Canadian foreign policy is under close scrutiny by the upper echelons of economic and political power elites and their paid stooges. Guided by the power interests of finance, energy and military capital these discussions are shaping and outlining the future direction, place and role of Canada in the expanding and sharpening belligerence of inter imperialist rivalries for decades to come.

Trends emerging within these discussions expose a deepening economic and political crisis of global capitalist relations and divisions within Canadian economic oligarchy. Front and centre in these foreign policy discussions is “Canadian security” and “Canadian energy superpower” status. Canadian corporate elites are formulating plans to ensure that they are in the profits of any future “permanent” and/or transient political-economic imperialist alliances.

Establishing the “Party Line”
Confounding a “full court press”, by the power brokers of Canadian finance capital and the minority government of Prime Minister Steven Harper, to a more aggressive role in imperialist relations are Canadian workers. Canadian workers understand that there is nothing in war and aggression that serve their interests or the national interests of Canada. The dichotomy facing the corporate planners of Canadian foreign policy is how to convince workers of an intensified role of Canadian capital in imperialist power plays.

Several reports have been published in recent months that are beginning to construct a framework for future foreign policy introduction and expansion. Canadian foreign policy think tanks are working overtime to find the “party line” to convince workers that they should ply their labour in a more aggressively militarized role of Canada in international relations.

Of note, two reports from the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI), Calgary and onefrom the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies’ (CMSS) Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary are ongoing academic discussions which argue for a more offensive role by Canada in imperialist relations.

The deliberations, while academic in nature, layout the basis of Canadian political foreign policies and frame these policies around a larger role for Canadian energy and natural resource in global relations, larger military budgets and participation in US strategic ballistic missile defence (BMD) plans. The economic reality in the view of these reports is that “the relationship” (Canada/US) “is critical to our survival, essential to our prosperity and, we believe, constitutes a great advantage for Canada in dealing with the rest of the world.” (My emphasis)

The fully exposed and failed Bush/Cheney Neo Con policies of military interventions and war profiteering are being repackaged in Canada to soften public opposition on a US fomented and now implemented global arms race. These policy frameworks are an attempt to convince Canadian workers to accept war as an option for protection of “Canadian interests” and relinquish an overwhelming rejection of a “nuclear option” and accept US BMD on Canadian soil.

Competing Economic Interests and the Growing Political Crisis
Reflected in the reports are the growing political divisions and diverging economic interests within competing Canadian capital corporate associations. What is agreed upon between these competing interests however, is a demand by Canadian corporate power to increase Canada’s economic share of world markets. What corporate group will profit from these demands first and foremost is being sharply debated. How these policies will be implemented is reflected in the political crisis in Canada’s parliament where Canadian foreign policy is defined and implemented in secret board rooms meetings by Bay St., Wall St. and the imperial councils of NATO.

Not satisfied with record breaking profits through decades of exploiting the domestic working class Canadian finance capital now searches for new “global” opportunities. To implement more aggressive postures and expansions into global markets finance capital seeks domination over the state and to supplant parliamentary power with corporate associations, alliances, “international agreements” and think tanks.

Extreme right wing reaction relentlessly pursues the suppression of the state apparatus. Prime Minister Harper is preparing his class for more antagonistic policies aimed at transferring the deepening crisis more openly onto the backs of Canadian workers.

The minority government Prime Minister Harper calmly implements the policies of finance capital, big oil and militarism. Canadian Press reporter Keith Leslie in a November 8, 2007 Globe and Mail article “McGuinty meeting yields no Ottawa help” exposed the indifference of Harper to the plight of Ontario workers.

Leslie reported that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in a meeting with Harper appealed to the Prime Minister to raise interest rates to protect Ontario manufacturing but that “fell mostly on deaf ears”. In the meeting with Mr. Harper, McGuinty requested that some of the projected $11.6 billion federal surplus is used to help the battered Ontario economy with upgrade roads, sewers, infrastructures and to aid in “$1.1-billion jobs fund to work with each auto maker individually to attract new plants and investment”. Mr. Harper rejected that proposal and instead “he seemed more interested in sector-wide tax cuts or incentives”.

