Monday, January 11, 2010

The Cycle of Spin to Finance and Sell War

In her book Holding the Bully's Coat, Linda McQuaig discusses the cycle of military contracts, lobby groups, think tanks, etc; that go into selling war.

And let's have no delusions here. War is a business and a big business indeed, and like any business depends on good PR and marketing.

Increasingly, a Canadian defence lobby began to emerge as a potent force in Canadian politics. ... The most important of these is the Conference on Defence Associations (CDA), an umbrella group representing military and retired military personnel as well as business, academic and professional types with military interests. The CDA enjoys access at the highest levels, including direct access to the prime minister. While ostensibly an outside, non-governmental group, the CDA receives funding and organizational support from the Department of National Defence. In effect, then, the Defence Department is subsidizing a group to lobby the government to maintain the Defence Department's budget." (McQuaig, Doubleday, 2007)

So not only does the taxpayer foot the bill for defense spending, but we also pay for the lobbying. Quite a gig.

John Geddes at; reveals that CDA gets $100,000 a year from the Department of Defence, November 15, 2007:

A newspaper reader turns to the op-ed page and finds a commentary supporting the mission in Afghanistan written by a retired general or colonel writing for the Conference of Defence Associations. Or the reader scans a story on the purchase of military hardware in which Paul Manson, the former chief of defence staff, or another distinguished retired officer affiliated with the CDA, is quoted supporting the move. The comments dovetail with Conservative policy, but are presented as the views of an expert, independent group.

Just how independent, though, is open to debate. The CDA gets $100,000 a year from the Department of National Defence expressly for advocating on military matters. The department refused to release its funding agreement with the CDA to Maclean’s, saying it went to cabinet and is therefore secret. But Alain Pellerin, retired colonel and CDA executive director, outlined some details. The CDA must produce a quarterly magazine, for instance, and conduct symposiums for students. “We also have to write,” Pellerin said, “a number of op-eds to the press.”

Requiring a taxpayer-subsidized advocacy group to make its case through the media to qualify for annual renewal of its funding is not standard policy. In fact, the Conservatives often frown upon paying for advocacy work at all. To cite a contentious area, the 2007-08 federal guidelines for women’s groups make domestic advocacy and lobbying ineligible for any funding support.

Pellerin said the CDA remains independent, but he conceded, “It’s walking a fine line at times.” Asked if there is any aspect of Tory defence policy the CDA opposes, he couldn’t think of one. Back when the Liberals were in power, things were different. Pellerin said the CDA briefly lost its federal support, which goes back to 1932, because then-defence minister John McCallum was “annoyed” over its persistent calls for more defence spending.

Ironically this group also receives additional benefits as a charitable organization, meaning they can fund raise tax-free; though their charitable status is being challenged. As Dr. Joan Russow explains:

On May 14, 2008 a complaint to Revenue Canada was made to challenge the Canadian Defence Association Institute's (CDAI) charitable status. (Russow) On May 16, 2008, it was revealed that the Conference of Defence Assocation (CDA) and its charitable front group the Conference of Defence Association Institute had received 500,000 from the “new” Conservative government to legitimize the Federal Governments annual Defence spending, and the government’s recently announced Canada First 30 billion anticipated future budget along with the 45 billion retrofit budget.

For years the "charitable" Conference of Defence Association has been granted Charitable Status, and has lobbied continuously for an increase in the military budget.

No comments:

Post a Comment