January 31 2004
Dear UN Inquiries, I would VERY much appreciate it if you would give Mr. Annan himself a chance to choose whether he would like to read this letter or not. I am sure he is very busy - but this is important too .......
Dear Mr. Annan,
REF: Annan to address Canadian parliament (RM archive copy)
I see from the recent newspaper story that you have been invited to address the Parliament of Canada. I write to you as a concerned Canadian, with a couple of suggestions for things you might talk about to my representative and all the others that you might not otherwise think of - I am sure in any correspondence you might have with parliamentary secretaries concerning the diplomatics of the situation they would not suggest these things, so I will take the liberty of writing you directly. I do also fear that if you have taken your guidance from our new Prime Minister, you will miss out on some important issues - Mr. Martin seems like a nice enough man as portrayed on the tv, and I am sure he is to his family and friends and whatnot, but as a wealthy businessman for most of his life, he does not seem to be very well in touch with the feelings or problems of most more ordinary Canadians - there is ample evidence of this, for instance the fact that although his government has been cutting back on social spending for the last ten years to the point where it is now actually at 1950s levels (Mr. Martin's own words), and hundreds of hospitals have been closed during that time for lack of money, and thousands of nurses fired from their jobs, waiting lists of months are common for many necessary procedures, etc and etc, last year when all of these cutbacks finally made some money available through a few years of budgetary surpluses, he announced a one hundred billion dollar tax break, primarily, of course, to the upper-income tax brackets and corporations, rather than addressing the serious problems the country - or at least the ordinary folk herein, I suppose the rich don't notice such things much - faces financially.
Even this week, he only belatedly offered the premiers of Canada's provinces a paltry two billion dollar increase in federal government health spending, and made it clear that there was probably no more where that came from. And yet he continues to promise businesses and large corporations that he is intent on "cutting more government spending" - so that he can give these people yet more tax breaks. I quite assure you, Mr. Annan, that average Canadians are a great deal more concerned with having the once world-class Canadian health care system restored than in giving wealthy Canadian corporations and investors yet more tax breaks. But that is Mr. Martin's priority, as shown by his actions rather than his words to the leaders of the world in general, which again is why I am writing - to advise you that when you address the Canadian Parliament, I do hope you will do so with the average sort of Canadian in mind, rather than the wealthy corporate interests whom Mr. Martin primarily represents.
With the above short preamble in mind, Mr. Annan, there are many things that are wrong in Canada that I could write about, or you could speak about - a child poverty rate of 20%, which the UN has consistently deemed unacceptable in Canada yet which the government equally consistently refuses to address seriously, being more interested, as noted, in using the available money for tax cuts to wealthy investors, a burgeoning health care crisis as noted due to that same misuse of available money, homelessness and the housing shortage, the yet-to-be solved aboriginal situation, again a problem of many decades the government is simply not addressing, the decreasing rate of decent jobs which are being replaced by low-security-and-pay "mcjobs", the ongoing drive of the media and government to mimic the US "be-terrified-of-terrorism" culture in Canada which is leading us closer and closer to some kind of fascistic government, and so on.