As a result of the crisis in capitalist economic relations CAW President Buzz Hargrove is faced with a dilemma; how to protect auto worker wages, health and pensions in openly hostile attacks on labour by Prime Minister Harper’s corporate backers.

Many on the left are vilifying Hargrove for his acceptance of the Framework of Fairness deal between the CAW and Magna International Inc. and its “no strike clause”. Eastern manufacturing is confronted with increasingly predatory capital absorption by big oil and mining capital, the frantic search by CAPP to free up more mobile labour for the labour intensive expansion of the tar sands development and the abandonment of eastern manufacturing by Harper. Hargrove had to choose between concentrating industrial labour through organizing Magna plants increasing wages and benefits for those workers and “leap frog” over years of organizing or abandoning Magna workers to the self-righteous proclamations of left editorial high priests of labour resistance. It was a huge concession brought on by decades of imperialist excesses and global labour attacks. Imperialism is responsible not Hargrove.

A Choice for Canadian Labour
Canadian foreign policy and national economic development are the questions facing Canadians. In front of Canadians is a choice between supporting a more concentrated and rabid parasitical class of war profiteers, energy speculators and banking credit investors represented by Mr. Harper or strengthening and supporting an embattled labour movement disparate to save jobs and protect the lively hoods of Canadian workers faced with two realities; a gutted, destroyed and paralyzed manufacturing industry in Ontario and Quebec on the one hand and the extreme intensification of labour in Alberta where workers are being worked to early deaths through 50-70 hour work weeks.

Within this context the policy frameworks of CDFAI and CMSS begin to make sense and the diverging views of power elites are best understood. Capitalist economic relations and profits are at the root of the crisis - divisions of world resources and economic markets the prize. War, military intervention and police aggression the stick used to intimidate workers to labour in silence.

The increased imperialist ambitions of the minority government of Prime Minister Harper and his political masters at the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canadian Bankers Association and the tyrannical oiligarchs at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary represent the view of a new Canadian policy of capital and military export into the “big leagues” of imperial power.

These foreign policies are clashing with Canadian labour. Corporate policy of aggression and power are in opposition to Canadian workers desire for an all Canadian democratic policy of labour and peace through the expansion of manufacturing and resource development for the benefit of all Canadians and withdrawal from US imperialist alliances of NATO, NORAD and NORTHCOM.

“Emerging Energy Superpower” Status: Setting the Stage for a Superpower Defence Budget
October 29, 2007 in Ottawa, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) sponsored their annual foreign policy conference entitled “Canada as the Emerging Energy Superpower: Testing the Case”. The conference looked at Prime Minister Harper’s claim that Canada is an “emerging energy superpower”. It addressed some questions such as Life as an Energy Superpower, Implications for Canada-US Relations, Critical Energy Infrastructure Protection, and Energy, Environment and the Arctic. Jim Prentice Minister of Industry and Gary Lunn Minister of Natural Resources were keynote speakers. The conference report has yet to be released.

On July 14th 2006 in a speech to the Canada-U.K. Chamber of Commerce on the eve of the 2006 St. Petersburg G8 summit Prime Minister said, “One of the primary targets for British investors has been our booming energy sector. They have recognized Canada’s emergence as a global energy powerhouse – the emerging ‘energy superpower’ our government intends to build.”

In a follow up speech on September 20th 2007 to the Economic Club of New York Harper said, “Canada is an emerging energy superpower, the only stable and growing producer of this scarce commodity in an unstable world. Our strong and robust economy, with its enormous energy potential, represents a tremendous opportunity for American business and a crucial element of continental energy security. And given the deep integration of our own economies, these global challenges and opportunities call for a continental response.”

Academia vs. Energy Capital
Prime Minister Steven Harper has been touting Canada as an “emerging energy superpower” since he came to power. What does this mean in the context of Canadian foreign policy, sharpening imperialist rivalries and Canadian economic policy? Some argue that it means very little and is nothing more then bravado.

