Verschuren were present.
The meeting’s Post-Ministerial Report notes “the private sector representatives discussed how to organize themselves to get recommendations to the government representatives by the next Ministerial.”
The Canadian representatives indicated that “Their section has not had the time to organize itself – but once the representatives get back to
According to a list of frequently asked questions posted on the Council of the
Travel and hospitality expenses available on the Government of Canada website shows that the North American Competitiveness Council Meeting of Canadian Members took place in
Alister Smith, General Director, International Trade and Finance
Gregory Goatbe, Vice-President, Admissibility Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
Stephen Rigby, Executive Vice-President, Canada Border Services Agency
Richard Dicerni, Deputy Minister, Industry
It was this meeting that the Canadian members of the NACC apparently chose the Canadian Council of Chief Executives as their Secretariat. This comes as no surprise since the companies that all ten members work for belong to the organization.
According to the September 13, 2006, Maclean’s article Linda Hasenfratz is the chairperson. The Canadian section of the NACC has not made public the agendas or minutes to any of its meetings.
According to CCCEs David Stewart Patterson, the “The newly appointed NACC members wasted no time. After an initial meeting in June, each national section developed and shared its priority wish list.”
“In developing the issues papers, the secretariats in each country consulted broadly across their respective business sectors. In
It would be interesting to know which think tanks the Canadian section of the NACC consulted with. One can almost be assured that left leaning organizations such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives were passed over.
If it weren’t for Freedom of Information requests meaningful records concerning the NACC would be scarce. Controversy over the secretive nature of its business has not been far from the group.
Judicial Watch, a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promoting transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and law, sought access to NACC meetings – including the one scheduled in
According to an Application for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction it filed against the U.S. Department of Commerce and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez in the United States District Court for the
“On March 23, 2007, Plaintiff submitted a request to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the organizations designated by Defendants to serve as Secretariat for theTo date the issue remains unresolved.
component of the NACC, asking that it be allowed to “participate in all future meetings of the NACC, to include Ministerial, Executive Committee and Advisory Committee meetings.” By letter dated April 19, 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce informed Plaintiff that only invited officials and members of the Executive Committee of the NACC could participate in “Ministerial” meetings. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also informed Plaintiff that membership in the Executive Committee was “by definition only open to companies” and that the Advisory Committee is “only open to companies, sectoral associations, and local chambers of commerce.” U.S.
On July 11, 2007, the
According to a news release issued by the organization “the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the U.S. Army will not allow the municipality to rent the Centre Communautaire de Papineauville for a public forum on Sunday August 19, on the eve of the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership Leaders Summit.”
Although the excessive security measures were reportedly relaxed somewhat the public forum was moved to Marion Hall at the
Reaction from the corporate elite to concerns about the NACC has been predictable. In an article published in the August 2007 edition of FOCAL POINT, the newsletter of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas, Thomas d'Aquino, the Chief Executive and President of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and chair of the Secretariat advising Canadian members of the North American Competitiveness Council, called critics of the Council the “nationalist left” “alarmist” “doomsayers” “isolationists” “extremists” and “activists…attempting to sow fear.”
“Still, history teaches that a lie, repeated often enough, can sometimes be mistaken for the truth. That is why, on the eve of this month’s leaders’ summit in Montebello, Quebec, involving Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President George W. Bush and President Felipe Calderón, it is vital that supporters of the SPP speak up and dispel the myths being propagated by extremists on both the left and right of the political spectrum,” d’Aquino said.
(Speaking of lies there is the little matter of the illegal U.S.-led invasion, overthrow and occupation of
American interests in “energy security” don’t begin or end with
In its February 2007 report to Ministers the NACC states: “The Canada-U.S. energy market is already well integrated as a result of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and NAFTA…The single biggest challenge to maximizing the benefits of energy integration on a regional basis, however, is the need for energy sector reforms in
While the Council went on to say it “acknowledges that it is the exclusive role of Mexican public and private sectors to set forward the development requirements in this sector and to lead the initiatives that will increase its competitiveness” the report continued to insult
“Secure access to global energy resources on market terms is a strategic imperative for the
Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) is
The report even arrogantly devotes a section to “Mexican Domestic Policy Reform.”
“Although the following ideas are beyond the scope of the NACC, the NACC sees potential in two particular areas: the liberalization of rules governing trade, storage and distribution of refined products and corporate reforms within the state-owned monopoly, PEMEX.
“Recent efforts to bring operating autonomy, increased accountability, and corporate governance standards face the same adverse political dynamics that stall fundamental reform in the energy sector. While such issues pertain to the Mexican policy agenda and are beyond the scope of NACC, much can be done at the trilateral level to push for efficiency objectives in PEMEX.”
On several occasions the NACC states that its ideas are beyond the scope of its mandate but it goes ahead and forces its opinion on the reader anyway. If one thing is clear the NACC will not rest until
On August 15, 2006, members of the NACC representing business leaders from
The meeting minutes show that “After considerable debate and discussion, it was agreed that three overall priorities merited immediate work: border crossing facilitation (including security, infrastructure, supply chain management, transport and logistics, customs reform); regulatory convergence; and energy integration.”
“The Canadian Secretariat will take the lead in drafting the work plan on the issue of border facilitation, the United States Secretariat will deal with the issue of regulatory convergence and the Mexican Secretariat will have primary responsibility for the energy integration issue.”
In addition to the official Canadian NACC representatives at the meeting the following individuals with a connection to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives also participated as part of the NACC Canada Secretariat: Thomas d’Aquino, Sam Boutziouvis, John Dillon, Matthew Fortier, and Alexandra Low.
It’s not clear who paid their expenses to attend the meeting.
The issue of standards and regulations and what the SPP/NACC intentions are in this area appears to be a bit of a moving target. Since January 2006 the discussion has been defined in many ways including: “regulatory coordination” “regulatory harmonization” “regulatory cooperation” and “regulatory convergence.”
In its 2007 Report to Leaders Building a Secure and Competitive North America: Private Sector Priorities for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (August 2007), the NACC note “seeing significant progress in many areas.”
“In standards and regulatory cooperation, governments are close to completing two short-term recommendations — a trilateral Regulatory Cooperation Framework and a trilateral Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) strategy — and are making progress on specific recommendations affecting food and agriculture, financial services, insurance, trucking, and electronic trading,” the report states.
Thankfully, the 2007 Report to Leaders appears to refrain from further Mexico-bashing.
The work of the NACC is far from over. In fact, the Council isn’t content with the current parameters of the SPP and would like to see them expanded. In its February 2007 report to Ministers the group said that it had “chosen to focus its initial work and recommendations on practical suggestions for rapid improvements to North American competitiveness” and “is prepared in future years to tackle broader and more strategic issues that lie beyond the current scope of the SPP, to the extent that Leaders would find such a contribution helpful.”
The Leaders in their joint statement on August 21, 2007, in Montebello, seem to have accepted the offer saying “We welcome the NACC's recommendations, including its readiness to be part of the solution, and we look forward to continuing our dialogue with the NACC in furthering North America’s competitiveness. We ask that our ministers continue to seek input from interested parties in determining future priorities for increasing the security, prosperity and quality of life in North America.”
Just what the “more strategic issues” and who the “interested parties” are were not made clear.
In 2003, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives reported that its member companies administered in excess of C$2.1 trillion in assets, with annual revenues of more than C$500 billion and accounted for a significant majority of
With the NACC firmly in place and all ten Canadian section representatives comprised of CCCE members the road to even greater levels of prosperity (i.e. profits) seems assured.