Skip to comments.Canadian Connection (Steyn)
Posted on 04/22/2005 2:00:51 PM PDT by Allan
Monday, 14 February 2005
I always love the bit on the big international news story where they try to find the Canadian angle. A couple of months back, every time I switched on The National, there seemed to be no news at all and Peter Mansbridge was in the middle of some 133-part series of reports on Canadians making a difference in the world, which at least three nights a week seemed to be an encore presentation of the same worthy soft-focus featurette about some guy helping with an irrigation project in Sudan.
Once upon a time, it didnt seem such an effort to find Canadians making a difference in the world--D-Day, say, or even the early years of Pearsonian peacekeeping. But its a stretch nowadays. In the maple-free zone of the Afghan campaign in fall 2001, several desperate media outlets were driven to rhapsodizing over my old chum from Fleet Street days, Alex Renton, spokesman for the international aid agency Oxfam--or to give him his full honorific, as the Sun chains Greg Weston liked to put it, the Toronto-born spokesman for the international aid agency Oxfam. The Toronto-born Alex spent his formative years at Eton--not Eton, Ontario, the agreeable municipality a scenic one-day drive from Sault Ste. Marie, but Eton College, the swanky boys school for Brit toffs. His father is Lord Renton, a cabinet minister under Mrs. Thatcher. Im all for celebrating the rich diversity of the Canadian mosaic, but we havent had a Canuck like this since Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, checked out of Rideau Hall. Still, any oasis in a desert. When I made a couple of cracks about Alex being the designated Billy Bishop of the new world war, I got a huffy e-mail from the Hindu Kush protesting that it wasnt his fault the likes of Greg Weston had decided to anoint him as the Great White Hope of Canadian Global Relevance.
And yet, throughout this period, there has indeed been a Canadian making a difference in the world-and if The National wanted to do a 133-part special report on him, for once theyd have enough material. Most of us know Paul Desmarais as the . . . well, lets hold it there: most Canadians dont know Paul Desmarais at all. You could stop the first thousand people walking down Yonge Street and Ill bet no one would know who he is. But the few who do know him know him as the kingmaker behind Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien and Martin. Jean Chrétiens daughter is married to Paul Desmaraiss son. Paul Martin was an employee of M. Desmaraiss Power Corp., and his Canada Steamship Lines was originally a subsidiary of Power Corp. that M. Desmarais put Mr. Martin in charge of. In other words, Paul Martins public identity--successful self-made businessman, not just a career pol, knows how to meet payroll, etc.--is entirely derived from the patronage of M. Desmarais.
That in itself is a remarkable achievement. Imagine if Jenna Bush married the chairman of Halliburtons son, and then George W. Bush was succeeded by a president whod been an employee of Halliburton: Michael Moores next documentary would be buried under wall-to-wall Oscars and Palmes dOr. But M. Desmarais has managed to turn Ottawa into a company town without anyone being aware of the company. Were a G8 economy; it would be reasonable to expect a prominent British or American businessman to number prominent political figures among his friends, but to have brought so many of them into his company and even family would surely excite some comment. Power Corp.s other alumni range from Quebec premiers to Canadas most prominent international diplomat, Maurice Strong. In fairness, you dont have to work for M. Desmarais to reach the top of the greasy pole-Kim Campbell managed it, for about a week and a half.
But this is just the hicksville stuff. Whats really impressive is that, when one considers the epic events of the last three years, the truly Canadian content is not Toronto-born aid spokespersons, but the ubiquitous presence of M. Desmarais.
During the Iraq war, for example, I mentioned en passant that Power Corp. is the biggest shareholder in TotalFinaElf, the western corporation closest to Saddam Hussein (it has since changed its name to the Total Group). Total had secured development rights to 25 per cent of Iraqs oil reserves, a transformative deal that would catapult the company from a second-rank player into the big leagues with Exxon and British Petroleum. For a year, the antiwar crowd had told us it was all about oil--that the only reason Iraq was being liberated was so Bush, Cheney, Halliburton and the rest of the gang could annex in perpetuity the second biggest oil reserves in the world. But, if it was all about oil, then the fact--fact--is that the only Western leader with a direct stake in the issue was not the Texas oilpatch stooge in Washington, but Jean Chrétien: his daughter, his son-in-law and his grandchildren stood to be massively enriched by the Total-Saddam agreement. It depended on two factors: Saddam remaining in power, and the feeble UN sanctions being either weakened into meaninglessness or quietly dropped. M. Chrétien may have refused to join the Iraq war on principle, but fortunately his principles happened to coincide with the business interests of both TotalFinaElf and the Baath party.