This view is echoed by Embassy Magazine writer Jeff Davis in an October 31st editorial entitled “Canada as Energy Superpower an 'Empty' Idea, Experts Say”. Reporting on the CDFAI conference Davis said that Mike Cleland, president and CEO of the Canadian Gas Association, was skeptical when he first heard Harper's describe Canada as an emerging energy superpower. Cleland told the conference of academics, bureaucrats and energy executives, "I heard from some federal officials that I won't name that it is just a slogan".

Annette Hester, Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation, Waterloo, Ontario and Senior Associate at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., presented her conclusions on the question to the October CDFAI conference from her paper of the same name.

Hester concluded in her paper that, “Canada is not an energy superpower, if criteria identified in other jurisdictions can be taken as indicative. Although energy resources are abundant, from the oil markets’ vantage point, Canada’s relatively small production – less than three millions barrels a day – defines the country as a price-taker, not a price-setter. Moreover, the federal government does not control the resources enough to be able to effectively leverage them for a political purpose, and indeed appears not to aspire to achieve such control. Finally, its reach is strictly regional. Curiously, in spite of the prime minister’s eagerness in declaring Canada such a superpower, Canadians are loathe to impose their will on others.”

In isolation from the broader energy and resource sectors Hester’s conclusions may be correct. However, far from closing the door on the notion of superpower status Hester then adds, “The relevant question is not whether Canada is an energy superpower, but how Canadian energy resources can be used to turn the country into a powerful modern nation, an example of capitalism done right.”

In a September 25, 2006 speech on the eve of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business (CERT) 3rd Annual Conference entitled, “Building the Future: Canada, an Emerging Energy Superpower”, TSX Group CEO Richard Nesbitt in an evident reaction to “Harper’s” claim of the “superpower” line, corrected the record by saying that, “‘Canada, an Emerging Energy Superpower’ – is a phrase I started using more than a year ago.”

Nesbitt on describing the term indicated that “in the narrow sense it refers to one of the biggest energy projects in the world – the development of the oil sands.” However the reality Nesbitt says includes natural gas, coal, coal-bed methane, frontier and offshore gas, electrical power generation, pipelines and transportation infrastructure and new nuclear power plants.

As part of the tar sands expansion, tailings will net titanium and zircon which together represent $12 billion in global markets. TSX Group serves both major energy and mining interests which as Nesbitt concludes, “[Lines] between energy and mining are blurring more and more every year.”

Capital is required in massive quantities to finance the fixed capital and labour intensive expansion of these projects. Nesbitt said that TSX Group is one of the top four exchange groups in the world to raise capital and “energy companies represent a big chuck of that”. In the first six months of 2006 $US23.2 billion was raised on TSX and TSX Venture. In the same period in a market of 12 times the size of Canada’s New York Stock Exchange Group could only raise $US45.6 billion - barely twice as much.

The TSX Group CEO said that the TSX Stock Exchange listed more than 60% of mining companies in the world and 430 energy companies with a market capitalization of $US553 billion in 2006. More mining and energy companies are listed on the TSX than any other exchange. Nesbitt said that, “the market cap of all our companies hit $2 trillion for the first time [in 2006].”

He went on to say, “Historically, boom times in Canada send many companies abroad to raise money. No longer…Canada is a capital exporter… in mining and oil and gas, we provide most of the exploration and development capital on every continent.” Mr. Nesbitt emphasized Canadian capital role in the global market place by saying, “We’re playing in the global big leagues”.

Canadian Banking Capital
According to the Canadian Bankers Association 2006 report, Top 150 Global Banks Ranked by Assets, Canada accounts for 7 of the 150 largest banks in the world with combined assets of $US2.69 trillion and combined gross profits of just under $US31 billion. (See Table 1)

RBC is ranked 40th overall in assets with $US478 billion and 33rd in gross profits at $US5.5 billion. Quebec based Desjardins Group is ranked 109th and has combined assets of $166 billion (U.S.). In 2006 Desjardins posted a $US1.2 billion profit.