I do realise, however, you are very busy and will not have time to become familiar with all of these issues, and will concentrate on what I believe to be the three central problems, from which all others spring - the Lie of Democracy in Canada, the control of banks over our money supply, which has established and maintains a system whereby Canadians face eternal debt-bondage to private interests, both privately and nationally, and the central role of the Canadian media in allowing these and other problems to go unaddressed, year after year, by refusing to carry stories or commentary from the many who wish to address these issues, thus informing Canadians, while the government concentrates on policies and programs that are good for the wealthy, corporate, investor sector of Canada - the sector, of course, which owns that media - few people with 5-figure incomes (which would include around 95% of Canadians) own controlling shares in newspapers or television stations! These three things are, thus, quite related, and we will never be free as a country or people until control of our parliament, money supply and media are returned to We The People of Canada. I believe that if "ordinary" people were truly running our government, most of the problems we face, those outlined earlier and others, would be either non-existent or being challenged and solutions found, as it is we "ordinary" people who pay the often huge prices that these problems lead to, while the elites of the country and world, who extract their loot and "investment income" through activities of which all of these problems are offshoots, are well insulated by their wealth from the consequences of their actions - solutions to all of these problems are readily available, but these solutions would cut into the profits of wealthy investors, thus it seems the political will is lacking to implement any real solutions. The same situation applies worldwide, of course, but I will leave it for others to take the case to that forum - it is, indeed, your forum as Secretary-General of the United Nations, and perhaps if you take the time to reflect a bit on these problems in the Canadian context, you will yourself feel it appropriate to address them on the broader international stage. (I was pleased to read this very day of the initiative of Pres. Chirac of France and Pres. "Lula" of Brazil and their poverty initiative, and your endorsement of it - telling that the Canadian government has constantly opposed any kind of "Tobin Tax" over the years, and as noted refuses to deal seriously with Canadian poverty issues - you might note this in your talk....) (France, Brazil Relaunch "Lula Fund" to Tax Arms Sales and Fight Poverty)
I am sure your immediate reaction to such suggestions would be something like "Oh pshaww! - that is nonsense! Canada is one of the great democracies of the world! - and your problems, as explained to me by Mr. Martin and other governmental staff, are things like a national debt that the Canadian people accumulated through years of over-ambitious social programs and needs to be contained, or restrictive trade laws which prevent Canadian businesses from "being all that they could be", terrorist attacks, and things of that nature..." - "problems" indeed that the Canadian press tend to focus on (and the foreign press, whenever they lower their vision to the poor northern cousin of the US). These are, however, in my opinion and that of many others, either diversionary tactics, as in the case of the so-called "national debt" or "terrorism", or "problems" of much more interest to a small group of people looking out for their own interests at the expense of everyone else, such as the "trade" rules which have historically protected Canadians and Canadian interests, but are now being used through new NAFTA-like "treaties" to further the interests of Canadian corporations, very much at the expense of the security and quality of life of average Canadians.
If you will grant me a few minutes of your time, I will try to explain further.
Let me begin with the Lie of Democracy. In short, it has become very evident over the last couple of decades that, while elections are indeed held regularly in Canada, thus the claim that we are a "democracy", in point of fact these "elections" are so dominated in every important way, from the selection of candidates (candidates for major contending parties must be approved by the leader of the party just for starters) to who gets significant media coverage (in the press/tv, which are of course owned by wealthy corporate conglomerates) to the antiquated voting system, by the wealthy interests of the country that in the subsequent parliaments it is the policies of these wealthy interests that dominated candidate selection and election that the elected MPs, at the command of their leaders even if they don't agree, place at the top of the priority list, and since quite naturally the interests of the wealthy are NOT the interests of the average Canadians (i.e. tax cuts vs healthcare funding as only one of many examples), of whom there are FAR more than there are wealthy, the claim that the country is being democratically governed is farcical at best - and an outright, intentional lie at worst, propagated solely to legitimise a government and electoral process that is, in reality, very much less than legitimate, at least insofar as labelling it truly "democratic" is concerned.
A simple examination of Canadian government policy the past few years is quite enough to demonstrate this conclusively - although the Mulroney government began the process in the 1980s, during the last decade of Liberal rule in Canada we have seen an era of gutting of all the social infrastructure that is so important to all average Canadians, and the promotion of such things as the noted huge tax cuts to upper income Canadians and corporations and the promotion of "free trade" agreements that confer great benefits upon multi-national corporations (i.e. governments "competing" to offer the best tax rates, lowest environmental standards, lowest demands for community protection, workers competing to offer lowest wages, etc) but which are very bad for average Canadians, for the same reasons from the other side of the coin. The Canadian government and most media always insist that such things have been for the good of all Canadians - but they would, wouldn't they, being paid as they are to promote them? Any honest analysis of the facts, however, leads one to quite different conclusions, as I have noted above (and many others have as well - if you wished, I could provide you with a lengthy list of commentaries on such things - things that you will not, for some reason, find in the Canadian mainstream media or likely have provided to you by whatever government representatives advise you on your upcoming talk...).
