Powerful group seeks to control Canadian economy and restrict personal freedom

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Appeared in the Ottawa Sun, February 2, 2022
Powerful group seeks to control Canadian economy and restrict personal freedom

The Coalition for a Better Future is a band of more than 120 of Canada’s most powerful business and industry associations, think-tanks and community organizations. Since its inception last year, it’s called for a “bold vision and a commitment from business, government, and others to work together” to build a “more inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous Canada.” This might sound benign, but in fact what the coalition proposes—a sort of national plan to consolidate business and government powers and objectives—is dangerous and alarming.

According to Lisa Raitt, a former Conservative cabinet minister and now co-chair (alongside former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan) of the coalition’s advisory council, “a truly inclusive, national vision requires that we seek out a diversity of perspectives.” Yet the coalition’s survey of its members found 97 per cent support for “an ambitious economic vision for Canada” centred on addressing economic growth and employment, increasing equality, and strong climate change action. So at least on this matter, there seems to be a minimal diversity of views.

What makes a national economic vision so dangerous?

Well, it invariably means top-down control and restriction of individual freedom. Individual Canadians have their own visions, plans and preferences on to how to spend their money, what jobs to take, where to work, in what industries and so on. These individual decisions must inevitably at times conflict with the “national vision” put forward by the happy band of self-appointed central planners, and to follow the national plan, the plans of individuals must be cast aside.

Of course, some Canadians might not believe that a coalition, which includes leading business organizations, would favour government economic planning. But consider this—the coalition’s biggest initiative to-date was a summit last fall in Ottawa. One of the main speakers was Carolyn Wilkins, former senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, who decried an “overreliance on market forces,” blamed markets for sundry economic problems including wealth inequality, and made the case for building “domestic capacity,” presumably through some sort of government reordering of industry.

Wilkins also recommended people read a report she coauthored on how G7 countries should reorganize their economies. The report was premised on an alleged consensus that “market-focused assumptions” had failed by “undermining the potential of governments to work in partnership with the private sector to shape economies.” According to the report, successful economic reorganization involves a climate treaty far more severe than the Paris Accord, more labour unionization, and global minimum taxation to fund the government-guided transition to net-zero emissions.

Among the many other harmful policies prescribed by Wilkins was the reorientation of business activity to achieve ESG (environmental, social and governance) goals, which essentially means upending the economy to allocate resources according to political and social concerns instead of economic considerations. The ESG view is affirmed by Raitt and McLellan. “Capitalism as we’ve known it,” McLellan said in a recent podcast interview, “it’s not going to work any longer.” The way forward, she said, is with “stakeholder capitalism.”

The problem is that “stakeholder capitalism” is really more socialism than capitalism, as it involves marshalling private capital to achieve political or social objectives. This sort of economic system is invariably destructive and any “coalition” that promotes it will do far more harm than good. Free markets, not central planning, is what delivers the economic growth and social harmony Canadians want.

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