Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Designated Hitter for the Big Big League

Frank McKenna: Canada tries for a triple; gets a forced walk
By Jason Chesworth

Frank McKenna

You may vaguely remember the recent fireworks on Parliament Hill regarding Canada’s position on Missile Defense as being a cock-up between a Minority Prime Minister and his newest diplomatic appointee, Ambassador McKenna sent a message to the Bush Administration, via the media, that we’re still in it, and Paul Martin told George W., via backchannel messaging, that he just can’t afford it politically… yet.

Steven Staples, director of the Polaris Institute, authored a report on Frank McKenna when his Ambassadorship was just an official rumor. Staples told S& in early February that, “The Prime Minister has indicated that the next Ambassador to the United States would play a more direct role in shaping the relationship and would participate, in perhaps more closely informing Canadian Policy and influencing that Policy. Hence, I think on both of those accounts that the Canadian Public does need to look closely at... who Frank McKenna is, where he stands on these issues and what his background is, because he is going to be playing a political role.”

Staples explained that, “traditionally the appointment of the Ambassador to the United States has been more of a diplomatic posting drawing on someone from the diplomatic core - not a political appointment... I don’t necessarily oppose the appointment of a political person there, but it is noteworthy.”

Bernard Etzinger, spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, offered another insight for S& saying, “I would put the appointment of Mr. McKenna in context... yes, Michael Kergin (the outgoing Ambassador), is a career diplomat, but remember that he was Prime Minister Chretien’s Foreign Policy Advisor.” As well Mr. Etzinger recalled the tenure of Raymond Chretien, Chretien’s nephew, as Ambassador to the U.S., invoking the idea that close ties between Ambassador and Commander-in-Chief are standard operating procedure.

Staples understands the business of politics stating, “It’s nothing new that a former politician goes on to earn his fortune in the business sector... but I think in particular, questions began to be raised with his connections to the Carlyle Group. Especially in relationship - when you take note that he’s going to be playing a much more influential role in defining our relationship with the United States - so therefore if he’s on this Carlyle Group, that, to us, raises serious questions.”

If you’ve seen it, you may remember from Fahrenheit 9/11, that Bush Sr., and other members of the Carlyle Group were discussing business with Osama Bin Laden’s brother on the morning of September 11th. According to its website, the Carlyle Group’s “mission is to be the premier global private equity firm, leveraging the insight of Carlyle's team of investment professionals to generate extraordinary returns across a range of investment choices, while maintaining our good name and the good name of our investors.”

In other words, they’re a corporation that buys other corporations, (from Defence to food manufacturing), and because they bring on former Heads of State to “advise” them on the socio-economic-geo-politic issues around the globe, (that they themselves often created); these guys know when to fold ‘em and know when to run. Some consider it tantamount to insider trading at its most cynical; others reckon it’s democracy in its purest form.

Despite claims that McKenna will divest himself of his business interests, Steven Staples qualifies that: “Let’s be clear, he said he was going to withdraw from these Boards... we don’t know what his own personal investments are in terms of these companies... we know that many of the members of the board do have investments within the Carlyle Group of their own personal money.”

Mr. McKenna’s spokesperson, Ruth McCrea declined to speak with S&

Missile Defence has been a source of great wealth and great debate amongst several Administrations on both sides of the border for well over two decades now. As the various players switch from public to private life, issues such as Public Interest and Private Investment are becoming harder to define and separate. It has become painfully clear that as the Canadian Public, we are on a need-to-know basis; and we don’t need to know.

To read the Polaris Institute Report on Frank McKenna visit

Illustration by Trevor Turner

Originally published: Scene and Heard

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