Mr. Martin, who was so kind as to invite you to address the Canadian parliament, has talked in the past about a "democratic deficit" in Canada, being rather forced to recognize that more and more Canadians are feeling alienated from the political process here, as evidenced by such things as voter turnout, which once was always over 80% but during the last 20 years has been dropping and dropping, to now where barely 60% turned out for the last federal election, and the recent election in Ontario, our largest province, and opinion polls, which show that Canadians do not trust their politicians any more, and believe them to be working more in the interests of the wealthy and corporate sectors in Canada rather than ordinary Canadians. Mr. Martin has made some much publicised proposals to address this "democratic deficit", but they are, in the words of Shakespeare, ideas presented with great sound and fury, but of very little content - offering such things as giving MPs more "free votes" - but if MPs are themselves somewhat less than free, as noted above, by dint of the very process from which they were chosen, then more 'free votes" are not going to make much difference - MPs are also well aware, cynical though it may sound, that their odds of getting any of the many perks controlled by the PM are rather contingent on not displeasing that Ceasar-like figure, which will undoubtedly be reflected in their votes, "free" or otherwise.
There are many, many things that could be done to make Canada a great deal more democratic in reality rather than in theory - things that would see that our parliament is indeed composed of people who truly represent the voters who elected them, as it is supposed to do but so obviously has not been, for decades now. Let me list a couple of the more important changes, things you might address in your speech to the parliament, and lend your voice to those many Canadians wishing such changes, wishing for a much truer democracy in their country.
First, it is absolutely imperative, in this modern age of great changes, that Canada finally take the step it has been resisting for decades (that is to say, the government has refused to consider!), and join most of the modern world in using a Proportional Representation system for choosing its MPs - for years now, Canadians have had great changes forced upon them by governments which have had the support of no more than 30% or so of adult Canadians - a situation arising from the fact that many Canadians have lost such faith in the system that they no longer vote, plus the very old and discredited in the modern world "first past the post" voting system which the country still suffers under, in which, when more than two candidates contest a seat, the one with the most votes wins that seat, even if he or she has received well under 50% of the vote. Applied on a national basis, this becomes very, very undemocratic in practice - Mulroney, for instance, instituted the original Free Trade Agreement with something under 35% of the approval of Canadians, Chretien instituted the much broader NAFTA with the support of even fewer Canadians, as he had campaigned on a promise to abrogate the agreement, and the last Chretien-Martin "majority" government has been operating with the support of about 25% of Canadians, considering the voter turnout the last time of around 60%, and their garnering of barely 40% of those who did vote - and have been, with this "majority", continuing the great assault on Canada's social programs, letting our infrastructure collapse, and doing their best to tie the country into yet more "trade" agreements such as the FTAA.
I am sure as a well-educated person you are familiar with the general workings of PR systems so I won't take more of your time explaining them - but changing to one of the PR systems would be a great step forward for Canada, and ensure that in the future when such policies are discussed in the federal parliament, the voices of ALL Canadians will be heard in that debate, and the vote will much more accurately reflect the feelings of Canadians, as no longer will the 60-70% be dominated by the FPTP-elected minorities. One might easily surmise that this much more democratic system is quite probably the reason that the governments of Canada over the last few years, dominated by corporate interests as they have been, have been completely opposed to such changes - had there been a PR system in place in 1988, for instance, there would be no US-Canada "free trade" agreement today, thus no NAFTA, and the notion of the FTAA would be very much more problematical, rather than on the fast track as it is today - fortunately the governments of various Latin American countries, responding to the protests of their people, are very much more concerned about this "trade" agreement than the Canadian government, which is doing its very best to keep the whole process as secret as possible, and once again implement major changes to our country with no national debate, knowing full well that were there such a debate, or an election held on PR principles, such a "trade" agreement would never be authorised by Canadians.