Canadian banks however rate lower when return on assets (after tax profits) is compared and fall into the lower half of the top 100 banks. This has prompted a response from the banks. In a October 4, 2007 speech to the International Finance Club of Montréal, Nancy Hughes Anthony, President and CEO of the Canadian Bankers Association stated, “At the federal level, the CBA is recommending that the scheduled reductions in the corporate income tax rate should be accelerated and then reduced even further to 16.5 percent by 2012”. Currently the banks pay taxes at a rate 34.2% and are scheduled to fall to closer to 30% by 2011. Banks are calling for a massive cut in taxes of over 50%.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty responded by out doing Liberal leader Stephan Dion’s promise to reduce corporate tax to the levels demanded by CBA and delivered the tax cuts demanded by the CBA. In the October 31st Globe and Mail it was reported that “There will be a cut to corporate taxes of 1 per cent in 2008 with on-going reductions that will see business taxes fall down to 15 per cent by 2012 from 22 per cent today. That will leave Canada with one of the lowest corporate tax rates among the industrialized economies.”

The expansion and export of Canadian finance capital is increasing rapidly bolstered by the US sub-prime mortgage collapse, the Asset Backed Commercial Paper credit crisis and the high value of the Canadian dollar as a result of high commodity prices.

Canadian capital is penetrating into the US and South America markets. These penetrations are illustrated by the $2.2-billion purchase of Caribbean bank RBTT Financial Holdings Ltd. by RBC. The RBC purchase was preceded by its $US1.6-billion purchase US Alabama Bank weeks before. The TD Bank is bidding $US8.5-billion for Commerce Bancorp Inc., while BMO is said to be looking at a $3.5-billion-plus acquisition of Minnesota-based TCF Financial, which has 446 branches and 5,600 employees. Many more “deals” are on the table for the Canadian insurance and financial management sectors.

Table 1 – Canadian Bank Rankings in Top 150 Global Banks

Asset Rank
Pre-Tax Profit Rank
Return on Asset Rank
Assets ($millions CDN)
Pre-Tax Profit ($millions CDN)
Pre-Tax Return on Assets (%)
Royal Bank of Canada
Toronto-Dominion Bank
Scotia Bank
Bank of Montreal
Desjardins Group
National Bank of Canada
Exchange rate 1 USD = 1.1653 CDN December 29, 2006
Global Total
Canadian Banks

Canadian Energy Capital
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) represents companies that combined produce 95% of all crude oil and natural gas in Canada. According to CAPP’s June 2007 report: Crude Oil Forecast, Markets and Pipeline Expansions, “Together, these members and associate members are an important part of a $100 billion-a-year national industry that affects the livelihoods of more than half a million Canadians”.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA) is a close and very well informed detail watcher of Canadian energy developments. In the April 2007 EIA “Country Analysis Brief – Canada” said, “In total for 2006, Canada exported to the United States 2.3 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil and petroleum products (11percent of U.S. supply), 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (16 percent of U.S. supply), and 41.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity (1 percent of U.S. supply).” The report confirmed that Canada “sends over 99 percent of its oil exports to the U.S.”.

In 2006 Canada’s total oil production including liquids was 3.3 million bbl/d compared with a daily consumption of 2.2 million bbl/d. Simple mathematics will support the fact that despite Canada’s status as a “net exporter” in 2006 1.2 million bbl/d was imported. Primarily imports were to eastern Canada and came from Algeria and Norway for crude oil and the US for refined products.

The EIA report underscored this fact by saying, “Canada’s major population centers in the eastern part of the country are not well connected to its principle production facilities in the western interior, meaning that it is often easier to import oil along the coastlines rather than transport it domestically.”

Similar patterns are continuing in the power generation and transmission sectors. In the November 7 Globe and Mail article “Newfoundland Looks South”, Virginia Galt reported that Newfoundland is “frustrated by the lack of an east-west power grid in Canada” and the large sources of clean and renewable hydro-electric power of Newfoundland could be a major source for Ontario and other Canadian markets. Galt reported that Dean MacDonald chairman of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said that Newfoundland decided to build a new power transmission system to ship power south into US markets due to the absence of an all Canadian power grid.

Canada’s natural gas reserves, after years of US plunder, have declined at a rapid pace. Despite being the 3rd largest global producer of natural gas Canadian proven reserves have shrunk to a fraction of previous sizes to 58 Tcf. By comparison US proven reserves are 204 Tcf.

