What the business elite is not telling you about Atlantica.
Atlantica and the Coy Agenda for Continental Integration
by Charles Fournier
The Atlantica concept is an enigma for most people in the Atlantic Provinces. It is an agenda that has brought elites in the region to a consensus that Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec needs to economically, socially and politically integrate with Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Upstate New York to form a single coherent entity. The chief proponents of this concept are Brian Lee Crowley, President of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), and Jim Quigley, President of the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce (APCC) and Vice-President of the Bank of Montreal. They have been promoting the “Atlantica” concept to Business and political leaders in the region. Most have not been made aware of the designs they are drawing, and would abhor their Neo-conservative prescriptions for the future of Atlantic Canada.
Mr. Crowley and AIMS have been the chief architect of the Atlantica concept. AIMS is a well funded big business think tank, with Atlantica Canada’s wealthiest families represented on it’s Board of Directors, that is based out of Halifax.
In a speech to an APCC meeting in Montague PEI on May 29th of 2004, Crowley laid out his vision of “Atlantica” which contained three central ideas. The first of which is to turn the Atlantic Provinces and New England into a “transport intensive economy”. To accomplish this would mean doing two things. Firstly, building a highway from St. Stephen, NB through New England to Cornwall ON, and Montreal. Secondly, upgrading the Halifax port to accommodate Post-Panamax sized cargo ships. Crowley doesn’t take into account the fact that the world is running out Oil. Also the trade routes he wants to create by-pass Newfoundland and the Francophone regions of New Brunswick.
The second and most alarming central idea to “Atlantica” is Continental Integration. This follows from a report called “Building a North American Community” written by the “Task Force for the Future of North America” which is an ad hoc coalition of the Canadian Council of Chief Executes, the US Council on Foreign Relations and their Mexican counterparts the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internationals. The document makes 41 sweeping recommendations that read like a Christmas list for the Neo-Conservative hawks that are now in power south of the border. The recommendations centre around, first, creating an integrated North American Military and Law Enforcement Security apparatus that would transcend national boundaries and building a common North American security perimeter. Secondly, they call for an expansion of the NAFTA agreement to include Non-Tariff barriers to Trade (i.e. Public Services and cultural protections) and the harmonisation of Government regulations between Canada, the US and Mexico.
Many of the recommendations of the report are already being implemented such as the “Smart Regs” initiative of the Martin Government which took the first steps towards regulatory harmonisation. The recommendations, if implemented, would decimate Canadian sovereignty. Canada would no longer be able set it’s own regulation around food safety, health, the environment and slew of other jurisdictions. By far the most frightening recommendations are around defence and boarder security which would expand NORAD into a “Multi-service Defence Command” or one central military command for all of North America.
The other recommendations around energy, the creation of new tri-national institutions and immigration are just as draconian and would be met with disgust by the average Canadian. The Continental Integration agenda being lobbied for by the nation’s business elites would be the end of Canada as a sovereign nation and the consolidation of US power over North America.
The third central idea of the “Atlantica” concept is “Regional Coherence Building”. This means integrating energy infrastructure and creating new cross border institutions that would replace previous structures and deepen the geo-political relationship between Atlantic Canada and the New England States. Much of the impetus for this has come from the Federal government which directed the Policy Research Initiative (PRI) to study “Cross Border Economic regions” through the North American linkages research project. PRI has set up five regional roundtables dream up cross border economic regions from coast to coast.
What is carefully omitted from this Vision of Atlantica are the implications it carries for the standard of living of working people. The phrase “non-tariff barriers to trade” is glossy terminology for removing any public institution, act of legislation or government regulation that inhibits the ability of business to make profit. The APCC is hosting a conference in Saint John from June 8-10th called “Reaching Atlantica: Business Without Boundaries”. This kind of language leads one to wonder how far they will take this and if anything is sacred? Proponents of Atlantica, such as Crowley, Jim Quigley and Dennis Savoie are already talking about scrapping minimum wage legislation, privatising health care, restricting access to employment insurance, decertifying unions and closing rural communities. The Conference’s largest sponsors are the Bank of Montreal and Irving Oil.
What is more unsettling is that the Atlantica Concept does not offer any ideas for the basic resource industries that have been the traditional economic activity of Atlantic Canada for centuries. Not a word of mention for farming, forestry and the fishery, all industries which have experienced major closures and economic setbacks in recent years causing untold hardship for working people. Also, Atlantica offers no solutions to the major challenges that are confronting our collective future in Atlantic Canada including the out-migration of young people and the acute aging of the population, the challenges posed by climate change, and the precipitous decline in the standard of living for the majority of Atlantic Canadians.
In the same pattern as the negotiations for NAFTA, the WTO and the FTAA, civil society groups are not at the table nor are they invited to the Atlantica negotiations. On the official promotional website for the “Reaching Atlantica: Business Without Boundaries” conference those invited are: “small business owners, CEO’s, managers and executives, as well as Government representatives from the four Atlantic Provinces and the US Northeast”. What is more astounding is how discrete the planning for this conference has been. There has been no mention in the print or broadcast media. The secretive nature should set off warning bells in civil society. If they don’t want you at the table then they are likely planning something that you won’t like.
The Atlantica concept needs to be exposed for what it really is, an attack on our social programs and rights for working people and the environment, a big business free for all and the annexation of Atlantic Canada by the United States.