I would note that it is of little use for Mr Martin or anyone else to say that changes of such moment as implementing a new electoral system must be studied, and take time - if we look back but a few years, we can recall that in 1984 so-called "Free Trade" was not even on the radar during the election that year - yet within months the Mulroney government introduced the idea and, with a huge selling program by Canadian business, conducted the 1988 election on the single issue of the FTA with the US - and again a perfect example of the minority rule that the FPTP system forces on Canadians, Mulroney won the support of something like 45% of the 75% or so of Canadians who voted, but because the 55% opposing the FTA divided their votes between the competing parties, Mulroney won a substantial majority of the seats in the House of Commons with that 45%, and thus the "free trade" era came to Canada - against the wishes of a majority of the people. So significant change does NOT require years or decades of reflection and debate - it CAN be done quickly - IF the political will is there to do so. Rather obviously, the political will existed in the government and business community of Canada to institute "free trade" - but it does NOT exist to implement a fair electoral process in Canada (it is rather noteworthy as well that the Liberal government solidly defeated a motion just last fall in the House of Commons that would have given Canadians the option of simply indicating whether or not they thought a new electoral system should be studied!!! - why, one might ask, are these "Liberals" so afraid of even allowing Canadians to answer such a question?? - one can but surmise they know all too well what the answer would be, but do not wish to have it right out in the open like that....).
I would urge you, Mr. Annan, to urge the Canadian parliament to address this situation with the same fervour they managed to address "free trade" 15 years ago - the "free trade" issue was of, by and for the corporate sector of Canada - now challenge the Canadian Parliament to see if they can raise the same enthusiasm for something of, by and for We The People of Canada, and give us the PR electoral system that would go a long, long ways towards making Canada a truly democratic country.
This is all related, of course, to the second thing I would beg of you to raise in your talk to the Canadian Parliament, something once again very importantly and centrally related to the issue of "Democracy" - the issue of the money supply of Canada, and who is in control of it. I quite realise that "economics" has always been treated as something far above the capacity of the average citizen to understand or deal with - but this is actually part of the scam of the whole thing - forgive me for lapsing into the vernacular, but it is, in the end, in reality, a huge shell game that has been perpetrated on the Canadian people, and this mythology that the whole thing is too difficult for average people to understand is a central part of the pretense. It is, in reality, quite simple to understand, and perhaps with a few words from an esteemed person such as yourself, our people would be emboldened to look at it for themselves, and demand some changes. It is, in a nutshell, Mr. Amman, nothing short of absolutely ludicrous for a government supposedly of, by and for We The People, a government which, as one of its more important sovereign functions, again I must stress, in the name of We The People of Canada, NOT "We The Corporations and Wealthy Investors of Canada", would naturally be in *complete* control of the national money supply which We The People require and use every day of our lives, to turn control of that money supply over to private interests, who, through being allowed to create the great bulk of that money supply and lend it into existence, reap huge profits from it. It is equally ludicrous that the government of Canada, the government supposedly of We The People, when it needs to increase the money supply of the country each year to allow that money supply to keep pace with the growing population and economy, should choose NOT to create that money itself through the Bank of Canada, as is of course its sovereign right and, I might add, fiduciary responsibility to We The People whom it is supposedly representing, but rather turns over to private banks the right to create that money, and then BORROWS that money from them at prime rates of interest, thus creating a debt that the people of Canada, through their taxes, are required to "service" year after year after year - rather than using that tax money for their own benefit through health care, education, infrastructure maintenance and development, and so on.
