LAU: Powerful group seeks to control Canadian economy and restrict personal freedom

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The Coalition for a Better Future is a group of more than 120 of Canada’s most powerful business and industry associations, think tanks and community organizations. Since its inception last year, it is called for a “bold vision and commitment by business, government and others to work together” to build a “more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous Canada”.

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It may seem benign, but in fact what the coalition is proposing – a kind of national plan to consolidate the powers and goals of business and government – ​​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 board, “a truly inclusive national vision demands that we seek out a diversity of perspectives.”

However, the coalition survey of its members found 97% support for “an ambitious economic vision for Canada” focused on economic growth and jobs, improved equality and strong action on climate change. So, at least on this issue, there seems to be minimal diversity of views.

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What makes a national economic vision so dangerous?

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

Of course, some Canadians might not believe that a coalition, which includes leading business organizations, would help the government’s 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 various economic problems, including wealth inequality, and argued for the building “national capacity”, presumably through some kind of government reorganization of industry.

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Wilkins also recommended people read a report she has co-authored on how G7 countries should reorganize their economies. The report was based on a purported consensus that “market-driven assumptions” had failed by “undermining the potential for governments to work in partnership with the private sector to shape economies.”

According to the report, successful economic revamping involves a far tougher climate treaty than the Paris Agreement, more union organizing and global minimum taxation to fund the government-led transition to net zero emissions.

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Among the many other harmful policies Wilkins prescribed was the redirection of business activity to achieve ESG (environmental, social and governance) goals, which essentially means disrupting the economy to allocate resources based on political and social concerns. rather than economic considerations.

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The ESG vision is affirmed by Raitt and McLellan. “Capitalism as we have known it,” McLellan said in a recent podcast interview, “it’s not going to work anymore.” The way forward, she said, is with “stakeholder capitalism.”

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

Matthew Lau is an Adjunct Researcher at the Fraser Institute.

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