Militarists are trying to present their long-standing requests for ever more arms spending as simply a response to Russia’s brutal actions in Ukraine.
Yesterday the Canadian Press reported, “One of Canada’s most influential business lobby groups is making an unprecedented request for increased defence spending in Thursday’s federal budget because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Business Council of Canada says it is time for Canada to commit to matching the NATO target on defence spending of two per cent of gross domestic product.”
But CP reporter Mike Blanchfield knows the Business Council (formerly Canadian Council of Chief Executives) had been pushing militarism long before Russia’s illegal invasion. The Business Council’s executive list includes the Canadian CEO of the world’s largest arms dealer, Lockheed Martin, and head of the world’s largest privately held security company GardaWorld. The CEOs of other major military contractors such as CAE, Bombardier, ATCO and SNC-Lavalin are also part of the Business Council.
During the organization’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2016 former head Thomas D’Aquino said the Business Council was “pressing for more muscle” in foreign policy. That year the organization’s leader published an iPolitics column titled, “We can’t always sell weapons to people we like.” John Manley wrote that the LAVs sold to Saudi Arabia are not “used in torture or persecution of women. We are selling military vehicles — basically fancy trucks.” The Business Council supported the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and 1980s “Star Wars” missile defence while organizing a “TRIBUTE TO THE CANADIAN FORCES.”
At the Annual General Meeting of the Business Council in 2003 CEO Thomas D’Aquino presented a paper titled “Security and Prosperity: The Dynamics of a New Canada-United States Partnership in North America.” It noted: “The imperative that must drive Canada forward is based on three core assumptions: first we must be capable of making a vastly more effective contribution to the defence and security of our homeland — on land, along our coastlines and in our airspace. … The second assumption is that we must move to a new phase of co-operation with the United States in enhancing the defence and security of the continent. The third assumption is that Canada must be an effective player in the collective effort to combat terrorism globally.”
In 1981 Business Council/CCCE predecessor, the Business Council on National Issues, launched a Task Force on Foreign Policy and Defence, which Peter Langille claimed was motivated by “growing recognition of the financial opportunities arising from heightened Cold War tensions and the American arms buildup.” Six of the executives represented major defence contractors and the three-year Task Force visited the Canadian Forces stationed in Europe, NATO headquarters, NORAD, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other DND officials. A member of the Conference of Defence Associations and director of the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies, former Brigadier-General George Bell oversaw and drafted the Business Council’s pro-military position paper entitled “Canada’s Defence Policy: Capability Versus Commitments.” The 60-page report bemoaned the “benign neglect and inadequacy of resources for nearly 20 years” that made the Canadian Forces “incapable of meeting the international military commitments which Canada has assumed.”
The Business Council worked with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and leading militarist ideologues Jack Granatstein and David Bercuson. After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, the Business Council and Canadian Global Affairs Institute published a report by Bercuson, Granatstein, John Ferris, Rob Huebert and Jim Keeley titled “National Defence, National Interest: Sovereignty, Security and Canadian Military Capability in the Post 9/11 World”. The paper said it was “incumbent on Canadian governments to ensure that Canada’s military forces are well-funded, equipped to the highest standards, and recruited and trained to fight alongside the best, against the best.”
Vladimir Putin didn’t cause the Business Council of Canada to suddenly promote the war machine. In framing it as such Blanchfield is amplifying the idea that Canadian security has been radically upended by Russia’s brutality. It has not. A climate crisis that saw a B.C. town break Canada’s all-time temperature record three days in a row and then get wiped off the map by a forest fire remains a graver threat.
People who profit from more military spending are always calling for more. The survival of humankind requires we ignore them.