Again I believe you to be an intelligent man, Mr. Annan, so I will not go into lengthy explanations about this - but again, if you have not had an opportunity to read up on such things, I would be happy to provide you with some source material - but I expect you well understand that such a policy of the government, of meeting the needs of the economy in terms of money creation through the Bank of Canada rather than private banks, would NOT be inflationary, as the private banks and their economists try to say to justify their golden goose - indeed, it was America's own Thomas Edison who summarised the situation as well as anyone, saying that "The same qualities that make a one-hundred dollar bond good make a one-hundred dollar banknote good..." - and that is indeed the truth of the situation.
So for your second point in your talk to the Canadian Parliament, Mr. Annan, I would beg you to urge the government of We The People of Canada to have a public debate on the Canadian money supply, which is so central to all of our lives, and return control of that money supply to We The People where it belongs, which will immediately increase our well-being greatly.
The third thing I would ask you to address in your talk with the Canadian Parliament is the role of the media in our country, and how the government can make policies to ensure that it becomes much more reflective of the general outlook of We The People, rather than being almost completely dominated by We The Corporate-Investor sector, as is now the case. This is a serious impediment to true democracy in Canada, as in order for people to make informed, intelligent choices about issues that face them, they require a full complement of balanced information concerning those issues. When, however, their daily media, almost en masse, is owned by one particular interest group (wealthy corporate investors), and day after day after day after year after year after year, concentrates on stories and opinion pieces that promote the desires and world-view of this special-interest group, and marginalize or completely ignore stories and opinion pieces that present a world view they do not desire, We The People are, quite simply, NOT getting all the information we need to make informed decisions - I might offer as a quick example the issues of PR and the provision of the money supply of Canada, both of which receive next to no attention in the corporate press, both being things that would work to the detriment of corporate investors, although to the great benefit of We The People of Canada. This past week, for instance, saw two world forums - the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, in which a few hundred of the wealthiest elite of the world met to talk about what THEY wanted for the future, and something like one hundred thousand ordinary (that is, non-wealthy) citizens gathered from around the world in India at the World Social Forum, to discuss the problems they saw with the corporate globalisation that is being imposed on everyone. The papers in Canada gave considerable coverage to the meeting of the elite - and essentially none whatsoever to the meeting of the "ordinary" - I cannot say for sure, without some kind of reputable survey, but I would surmise that a LOT of Canadians were aware of the Davos meeting, while very, very few were aware of the India meeting. Thus do our corporate press behave in Canada, on issue after issue after issue - to this day, we can find almost every day, surely weekly, stories about how wonderful such things as "free trade" or "privatisation" or "lower taxes" are - yet we can go for months without reading about the 20% poverty rate among the children of this country, an issue that would be of a great deal more interest and concern to most Canadians than giving yet lower taxes to those in the country with most of the money.
I might offer up a perfect example from this very period of time in Canada history of how the wealthy dominate Canada's political situation, with the full collusion of the Canadian media, thus tying together these three central problems that we face in Canada. Without going into a lengthy explanation (again, I would be happy to write at further length if you wish!), two right-wing Canadian political parties have recently "united", and are now in the process of choosing a new leader, One person who has entered the race is a political unknown (never ran for public office before) - but her father is one of the wealthiest of Canada's businesspeople, and since the day this lady decided to enter the political ring, she has had no obstacles in her path - great amounts of media publicity, plus of course all the money she requires to travel, hold meetings, provide campaign literature, whatever - while not a strong probability, it is nonetheless a measurable possibility that she will become the next Prime Minister of Canada, within literally weeks of entering politics. On the other side of the picture, many, many people on "the left" of Canada's political spectrum have been trying to "unite the left", if you will, for quite some time now - but they are seriously hobbled by both a lack of money, and the fact that the media ignores them as much as it possibly can - I would readily wager that this lady has had more press coverage in the last 3 weeks than the various players on the "unite the left" front have had in the last 5 years. And it is a fact, Mr. Annan, in this modern media age, that public persons derive a great deal of their credibility or lack thereof from the coverage they are given in the media - and when someone like this new "rightist" entry into the political picture is given huge amounts of press coverage, almost overnight she is given instant credibility in the eyes of Canadians (who, it must be acknowledged, are not particularly sophisticated in political terms) - while others from the "left" who have been working for years to achieve some credibility fight a continually uphill battle as the media ignores them. And do not be diverted by the claims of the media that they simply reflect the will or interest of the people - if this is so, you might ask them to explain why something over 90% of Canadians want the Canadian health care system to remain fully public and funded, while virtually all of the "rightist" parties and candidates are in favor of privatising as much of Canada's health care system as possible; while all of the "leftist" parties and candidates also support the fully public system - that the media supports the parties and candidates who are not at all reflective of Canadians views on this very important issue is exemplarific of the full spectrum of issues. They do NOT speak for most Canadians - they speak for the wealthy corporate owners.
