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Public kept in dark about talks on North American integration

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Section: Canadian News Geography: Canada Topics: trade agreements

September 26, 2006

Public kept in dark about talks on North American integration

by Gwalgen Geordie Dent

From September 12-14, leaders from all three North American Conservative governments met in Banff, British Columbia for the second annual conference on North American integration, entitled "The 2006 North American Forum." According to internal documents "not for public release" obtained by the Banff Crag and Canyon, politicians including the Minister of Public Safety, Stockwell Day, and the Minister of Defence, Gordon O'Conner, met with government and business leaders from the US, Canada and Mexico, including US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the president and CEO of Canada West Foundation (an Alberta think-tank), a subdirector of PEMEX (a Mexican oil company) and the president of the Lockheed Martin Corp. (the world's largest military contractor).

Although the conference, organized by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, examines issues of interest to the public, like North American integration of energy and security, it has been held in secret for the second year in a row, without advance warning and without a press release.

According to the Crag, the spokesperson for the forum, John Larsen, refused to reveal who had paid for the forum or whether or not Rumsfeld was attending. Larsen did talk about the secret nature of the event: "You can imagine that if this was all televised or open to public scrutiny, the nature of the conversations and ultimately what you would be able to do with those conversations and how far you might be able to advance the solutions around it would be different."

Maude Barlow, writing in the Toronto Star, pointed out that, "since Paul Martin, Vicente Fox and George W. Bush signed the Security and Prosperity Partnership in March 2005, discussions on continental integration have gone underground. The media have paid little attention to this far-reaching agreement, thus Canadians are unaware that a dozen working groups are currently 'harmonizing' Canadian and US regulations on everything from food to drugs to the environment and even more contentious issues like foreign policy."

As of Sept. 25, only the Banff Crag and Canyon and the Toronto Star had reported that the conference had occurred at all.

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