As I said, I mentioned this curious footnote at the time. Stockwell Day picked up on it. The CBC, CTV, The Globe and Mail, Macleans and all the rest steered clear. A bland perfunctory 200-word CP story reporting M. Desmaraiss denial--Power Financial Head Refutes Saddam Link--was carried by far more media outlets than had bothered going anywhere near Days original remarks.
Well, okay. Lets take M. Desmaraiss word for it. But, getting on for two years later, were in the middle of the UN Oil-for-Fraud investigation, the all-time biggest scam, bigger than Enron and Worldcom and all the rest added together. And whaddaya know? The bank that handled all the money from the program turns out to be BNP Paribas, which tends to get designated by Associated Press and co. as a French bank but is, as it happens, controlled by one of M. Desmaraiss holding companies. That alone should cause even the droopiest bloodhound to pick up a scent: the UNs banker for its Iraqi humanitarian program turns out to be (to all intents) Saddams favourite oilman.
Im not a conspiracy-minded guy, and, if I were, Id look for a sinister global organization with a less obvious name. If Power Corp. was the moniker given to the sinister front operation for the latest Bond villain, critics would bemoan how crass the 007 franchise had become. And a Power Corp. that controlled the Total Group would have them hooting with derision. But its nevertheless the case that M. Desmaraiss bank functioned as the cashier for Saddams gaming of the global-compassion crowd: if a company agreed to sell Iraq some childrens medicine for $100 million, Iraq would invoice BNP Paribas for $110 million, pay the supplier and divert the skim-off into other areas. Everyone knew this was happening. It seems impossible, even with the minimal auditing, that BNP Paribas did not.
So here is a Canadian making a difference in the world. Suppose Conrad Black controlled a bank that had enriched a brutal dictator with a fortune intended to go to starving children, and that he also had an oil company that had cooked up an arrangement to make billions from the same dictators oil resources. Think Maude Barlow and the CBC might show an interest? But Paul Desmaraiss no-publicity clause is apparently enshrined in the Charter of Rights. So on it goes. Only the other week, M. Desmarais was hosting at his home in Quebec Nicholas Sarkozy, very likely the next president of France. Even after theyd become heads of government, neither Bush nor Blair could be bothered swinging by Ottawa to look in on Chrétien; not for years. But an invitation from M. Desmarais, and Frances coming man cant wait to hop on the plane.
M. Desmaraiss spectacular rise from an obscure Quebec bus company operator to an obscure global colossus is an amazing story. Instead of struggling to find a local angle on the international scene, why doesnt the CBC just start from the basic premise that whatever the subject--Iraq, oil-for-food, the European Union--somewhere at the heart of it will be the worlds least famous Canadian.
Instead, not a whisper. The good news is its not because Robert Rabinovitch, president of the CBC, is another discreet Power Corp. alumnus. Hes not. Rabinovitchs close buddy, John Rae, who ran Chrétiens campaigns, is. And sos Rabinovitchs old colleague Joel Bell, who was Trudeaus chief economic adviser. And sos Rabinovitchs old boss, Senator Michael Pitfield. And sos . . .
P.S. If, by the time of publication, Power Corp. has bought the Western Standard, please disregard all of the above.
It was posted and remarked on heavily.
As it should have been.
You might want to ask to have it pulled.....
I read this when it first came out. It's a keeper.
Are you sure about that?
I searched again.
There was an article with a similar title ("Canadian Connection) but it was not by Steyn.
It seems to have been posted earlier under the title "What's the Big Idea." I don't know what the original title was because I don't feel like registering with the Western Standard.
I'm glad you posted it again, because I missed it.
Older article, but very informative.
Please let me know if you want on/off the Adscam ping list.
No, sorry, different article.
No. "What's the big idea" is a different article.
I still would like proof that this was posted before.
this is one of the rare occasions
when an article deserves to be posted twice
now that it is coming out
that Paul Volcker was on the board of Desmarais' Power Corp.
Volcker's various conflicts of interest vis-a-vis "the oil-for-food scandal" have been known outside the US for some time; there have been several lengthy articles published some months ago in the Canadian press, or all places.
It was posted under "The Power behind the thrones"
I only have seen it in Canada Free Press
have you seen it anywhere else?
It was mentioned by John Loftus on the John Batchelor show last night.
An oldie, but goldie.
Withering demeanor in this piece..
Did I get the jist of it wrong.?.. Canada is a whorehouse.. with some very dirty WHORES..
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