Another recent and serious example of how the media are very anti-democratic could be pointed to in terms of the Ontario (the largest province in Canada, with approximately 10 million people, almost a third of the population, and the economic center of the country) elections last year, when the media en masse refused to allow the leader of the Green Party, which was running candidates in every riding except for one or two, to appear on the televised leader's debates, thus effectively sidelining the party, although the policies of the Green Party are things that most Ontarians (and Canadians) believe in. But it is very, very hard to get your word out when you have a very small budget for self-promotion, and the media marginalizes you as much as possible. The rich, obviously, and the parties they support, have no such limitations.
I am not exactly sure what could be done to rectify this situation, Mr. Annan, as obviously those with money should have the freedom to print whatever they want in their papers - but we do need to find a way to support a media that is much more reflective of We The People and our needs and desires, so that Canadians can be assured of a truly balanced news coverage, and can believe that they are decently informed of matters both national and international of interest and importance as they ponder the main issues of the day. But I do believe that there are many, many very intelligent and creative people in Canada who could offer any number of solutions to this situation, if the government was truly interested in doing something about this very undemocratic situation and set up some sort of inquiry to deal with it.
Well, in summary, Mr. Annan, these are the things I would strongly beg of you to consider when you think of what you will say to the Canadian parliament in a few weeks time - that at this crucial point in the history not only of Canada but the world, it is time for the Canadian government to take a strong stand, and become truly a government of We The People of Canada rather than carry on down the path it has been on for the last couple of decades, of being a government primarily of, by and for We The Corporate Investors of Canada.
I would like to add, with no disrespect intended to Mr. Martin, that you ought to take his words with a grain of salt, as indeed you might with any politician - he indeed talks a very good show, but his actions over the last few years give quite a different indication of his true intentions, as some of the examples I have given above indicate, and you ought also to take that into consideration.
As we have seen during this period of time, governments of, by and for the wealthy corporations and investors of the world are doing untold damage - poverty and insecurity are escalating all over the world, environmental destruction is escalating as the corporations rape our resources mercilessly in the name of profit, and violence is escalating all over the world as people all over the world try to fight back the corporate predators. I will not elaborate further here, as I am sure you know these things to be true.
Canada is in an almost unique position in the world, in terms of our ability to assume a leadership role that could be emulated all over the world, if we became a true democracy of, by and for We The People, wresting power away from the wealthy corporate sector who are interested only in their own wealth and power no matter how much hard they wreak on everyone around them.
It would be a great boost to not only the people of Canada, but people all around the world, Mr. Annan, were you to take this historic opportunity to challenge the government of Canada to take this bold step into the future, and become a leader for We The People governments all around the world, and finally take the great step of stopping the corporate barbarians who have done such damage to people and the environment all over the world the last few years.
I know you support such things through the work of the United Nations - I ask you to help those of us in Canada who wish to turn our country away from being a US corporate puppet into a truly visionary government and country of the future.