Conservative Party crashers

How Canada got taken

by Anthony Hall

ghost of Nixon visits Harper
US President Nixon visits Stephen Harper.

• The fast approach of the most important federal election in Canadian history highlights the question: “How did Stephen Harper seize control of the Canadian government in the first place?” Were rules broken, laws violated and Canadian institutions subverted?

The guilt of Harper and his minions has already been demonstrated on all counts. We still don’t have the full story, however, on the deep politics underlying Harper’s meteoric rise. In less than a decade, the former Imperial Oil mailroom clerk went from starting a new political party to winning in 2011 a majority government.

Harper’s ascent to the top was energized by foreign-backed regime change. The term “regime change” was popularized in the US in the process of overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government in 2003.

Iraq’s invasion after 9/11 continued Cold War patterns of US-led overthrows of indigenous governments in, for instance, Latin America, Congo, Indonesia and, as we shall see, Canada. In Killing Hope, William Blum has surveyed over 50 episodes of US-directed regime change since the Second World War.

JFK orders Pearson’s replacement of Diefenbaker as Canada’s PM

In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy provided Liberal Leader Lester Pearson with assistance from CIA-connected pollsters and journalists. Concurrently, JFK ordered that a media smear campaign in Canada be directed against the Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker.

Diefenbaker’s supposed crime was to have rejected American nuclear weapons on Canadian soil. A newcomer to the Ottawa political scene in 1963, Pierre Trudeau responded to this engineered regime change by asking rhetorically, “Why should the US treat Canada differently from Guatemala when reasons of state require it and circumstances permit?”

Trudeau dubbed Pearson “the defrocked priest of peace” while the Nobel Peace Prize winner was on his way to taking over Canada’s top job. Pearson received US assistance in replacing Diefenbaker once the Liberal Party quisling agreed that Canada should accept nuclear-tipped US Bomarc missiles at our military bases.

Disappearing Joe Clark to empower Brian Mulroney

Pierre Trudeau was a chief beneficiary of the US intervention to bring the Liberal Party to power. For most of the period between 1968 and 2003, Trudeau and then Jean Chretien, Trudeau’s former Quebec lieutenant, dominated Canadian political life.

The party of John A. Macdonald and John Diefenbaker exists no more. It was made to disappear in the course of manipulations to install and prop up the Harper government. Canada’s current PM is the embodiment of the replacement of indigenous conservatism in Canada with a neocon extension of the US Republican Party. Election fraud is one of the specialties of both the north and south branches of this continent’s Republican Party.

Brian Mulroney, prime minister from 1984 to 1993, was the transitional figure in the rightward shift of Canadian conservatism from the moderate middle to the police state extremes of Bill C-51. In 1983, Mulroney replaced Joe Clark as Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. Clark led a minority government for nine months in 1979-80.

Mulroney was finagled into the PC leadership with the help of a powerful clique of neoconservative power brokers revolving around Bavarian premier Franz Josef Strauss. One of Strauss’ foot soldiers in Canada was Karlheinz Schreiber, a convicted criminal whose reputation for skulduggery has become synonymous with Mulroney’s shame in the Airbus scandal. The Strauss-directed Airbus conglomerate sold passenger jets to Air Canada in a deal that included at least three cash payments from Schreiber to Mulroney of $75,000 each.

The Strauss-Mulroney connection is part of the foreign-backed alteration that eliminated Joe Clark from the PC Party leadership and put Mulroney on a rapid trajectory to the PM’s chair in 1984. As Lawrence Martin observed in the Globe and Mail, “What happened in 1983 was an outrage, worse than the money handoffs to Mulroney.” In 1983, Strauss funded an airplane load of planted delegates to attend a Tory convention in Winnipeg with the objective of removing Clark from the PC leadership.

In A Secret Trial, William Kaplan characterized this backstory as follows: Strauss was “… determined to export his particular brand of Conservatism abroad, mostly by providing financial assistance to like-minded politicians. In Canada, Joe Clark, a Red Tory had to go – he did not fill the bill. But Brian Mulroney did.”

The Caracas Cable on party renovation

The invisible hands that replaced Clark with Mulroney were more numerous than those of Strauss, a leading promoter of Airbus and the West German armaments industry. Their activities were part of a broadly organized radicalization of “conservatism’s” meaning and application in many countries.