Threatened with significant reductions in revenue through reduced gas royalties the Alberta Royalty Report findings can be traced to simultaneous increases in tar sands productions. After initial dire warnings from CAPP about the demise of Alberta’s “booming” economy the warnings have ceased and it is business as usual. Why? As Gordon Laxer reported in the Edmonton Journal on October 22, 2007, “Rather than increasing royalties by 20 per cent as headlines tell the public, the panel's recommendations would, if fully implemented, reduce them by 20 per cent by 2016…Alberta would collect only $7.6 billion in 2016, compared to $9.5 billion in royalties in 2006.” Big oil is delighted with Premier Ed Stelmach.

This rapid decline in natural gas production is resulting in the construction of 6 new liquid natural gas (LNG) plants for regasification (turning the LNG back into a gas for transport by pipeline) of imported LNG being proposed. The combined capacity will be approximately 5.0 bcf/d. In 2006, Canada exported 3.6 Tcf of natural gas to the United States, representing 86 percent of total U.S. natural gas imports that year. The proposed plants are planned to position Canadian pipeline operators Enbridge, EnCana, Kinder Morgan and others and their large gas transmission pipeline system as a continental natural gas broker and to maintain their dominant position in the “export” market.

The majority of Canadian finance and industrial capital is now “underwritten” by the “equity” in Canada’s tar sands. The US DOE/EIA 2006 annual report shows that “North America” is 2nd in global crude oil reserves at 317 billion barrels. North America follows the Middle East which accounts for 743 billion barrels. In a foot note to the North American reserves the report says that Alberta’s tar sands account for 174 billion barrels or 55% of the total known “North American” reserves.

Canadian Mining Capital
PM Harper’s recent tour of Haiti, Columbia and Chile was a play to position Canadian mining and banking interests as dominant hemispherical players and to situate Canada as a regional imperial power broker.

While on his July tour of the region Harper made stops at Barrick Gold’s head quarters in Santiago and stopped at Scotia Bank to glad hand. In his July 17th 2007 speech to the Chile-Canada Chamber of Commerce in Santiago Chile Prime Minister Harper indicated that Canada is willing to become a bigger player in the region and “to doing so for the long term”. Harper said, “Foreign direct investment from Canada into the Americas now stands at close to 100 billion dollars – a number that is more than twice the size of Canadian investment in Asia.”

This places Canada 3rd in direct foreign investment in the Caribbean and Latin America with banking and mining as the dominant players. Harper also expressed Canadian energy capital is ready to supply energy to South American markets and that Canada is prepared to challenge Venezuela in reversing the “return to the syndrome of economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare”. Harper’s thinly veiled warning to South American workers to abandon a path of independent socialist development and return to capitalist relations pleases his mining bosses.

Harper said, “Canada is an emerging energy superpower and is committed to working with you in addressing this challenge”.

Canada’s dominant position in mining is described by Mandeep Dillon in the April 20, 2007 Canadian Mining Watch report entitled “Canadian Mining in Mexico: Made in Canada Violence” as, “Canadian mining corporations lead the global mining industry”.

Dillon sights that, “The Canadian industry ranks first in the global production of zinc, uranium, nickel and potash; second in sulphur, asbestos, aluminium and cadmium; third in copper and platinum group metals; fourth in gold; and fifth in lead. It has interests in over 8,300 properties worldwide – 3,400 of which are in 100 foreign countries. In Latin America and the Caribbean, which have been identified as the main current geographical target for mineral exploration, Canadian mining corporations represent the largest percentage of foreign mining companies – with interests in more than 1,200 properties”.

Canadian Military Capital
Canadian capital in some sectors is tied more closely to US markets such as energy exports while other capital has more “freedom” to move illustrated by Canadian mining capital. Canadian military capital is particularly sensitive to US foreign policy as it derives the majority of its profits from supplying US-NATO military hardware, services and technologies.

