Pat Froio introduced Nick Fillmore. Nick is an investigative journalist and author of a well-known blog. He is an organizer with the Council of Canadians of the campaign for One Big Campaign, soon to be launched by the Council of Canadians under another name.
Nick Fillmore – Notes for talk, November 24, 2012
to the group Reclaim Our Democratic Canada
The theme of the day: Is Canada Still a Democracy?
Whether we are a democracy can be looked at in different ways. Many concerned Canadians seem to believe that a lot of our problems could be overcome if we were able to accomplish two things:
-Getting rid of Harper and the Conservatives.
-Adopting some form of proportional representation.
These two changes would give us government that would be more civilized and more democratic. But we still would be terribly restricted. There’s a seldom-seen power behind the curtain.
We face a greater danger – a danger that most Canadians know very little about. It practically lurks in the shadows . . . . Powerful forces already have control over much of our lives. Big Brother does exist.
So, who wields this power? They like to be known as The Captains of Industry. Tycoons. Magnates.
They are the mostly men who belong to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. They are the executives of our top banks; oil bosses and speculators. They meet in Davos. Corporate media and the Harpers are valuable but less powerful partners.
All together, they are the powerful one per cent.
How many of you know much about the Council of Chief Executives? Hmmm, not very many. Well it is an organization of roughly 150 executives that -- among many things -- helps the Harper government write our laws. If you’ve never seen it referred to in the news, that’s no surprise. They don’t want to be in the spotlight.
In the mid-1970s traditional liberal economic practices -- which were reasonably fair to ordinary people -- ran into trouble. That’s when right-wing economists came into favour with the elites. They put in place a totally untested economic system that benefits their own class at the expense of the rest of us: neo-liberalism.
A quick re-fresher: neo-liberal economic policies make the rich much wealthier while ordinary folk fail to keep pace.
--Unfettered laisez faire capitalism does pretty well what it wants to do. . . . . .
--Governments are downsized. . . . .
--Profitable sectors privatized . . . . .
--Government coffers are emptied, so that they can claim there’s no money for programs.
Capitalism of this kind doesn’t have a heart. I want to be clear about the fact that I’m talking about the cruel brand of neo-liberal capitalism. The brand of capitalism we had until the mid-1970s wasn’t particularly kind to ordinary people, but it also wasn’t vicious.
And the transformation continues . . . . . Governments everywhere are negotiating agreements that give foreign corporations the power to overrule decisions and laws made by democratically elected governments.
Earlier this week an American company announced it is suing the Canadian government because Quebec has banned fracking. This is happening because of NAFTA.
But agreements that are much worse are coming. The rights of Canadians will be limited even more if deals with Europe and China in secret are approved.
Such agreements are gradually but surely securing the triumph of neo-liberalism over democracy.
For the largely “psychopathic A types” who are responsible for these changes, democracy is a nuisance and a hindrance. They believe they know what’s best for the world, and it doesn’t involve the great unwashed going into voting booths. Occasionally, one of them blurts out his true feelings but, for the most part, they remain out of the public eye.
If the corporate world continues on its current path, it is hard to see how human kind will be able to overcome two probable catastrophes well before the end of this century:
-- First, there’s the depletion of the basic resources required by much of the world’s population to survive.
--Second, I don’t see how we can prevent the growing environmental crisis from killing millions of people, and causing trillions of dollars damage.
I want to emphasize how difficult it will be to take back what is rightfully ours.
To begin with,
--The extreme capitalists own or control most of the west’s wealth
--A web of huge corporations control much of the world economy.
--Every western government is in debt to the big banks.
--The banks have most of EVERYONE’S money – as the Greeks and Spaniards realized too late.
Moreover, these modern capitalists have “attitude.” Their corruption and outrageous credit policies took the world to the brink of collapse in 2008. But --- after we, the taxpayers bailed them out --- most felt they had the right to continue as though nothing had happened.
From what I’ve seen, Canadians are oblivious to the magnitude of our growing “Big Brother” problem.
--Canadians are poorly informed about the implications of the capitalist power grab because most of our mainstream media are owned by capitalists who protect the system.
Imagine, more than 6 years of Harper, and the mainstream media still doesn’t put a name on his brand of economics. (I sometimes travel to Africa for work, and the media in several countries is full of information about the dangers of neo-liberalism.)
--- During the NDP’s leadership race, not one candidate discussed the dangerous growing power of capitalism. This is the country’s progressive party?
---We have hundreds of public-interest groups, but I am not aware of any that has an ongoing project to campaign against the kind of capitalism we now have. Unfortunately, the labour movement is inept in developing anti-capitalist strategies.
There’s nothing theoretical about what I’m saying. Whenever a new government comes to power in Canada it is bound by the path well established by the capitalists. There’s very little room to change much. This is what the PQ is facing now in Quebec.
In Europe, democracy is being trampled in three countries. The bankers – who have an agenda much different than that of ordinary people -- are calling the shots in Greece, Spain and Portugal. Millions of people who have lost their livelihood are marching in the streets.
France right now is the only European country going against the neo-liberal ideology to some extent. Their reward: the country’s credit rating has been dropped.
So, if we don’t already have enough on our plate fighting Harper and trying to get PR, Canadians – and people from many countries – need to develop strategies to stop this dangerous form of capitalism.
Note: Nick Fillmore is a Toronto freelance journalist and social activist who is co-ordinator of the group, the Campaign to build One Big Campaign.