A very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence
Did you know that only two Russians made the Forbes 2022 list of the world’s hundred richest individuals? By contrast, there were 37 American names there.
Yet, if you Google “oligarchs” you will find a gallery of photos almost entirely depicting wealthy Russians. These billionaires, according to much of the mainstream media, are the bad guys that have shaped and supported Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
But what about North America’s billionaire class? Are the super-rich here simply magnificently talented business people and philanthropists with little interest in shaping political decisions? Or are they also oligarchs who, along with their European counterparts, have been complicit in the proxy war in the Ukraine that many believe NATO has deliberately promoted and fostered?
The evidence suggests that America's billionaires are not detached bystanders and have considerable ability to shape government direction. That ability was massively reinforced after the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court, Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission decision. It was a ruling that gave corporations the constitutional right to spend unlimited amounts of money during electoral campaigns. Basically, the Court ruled it’s fine for American “democracy” to be controlled by dollars, instead of by voters.
Did this open the doors to oligarchical governance? Former US president, Jimmy Carter clearly thought so.
"Now it (America) is just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and Congress members. So now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors who want and expect and sometimes get favours for themselves after the election is over.”
The effect of the Supreme Courth decision was dramatic. US dark money expenditures increased from less than $5 million in 2006 to more than $300 million in the (post Citizens United) 2012 election cycle. Why was that? Could it be that the wealthy few, their names hidden behind political action committees, saw clearly the opportunity to influence, shape and push government policies and decisions?
Are politics so different in Canada?
Nothing approaching the Citizens United decision has, as yet, damaged Canada’s electoral process. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that we don’t have our own version of behind the scenes, oligarchical government.
Back in 2020, Memorial University professor, Alex Marland, published Whipped, Party Discipline in Canada, a meticulously researched book on party discipline in the Canadian parliamentary system. After 131 in-depth interviews with current and former Canadian politicians and political staff, Marland came to the following conclusions about the power of our party whip system.
- Most of Canada’s elected representatives have become peripheral actors with minimal opportunity to influence or oppose the party line.
- Instead power and policy decisions are concentrated in executive offices.
- Partisanship infuses not just executive offices, but also public administration.
- Caucus meetings, where traditionally party members debate together policies, are now largely training sessions in things like media management.
Some believe that Canada has the most rigid party discipline and whip system of any liberal democracy. If that's true, shouldn't the underlying question be: If there is minimal MP participation in the decision making process, who ultimately decides policies and directions in parliament? While Marland, himself, doesn’t address this, I strongly suspect it’s not just Justin Trudeau and his cabinet ministers.
Did you know that more than half of Trudeau cabinet members were actually trained at the World Economic Forum's Global Leaders for Tomorrow school? That this number is so large is particularly significant given that in 2017 Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the WEF, actually boasted of the WEF's penetration and influence on Canada's federal cabinet.
Even the Financial Post, hardly a media outlet given to promoting conspiracy theories, has sounded alarm bells about this cozy relationship.
“The WEF infiltration of Ottawa has never been a secret…... But it is far from being common knowledge among voters that the ideological model behind the Liberal policy machine, the steering mechanism that guides decisions and policies, is subversive and authoritarian." Terrance Corcoran
Is it possible that the Liberal government's strong connections with the WEF explains why the Trudeau government, supported by the NDP, chose to enact the Emergency Measures Act against a group of noisy, but essentially peaceful, truckers and their supporters? Was that over-the-top response a test case to see how easily Canadians would react to the loss of their civil liberties? If so, the oligarchs and corporate CEOs at this year's May meeting of the WEF in Davos must have been delighted with the passivity of our response as citizens.
And that is worrying. I fear we are taking our democracy for granted. We are assuming that there is no termite-like, deep state penetration of our government, and that our democratic institutions are working for the benefit of ordinary people.
But let's not underestimate the possibility that the oligarchs may have very different plans for us.