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Canada’s democracy has never been at greater risk. Its enemy lies within. The question is where?

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For years the radical right has spilled a lot of ink to convincing us that special interest groups have high-jacked our most respected and valued institutions. These institutions are our heritage, defended by brave men and women in uniform. Many have lost their lives in this defence. But are the claims of Corporate Canada true?

If we take the time to study the winners and losers of the current financial crisis, we see it is not advocacy groups, human rights crusaders or even dreaded union bosses that we have to fear.

Instead we find the real culprits: nameless, faceless corporate leaders with the money, means and media control to influence both thoughts and behavior. We see the havoc their speculation and greed have wreaked on the global economy. The economic system is an important foundation for any independent nation. This foundation is crumbling and with it the ability of government to act for the good of a nation’s citizens.

We need only look to Greece and Italy for see how bailouts replaced ballots. The markets, led by international bankers and corporations, demanded the resignation of two democratically elected governments. No resignations – then down go your credit ratings. Under the fear of financial obliteration, the nations obliged.

As markets and financial leaders talk about the “contagion” of the financial crisis, who will be next? That decision now rests with international banks and financial markets. They are the “Corporate Gods” that will answer.

With all that power, I’ve wondered why the rich run for political office. Are they being altruistic or sinister? Is it a public repayment for their personal good fortune? Why do they then, once elected, rush to justify the destruction of public services that we, as a civilized and just society, have painstakingly and collectively established?

The answer for their political involvement is in their post-election tactics. They start by telling us to do more with less and then attack public sector workers and their mythical gold plated pensions and ironclad job security provisions. They vow to eliminate troublesome red tape and regulations. Then, for good measure, they denigrate greedy union bosses.

It’s all nonsense of course but the public, desperate for simple answers, buys it. As a result, society in total (including public and private sectors) loses as the quality of life in Canada gets ratcheted down again and again. Well “we all lose” is a bit of a misstatement given that the corporate types and their politically prominent buddies are exempt. If that"s not bad enough, once the exempt leave office, their key to the top floor Executive restroom and all incidentals awaits.

And what about the billions in provincial corporate tax cuts for that same group during this time of hardship? Why are these subsidies needed at a time when Canadian Corporations are sitting on more than $500,000,000,000 already? (Yes, that’s $500 billion or a half a trillion dollars, enough to keep the entire Canadian economy running at full tilt for four months!)

When asked, the government says tax breaks will create jobs. Right! Well, all that we can count on is that these tax breaks will create a few good jobs…for the ex-politicians who usher the tax breaks through.

For centuries we have struggled to separate the power of church and state. Now we must pry apart the corporations from our state (especially our provincial government). Corporate lobbyists, with their money and backroom deals, have resulted in the sacrifice of our democratic ideals. Too many public institutions, developed to provide fairness and justice, have been sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed.

We have to take back control of our government before it is replaced by a Board of Directors. Don"t think it can happen? That"s exactly what did happen in Italy and Greece when these states were forced to set aside elected leaders for “technocratic” cabinets and leaders. This technocracy is based on the financial markets rather than rules, measures and principles of human rights, justice and fairness.

Greedy bankers and investors put us in the mess we are in. Contrary to what they say, workers, not corporations, create real wealth through goods produced, services provided and knowledge and expertise created. These tangibles stimulate an open economy that we all can share in.

Productive working people are great consumers. Without consumers we lose a pillar that supports our economy. Productive working people can also pay taxes. A system based on fair taxation (rather than corporate tax breaks) is another sign of a just society. If working people pay taxes on each dollar they earn why shouldn’t corporations and the wealthy?

Corporations will come and go. Their existence is based on principles of supply and demand. They have been given the space to operate by the public, not the other way around. Corporations have no business in government. Let’s separate the state from corporate self-interests and the stranglehold they have on our institutions. Their role is to build better mouse traps, computers and TVs.

The business of government is best left to the people, represented by a government they elect, guide, sustain, pay for and ultimately control. Now that is a concept worth fighting for.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas

View all Presidents' Messages: 2009 to Current