Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tony Clement: You Want to Sell What?

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

From his days as a young radical at the University of Toronto, Tony Panayi (Clement) was on a mission to sell our sovereignty to the highest bidder. He was helped in his endeavours by other young neocons, like Tom Long and Leslie Noble.

They took over the campus PC's and later the provincial PCs with the help of Preston Manning and the Reform Party*, the American Republicans who created the concept of the Common Sense Revolution, the National Citizens Coalition and the Fraser Institute, to name just a few.
"Mike Harris's Common Sense Revolution was designed primarily to remake government in the image of big business ... Fortified by corporate "think tanks" like the C.D. Howe and Fraser Institutes, and citizen front groups like the
National Citizens Coalition and the
Canadian Taxpayers Association." (1)
And in fact, once elected, lobbyists like Guy Giorno and Leslie Noble, had far more power than elected officials.
One pipeline Noble has to influence government decision-makers is the unelected cadre of political aides in the offices of the Premier and his top ministers. These aides, many of whom report to Noble during the election campaign, wield tremendous power in government, a reality acknowledged by some Tory MPPs.

Tory backbencher Bill Murdoch says they openly flaunt their power. ``They say, `Hey Murdoch, we didn't even have to go through an election and we're running the place.' '' Queen's Park Speaker Chris Stockwell, a Tory MPP, calls them a ``cabal'' and says they make decisions without input from elected politicians.

Noble's own correspondence to clients demonstrates a familiar, routine relationship with this unelected cadre. To a client, Noble explains she is contacting Giorno (Harris' director of policy), Hutton (Harris' director of issues management), Lindsay (Harris' chief of staff until last year), Brian Patterson (former economic development minister Bill Saunderson's executive assistant, now assistant to Transportation Minister Tony Clement), Peter Clute (Finance Minister Eves' executive assistant), and John Guthrie (he was Consumer Minister David Tsubouchi's executive assistant). In her correspondence, Noble also describes how she contacts members of ``P and P'' - Priorities and Planning - the inner cabinet that makes most government decisions. (2)
And yet it's interesting to hear her defend Mike Harris as a man of the people in the video at the bottom of this page.

Tony Clement's Fire Sale

In 1997, after too many gaffes and a scandal, Al Palledini was demoted and Tony Clement moved from the backroom and the backbench to the transportation portfolio. At the time Harris was in a bit of trouble. He had carried through with Republican strategist Mike Murphy's 30% tax decrease, and with massive cuts and the implementation of user fees, he was still not able to balance the books. With an election looming, he needed to find some cash and find it fast.

And despite what was said in the video I mentioned, claiming that Harris did not have a privatization agenda, he actually had a privatization minister. And it was he and Tony Clement who decided that the best way to not only generate cash but ensure that no additional revenue could be obtained by the province, they sold a highway. Yep. Highway 407, that has become a veritable cash cow for SNC-Lavalin**, was sold for peanuts. (about 1% of it's value with a 99 year lease)
Rob Sampson, Minister without Portfolio with Responsibility for Privatization, today announced the sale of Highway 407 for dlrs 3.1 billion, making it the largest privatization in Canadian history. Highway 407 will be sold to a consortium of Grupo Ferrovial and its subsidiary Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, SNC-Lavalin, and Capital d'Amerique CDPQ, a subsidiary of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec. The consortium will purchase from the province the right to own and operate Highway 407, along with the obligation to finance, design and build west and east-partial extensions to the highway.

"Completion of the highway is important to Ontario's continued economic growth. It will stimulate new economic activity in communities across the Greater Toronto Area and throughout the province," said Tony Clement, Transportation Minister. "The extensions will also enhance our transportation infrastructure by reducing congestion on Highways 401, 403, and the QEW." ... The province's decision to pursue the sale of the highway was announced February 20, 1998. The transaction is expected to close on May 5, 1999. The terms of the sale will also include an innovative method of regulating tolls and linking toll revenue to congestion relief. "The travelling public will be happy to know that we have struck this deal with their time and pocketbooks in mind," added Sampson. (3)
Except that our pocketbooks were emptied with this deal. As James Bow suggests, it was:
"... the worst decision the Harris government made, which remains a large and lasting legacy: the sale of Highway 407. This flawed decision illustrates the mistaken belief that Harris seemed to have that government was easy, and cuts could be made without consequences ... . provincial taxpayers were short-changed on the deal.

... The big problem was what the Harris government did with the funds raised. As the sale took place, a few months before the 1999 provincial election, the money raised ($3.1 billion) was placed into general revenues. As a result, the Harris government was able to claim that they had balanced the budget after just four years in power, and after inheriting a “massive fiscal mess” from the previous Rae administration. Unfortunately it is a simple fact of accounting that you should not use the funds raised through the sale of capital investments as operating revenue. That’s a very bad credit move, as such revenues simply aren’t sustainable. Many politicians likened this to selling the refrigerator to pay for food. The reduction in the deficit was a phantom, and Ontario’s fiscal situation deteriorated as the economy slowed ... " (4)
Now with the federal government, Clement's selling off of our assets is still his top priority. An example of this was Stelco to Vale from Brazil. Negotiators with Vale now say that they were surprised how easy it was for them. Usually when they invest in foreign companies, governments want assurances that the workers and communities will be protected. But they state that the Harper government and Tony Clement wanted nothing, and as a result we got nothing.
Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement should resign in "disgrace" for refusing to intervene in mining job losses in Sudbury, says a senior official with the United Steelworkers union. "I think (Clement) should step down," said Wayne Fraser, director of Steelworkers District 6 which represents thousands of union members in Ontario and Atlantic Canada."I think he is a disgrace to the government and to the people of Canada," Fraser said. He was reacting to Clement's statement Tuesday that the Conservative government will not take any action against Vale Inco over cutbacks at its Sudbury mining operations. (5)
This is what happens when ideology trumps common decency. They completely ignore the human and humane elements.

Social Darwinism 101.


*On August 29, 1995, Mike Harris met again with Preston Manning to discuss the possibility of forming an alliance. It would not officially take place until 2000. (Open for Business, 1997, Pg. 21)

**SNC-Lavalin was also given a large contract by Stephen Harper to help with the rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan.


1. Open for Business, Closed to People, The Transnational Corporate Agenda, By Tony Clarke, Fernwood, 1997, ISBN: 1895686733, Pg. 33

2. Queen of the Park: She's the Premier's adviser and Ontario's leading lobbyist. Should taxpayers be concerned? By Kevin Donovan and Moira Welsh, 1999


4. Harris Flawed Legacy. By James Bow, July 13, 2007

5. Clement Should Step Down: Steelworkers, The Sault Star, June 2009

No comments:

Post a Comment