Politicians and the corporate elite—just too cozy for comfort

In addition to Jody Wilson-Raybould’s exit from Cabinet and the immense trouble it will, and should, cause Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party in the next federal election, it’s important to not lose focus on who broke the story and what this says about our democratic failings.

Once again this breaking story highlights the immense value of a free and fact-based press. For those of us who do not subscribe to alternate facts and who know the excellent reputation of the Globe & Mail for investigative reporting, the story immediately shouted ‘credibility’.

It’s just ironic that those on the right who more often than not denounce our Canadian press as bias and left-leaning are all over the SNC-Lavalin story.

It speaks to the imperative that political parties on the right must stop cherry picking stories, but consistently support the free press—and it’s role in keeping elected officials accountable.

This revelation of political pressure on our Attorney General also highlights democratic weaknesses that can easily be exploited by powerful corporations.

I don’t think we should be so naïve as to think the pressure applied by SNC-Lavalin on our current political leaders or the decisions taken by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) would have been significantly different if another political party had been in power.

We need only watch the annual gathering of the superrich, corporate giants and world leaders each year in Davos, Switzerland to understand who’s influencing our politicians, and it’s not the electorate.

There is absolutely nothing redeeming about SNL-Lavalin other than it is headquartered in Quebec and employs thousands of workers in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.

The World Bank found SNC-Lavalin guilty of corruption and shut them out from bidding on any of their contracts until 2023.

If they are convicted of corruption in Canada, they will be unable to bid on government contracts for 10 years. It will bring economic hardship to many Canadians, but is it not time to stop protecting corrupt companies that politicians deem ‘too big to fail’?

However, be assured for every bad actor pressuring our government, there are good actors as well. Two recent examples included Imperial Oil and Telus.

Imperial Oil was sending out a ‘not-so-subtle’ message that they are ‘surprised that President Donald Trump hasn’t made an issue about Alberta’s production caps since it ‘breaks trade rules’.

The last thing we need is for Trump to slam dunk another Canadian industry with his irrational behaviour.

Both Jason Kenney and the Premier had reluctantly supported short-term production cuts to drive down inventories, push up prices and save jobs. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best of the worst.

Imperial Oil makes profit when there is an oversupply of oil and low prices. They only take care of shareholders while governments must balance their decisions during harsh economic times to give the most benefit to, and cause the least damage to, the majority of Alberta families and corporations.

Telus has recently threatened our federal government that if Huawei telecom equipment is banned from their next generation (5G) network, they will retaliate with high prices to consumers and/or demand government largess to keep their shareholders whole.

Again, governments have more than one constituency to please—they must balance security concerns of our allies, consumer demands for fairer pricing and business-friendly policies to encourage investment.

The moral of the story for Prime Minister Trudeau is actions are more important than words. Voters believed ‘sunny ways’ would deliver higher ethical standards than the previous government and he hasn’t.

The moral of this story for us is twofold. Never let ideologues undermine the importance of the free press, and always be aware and alert to the pitfalls of corporate influence over all political parties and politicians.

 

Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

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