One of the instruments of this transformation is the International Democratic Union. Currently, the IDU is a central organizing hub for conservative parties in 63 countries, including Canada. A similar hub is the International Republican Institute, a key part of the complex of US government-funded agencies under the umbrella of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The NED, IRI and IDU were created during the presidency of Ronald Reagan as “surrogates” for the CIA after wide public exposure of its illegal activities. According to journalist Mukoma Wa Ngugi in, the IRI’s role has been “to install US-friendly governments and undermine those that are not by supporting coups and ousters.”

The ouster of John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark presented the International Republican Institute with examples to emulate and build upon. The IRI’s own literature refers to itself as an agency for “consolidating democracy.” In language that well describes Canada’s “unite the right” movement during the prelude to the Harper years, the CIA’s surrogate boasts of its capacity to join “splintered” opposition groups in coordination with church organizations.

Wikileaks published the 2005 Caracas Cable highlighting the activities of the IRI in Venezuela. This document explained the IRI’s effort to create the conditions for unseating the socialist government of then-President Hugo Chavez after the earlier failure of US-backed military coup attempts.

Section 12 of the Caracas Cable reports, “IRI will be bringing in consultants who specialize in party renovation to discuss case studies of political parties in Germany, Spain and Canada, which successfully carried out the process of party renovation.”

Media deception in regime change

Like “regime change” and “collateral damage,” the seemingly innocuous phrase, “party renovation,” disguises deeply invasive processes. The “renovation” of political conservatism is a code that disguises many assaults on the public interest, including Harper’s rapid dismantling of the Canadian state as we have known it.

Our social welfare states began to be demolished in the 1980s just as agencies like the IRI came into being. The aim of those that initiated the Reagan-Thatcher revolution was to crush those progressive forces blamed particularly for the defeat of the military-industrial complex in Vietnam.

Popular sentiment turned against US military aggression in Indochina in spite of the CIA’s hiring of thousands of well-placed journalists in Project Mockingbird to create propaganda and prevent the nationalization of natural resources in Africa, Latin America and Canada.

After becoming PM in 1984, Mulroney provided a very clear illustration of the desired outcome of “party renovation.” On taking power, he did away with Canada’s National Energy Policy. Mulroney also eliminated the Foreign Investment Review Agency.

Canada’s Republican propaganda mill

America’s defeat in Vietnam in the 1970s traumatized the ruling class in the US and its capitalist satellites, including Canada. Many of this class’ most prominent members regrouped to make sure the primary beneficiaries of the permanent war economy would never again face such a setback.

The CIA was downgraded even as other agencies were created to install and prop up compliant governments within the USA itself and around the world. The plutocrats and their corporate managers thereby expanded and privatized many facets of so-called “national security.”

Along with their work inside the Reagan administration, the makers of the neocon revolution created a broad array of new think tanks, media venues, security firms and mercenary armies. This spawning of new agencies helped advance the corporate takeover of many functions formerly performed by government.

In 2004, pundit Lewis Lapham described the communications branch of this operation as “the Republican propaganda mill.” According to Lapham, its core message was “the abiding lesson that money ennobles rich people, making them strong as well as wise, while money corrupts poor people, making them stupid as well as weak.”

The Republican propaganda mill’s primary outpost in Canada has been the National Post founded in 1998 by Conrad Black as a flagship of his worldwide media empire. In the late 1990s, Black’s Hollinger Corporation controlled over 500 news outlets. Its star-studded International Advisory Board featured many neocon luminaries, including Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, William F. Buckley, Richard Perle and George F. Will.

As Lawrence Martin put it, “Black didn’t just want to own newspapers. He wanted to use them to reshape the political culture of his native Canada and to influence the United States, Britain and Israel.” Our current Prime Minister would be the main beneficiary of Black’s neocon obsession with rewards for the rich, austerity for the poor and the middle classes.