This dependency is illustrated in a January 15, 2007 Maclean’s article by Colin Campbell entitled “Canada’s Arms Industry is Under Attack”. Campbell sights Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2005 annual report which places Canada as “6th largest seller of military weapons in the world”. Canadian defence industry is worth $7 billion (US) per year and employs 70,000 Canadian workers. Half of all sales come from the US and close to 80% is to NATO allies.

The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) says that the biggest threat to the Canadian defence industry is the US State Department’s increasing strict regulations on the sharing of its military technologies. Tim Page, president of CADSI says that if it is not resolved, “The reliable, long-standing Canadian supplier may find itself on the outside of a good bit of commercial business”.

Canada now ranks twelfth among the world’s nations in military spending. For 2005 Canada’s military expenditures were $10.6 billion ($327 per capita) representing 1% of the all military expenditures on the globe. Prime Minister Harper’s decision to turn a war of occupation in Kabul into a war of aggression in Kandahar has increased military expenditures to $15 billion and rising. Canadian Government spending on NATO for 2005 (combined personnel and equipment) was $6.4 billion, or 60.4% of total military expenditures and an increase of 20% over year 2000. The Canadian Government spends 60% of its military expenditures on NATO and only 40% on the defence of Canadian territory, airspace and coastal waters.

US military expenditures for 2005 were $482.2 billion ($1,604 per capita) exceeding by $116.6 billion the expenditures of the next fifteen highest nation states put together. The US economic dependency on war and military expenditures is the Achilles heal of US imperialism not as many opine, its great strength. US military expenditures on NATO for personnel and equipment totalled $192.23 billion in 2000 and rose to $262.29 billion by 2005 a rise of 36.4% in five years.

It is clear from these figures why Canadian military decisions are taken at Brussels and not in Ottawa. The big money is at NATO. On September 18th 2006, the Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment of NATO announced that the 26 member countries have begun building a 75 million euro command and control system for missile defence. This is only the start. NATO has produced a 10,000 page report that endorses the US plan to deploy ballistic missiles to space that will increase the initial investment to unlimited heights. It is the anticipation of huge profits that has caused the Harper Government to state its willingness to re-open talks with the Bush Administration on Canadian participation in Ballistic Missile Defence.

Not satisfied with current levels of military expenditures and Canada’s current rejection of US BMD, J.L. Granatstein in the Fall 2007 CDFAI report entitled “A Threatened Future: Canada’s Future Strategic Environment and its Security Implications” recommends that “Given Canada’s impressive economic capacity, we think an overall defence budget at a level equivalent to the NATO average (2.2 per cent of GDP) would be a reasonable target. In 2007 dollars, that would generate an annual budget of approximately $25 billion, or roughly $9 to 10 billion more than the current figure.”

David S. McDonough, Ph.D. Programme, Department of Political Science, Dalhousie University in the Spring 2006/07, Volume 9, Issue 3 edition of the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies report entitled “BMD and US Strategic Doctrine: Canadian Strategic Interests in the Debate on Missile Defence” conclude that, “In the end, Ottawa should go into any deliberation on missile defence with its eyes open and recognize that a more sophisticated and ‘limited’ approach to missile defence, while having a clear relationship with an aggressive American strategic doctrine, could also be in Canada’s strategic interest.”

Labour and Peace – an Alliance to Challenge Harper’s Superpower Dream
So what does all this have to do with labour and peace? Put plainly - profit at the expense of Canadian workers jobs, wages and dignified retirement. Canadian workers have no quarrel with workers of other nations. Canadian workers will not accept protection of Canadian jobs at the expense of exploiting the most poor and vulnerable workers of other nations. Canadian workers will not accept that the “interests of the Canadian people” are the interests of finance-oil-military capital. Labour has the capacity to unite and lead the nation around a peaceful program of national economic development.

When Prime Minister Harper speaks of “emerging energy superpower” this is what is meant. Export of capital and the means to ensure super-profit returns for a handful of power elites and the military capacity to sit at the supreme council of NATO with clout. In essence “emerging energy superpower” status is to project Canadian corporate banking and mining interests globally with military force through US-NATO alliances and US BMD strategic defence plans, all under written by Alberta tar sands and Canadian energy resources. Imperialism never looked so good in Canada.