The big business leaders who sold us free trade as the source of economic prosperity and jobs for all are now promoting their version of national unity. As you might expect from their track record, what they are really peddling is national DISunity.
The Business Council on National Issues, the pressure group for the country's top CEOs, calls its new concept "Today and Tomorrow: An Agenda for Action." Put together at the BCNI-sponsored Confederation 2000 conferences,it's a prescription for shrinking and weakening the national government and turning over most of its rights and responsibilities to the provinces. All that would be left in the federal jurisdiction, basically, would be national defence, international trade, and perhaps monetary policy.
With breathtaking gall, the BCNI subtitles its Conference 2000 initiative: "Building a Stronger Canada." In its "agenda for action," it says unctuously, "Our most urgent goal must be to find solutions that will improve the lives of children in poverty, single parents trapped on welfare, talented young people frustrated by lack of opportunity, hard-working taxpayers with high debt loads, and countless workers displaced or threatened by the profound changes taking place in our economy."
The fact that all of these disadvantaged Canadians are victims of the BCNI's own ruthless policies and practices is of course studiously ignored. It was the CEOs of the 160 largest corporations who succeeded in pushing through the FTA and NAFTA, who have since eliminated more than half a million jobs, who deliberately maintain our unemployment rate at or near double-digit levels, who insisted that UI and welfare rates be sharply reduced, who demanded and got the GST, and who continue to shirk paying their fair share of taxes.
To have these architects of our decline as a nation now recommend ways of saving it is akin to having the foxes devise a plan for protecting the chicken coop. This is what the BCNI wants done to build "a strong and united Canada"--The federal government must abandon all responsibility for mining, forestry, tourism, housing, regional development, municipal affairs, recreation and sports. It must turn over to the provinces most of its responsibilities for fisheries, agriculture, the environment, culture, communications, industrial development, and export promotion. And it must also "retreat" from labour market training, social housing, child care, and student loans.
It is the BCNI's expressed view that "the social and economic union" has not been well-served "by the unilateral imposition of federal standards and rules." Better by far, the CEOs tell us, to have a "leaner" federal government, so that the provinces can each be free to set its own rules and standards. This is what the BCNI describes as "a new spirit of partnership."
In reality, the powerful business people who are pushing this distorted vision of Canada's future have only one objective--to consolidate their already strong grip on our economy and our political system. The BCNI's agenda is driven by a divide-and-conquer strategy. It will be much easier for the big corporations which make up the BCNI to exploit our resources and our people if the power of the federal government to set and enforce national standards is diffused among the provinces and territories.
In a letter to federal and provincial politicians, the BCNI said that its member CEOs "will seek an opportunity to meet with each of you individually so that we can share with you the ideas that have emerged from the Confederation 2000 initiative." Such a lobby, of course, is completely unnecessary, since the BCNI's strategy has already been eagerly embraced by the Chretien government and most of the provinces. They can't wait to begin "saving" the country by balkanizing it, as the BCNI proposes.
The people of Canada were able to block the BCNI and its allies by refusing to endorse their earlier disunity agenda in the referendum on the Charlottetown Accord. Unfortunately, the BCNI is making sure there will be no such referendum on its latest plan to break up the country. The challenge now facing Canadians is to find some equally effective way of foiling this latest BCNI plot.
Taken from The CCPA Monitor, September 1996.