Mr. Harper goes to Ottawa

Harper was first sent to Ottawa in 1993 as a Reform Party MP for Calgary West. The PC government’s failure to deliver on its promise to have Quebec recognized in the constitution as a “distinct society” caused the severing of Mulroney’s fragile alliance linking alienated Albertans with so-called “soft” separatists in Quebec. While in 1988 the Mulroney coalition elected 169 MPs, in 1993, the PCs elected only two, the same number of federal seats presently held by the Green Party.

The PC deflation opened the way for an elaborate campaign of “party renovation.” Black would take under his plutocratic wing the ambitious Albertans who claimed as their heritage the Christian evangelical heritage of the Social Credit Party. The Reform Party’s founder, Preston Manning, is the son of the Baptist preacher, Ernest. As Alberta’s Social Credit Premier between 1943 and 1968, Ernest oversaw the initial phase of the transformation of Canada’s oil-rich province into Texas North.

In his Canadian media chain’s daily doses of propaganda, Black guided the “unite the right” renovation. This transformation required the controlled demolition of the PC heritage of nation building in the public interest.

As part of his enterprise, Black hosted his Albertan Trojan Horses, Preston Manning, Stephen Harper and Ralph Klein, at Bilderberg events. At these infamous Bilderberg gatherings, fresh recruits are regularly put under the command of those at the global heights of capitalism’s permanent war economy.

Harper was selected as the anointed one to embody the outcome of the “unite the right” renovation. Black helped shape Harper’s media personae to conform to the prevalent ethos of the 9/11 Wars. The media mogul is reported to have paid Peter MacKay not to run against Harper in 2003 for the leadership of the “renovated” conservative party.

In March of 2003, Harper condemned the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien for withholding from the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq the addition of our Armed Forces. “For the first time in history,” explained Harper and his co-author, “the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need.”

In their New York Times op ed, Harper and Stockwell Day described Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as a “perpetrator of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” The Leader of the Official Opposition contended that Canada should respond to 9/11, an episode in which the Iraqi government had no role whatsoever, by invading that country to “scorn the forces of evil,” to stand instead “for freedom, for democracy, for civilization itself.”

Renovation or sabotage of Canada?

Harper’s hawkish stance hit home [in terms of] both the outcome and future direction of the “party renovation” that so radically transformed political conservatism in Canada between 1963 and 2003. In 1963, John Diefenbaker was eliminated from office for opposing US nuclear warheads on Canadian soil. In 2003, Harper demonstrated to the patrons of the Republican propaganda mill that he was the ideal person to lead the Canadian government into the seemingly endless 9/11 Wars.

In 2003, the Chretien Liberals commanded a comfortable majority in Parliament with 172 MPs. In the federal vote of 2011, a contest still tainted by unresolved issues of election fraud, the Liberals dropped to 34 seats while the Harper Conservatives emerged with a majority of 166 seats. There is much more to this dramatic renovation of Canada’s political culture than immediately meets the eye.


Anthony Hall is professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge. He has written for the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Canadian Dimension and many other periodicals. His most recent books are Earth Into Property: Colonization, Decolonization and Capitalism and The American Empire and the Fourth World. He recently wrote another article, Neconning the Public for our May edition.

4 thoughts on “Conservative Party crashers”

  1. Canada needs to recuperate its character. Stephen Harper has obliterated it by embracing the same US Republican Party’s narrative to attract votes by scaring the population with nonsense stories and by joining the US wars wasting the Canadian funds he’s been cutting off from many social programs in order to serve the Military-Industrial-Complex.
    Harper has turned the PC into a Norther Republican Party repeating the same criminal acts of using Phone Robots to call districts unlikely to vote for the Cons to confuse voters, giving wrong information to send them to wrong addresses to vote.

    We need to get rid of this scumbag before he ends up destroying the many great qualities Canada has developed since its foundation.

  2. What needs to occur to ensure that this party is not reelected?
    Such an enlightening report! Thank you!

  3. How can I respect your observations when you make this statement: “While in 1988 the Mulroney coalition elected 169 MPs, in 1993, the PCs elected only two, the same number of federal seats presently held by the Green Party.” The 169 MPs were elected NATIONALLY (Greens elected none in ’88). In ’93 the PCs elected 2 in QUEBEC and the Greens 2 NATIONALLY. What has one to do with the other? Your statement appears to be made to misguide the reader to make an inference based upon misleading information.


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