Derrick O'Keefe's blog

derrick's picture
former rabble.ca Editor Derrick O'Keefe is a writer and social justice activist in Vancouver, BC. He is the author of the new Verso book, Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? and the co-writer of Afghan MP Malalai Joya's political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice. Derrick also served as rabble.ca's editor from 2007 to 2009. Topics covered on this blog will include the war in Afghanistan and foreign policy, Canadian politics, media analysis, climate justice and ecology. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/derrickokeefe

Following the money: Is Bay Street backing Thomas Mulcair?

| February 24, 2012

Anthony Munk is not your typical donor to the New Democratic Party. He serves as a director of Barrick Gold Corporation, the Canadian mining giant founded by his father, Peter Munk. Anthony is also a managing director at Onex Corporation, a massive Bay Street private equity investment firm and holding company.

In December, Anthony Munk donated $500 to NDP leadership candidate Thomas Mulcair. That same month, Munk also contributed $250 to Stephen Harper's Conservative Party of Canada.

Information on individual donors to Canada's political parties, and to the NDP leadership candidates, is made publicly available at the Elections Canada website. Mulcair's donor list is of particular interest, since he is a perceived frontrunner and because some have speculated that he would aim to move the NDP further to the right of the political spectrum, given that he was a Liberal cabinet minister in a right-wing Quebec provincial government.

What I found out about Mulcair's donors should be of interest to NDP members and to everyone watching and covering this leadership race. On a first scan of the list of contributors to Mulcair's campaign, one name jumped off the page: billionaire and Bay Street heavyweight Gerald W. Schwartz.

"Gerry" Schwartz was a co-founder of CanWest Global Communications and is the current CEO of Onex Corporation, where Munk serves as a managing director. Schwartz has an estimated net worth of $1 billion, and has been called "the face of Canadian capitalism" and "Canada's most influential person."

In the 1980s, Schwartz was a major donor and key figure for the Liberals, but also exerted influence on the Mulroney Conservative government. Stephen Clarkson describes Schwartz's intervention in the 1988 federal election in his classic study of the Liberal Party, The Big Red Machine:

"In Toronto, the prominent billionaire businessman Gerald Schwartz took charge of fundraising, pleading with executives that, while they might not like Turner's position on free trade, they should still shell out generously, lest the socialist NDP sneak up the middle to exert a controlling voice in a minority government."

A decade ago, Schwartz was a key fundraiser and backer for Paul Martin. Now, with the collapse of the Liberal Party and the rise of the NDP, it looks like he and some of his Bay Street friends are putting their money on Mulcair.

Schwartz and Munk were joined by a number of other Onex directors and associates in contributing to Mulcair's campaign. A number of them gave money on the same date, December 14, including Schwartz himself and Onex managing director Seth Mersky, who contributed $1,000. Two other Onex managing directors contributed shortly thereafter: David Mansell donated $600 on December 16, and Andrew Sheiner gave $500 on December 31. 

Onex Corporation is at the very heart of corporate and political power in Canada. Another Onex managing director, Nigel Wright, took a temporary leave from Onex in 2010 in order to serve as Stephen Harper's chief of staff.

Other investment bankers also donated to Mulcair, such as John Sherrington, Vice-Chairman of Scotia Capital, who chipped in $500 on December 16. The size of the financial donations may seem modest, but keep in mind that there is a limit of $1,200 per individual. The cluster of donations gives us cause to suppose a level of co-ordination.

Schwartz, as it happens, is also among the most prominent and influential backers in Canada of Israeli policies of militarism and occupation. 

Schwartz and his wife, Chapters-Indigo CEO Heather Reisman, founded the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides money to cover tuition and living expenses for non-Israelis who serve in the Israeli army. Schwartz and Reisman have made very public their approval of aggressive and hawkish actions by the Israeli government. In 2006, the couple made headlines by abandoning their traditional support for the Liberals in favour of the Conservatives after Stephen Harper had given full-throated support to Israel's operation against Lebanon. Over 1,000 Lebanese civilians and one Canadian UN peacekeeper were killed in the bombing. Harper called Israel's actions "a measured response."

A number of prominent supporters of a Canadian Middle East policy that favours Israel also donated to Mulcair's campaign -- many on that very same date, December 14. This includes Joel Reitman, who co-founded the media and broadcasting company MIJO that launched the "rebrand Israel" campaign several years ago.

In 2008, Mulcair was quoted as saying he was "an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances." On the leadership campaign trail, he has tried to defuse controversy by denying any bias on the Middle East and stating that he adheres to NDP policy on the issue. Mulcair's donors list would seem to cast doubt on these carefully delivered assurances of even-handedness on the issue of Israel/Palestine.

His list of contributors also hints at the potential realignments within the Canadian establishment. After the Liberals hit their historic nadir under Michael Ignatieff last election, it seems some of Bay Street's key players are happy to put their money on Mulcair.

Note: This piece is by no means a comprehensive analysis of donors to Mulcair's campaign, which includes others with ties to Onex and Bay Street -- executives, lawyers and so forth. Hopefully others in the media with more time and resources will examine this. There has already been investigation along these lines with other candidates; this case seems more remarkable and newsworthy, given the support of Schwartz and other high level directors and executives.

embedded_video

Comments

Well, here's what I know:  If Thomas Mulcair wanted to become Prime Minister so he could turn Canada over corporate control just like Harper's trying to do, then running as a candidate for a third-place party with zero presence in Quebec was a heck of a strange way to go about it. 

Until now, you could be fairly sure that those who ran for the NDP were governed by a motive other than power, because power wasn't going to come their way by being an NDP MP.  Mulcair may be more of a centrist than some NDPers for sure.  But from day 1, he had a better shot being elected as a Conservative, and he didn't take it.  So I think we can rest assured that there are some progressive values there.

Of course "Bay Street" is funding the NDP - as it funds all of the parties on the Canadian election ballot. Of course when we are talking about "Bay Street" what we are really talking about is Zionist/Corporate facism.  As such it's become apparent to this Canadian that there isn't a party on the ticket that represents the Canadian people.  That must change.  An anti-Zionist, pro-environmental(the Green Party is top to bottom Zionist) party will be the future of this country.  It's this country's, and the world's, ONLY chance.

Derrick, are you seriously suggesting that Thomas Mulcair would sell out and betray his values, his reputation and his party for $500 ? 

I will bet you the same amount that corporate donors also contribute to the other campaigns. Under the current laws and regulations, they have a right to contribute and NDP candidates can't screen their donors.

Mulcair has a proven track record as a progressive. He has also resigned from a Cabinet Minister's position in Quebec to defend his principles. Let's give the man his due.

It's not surprising that current and former Bay St. Liberals see a potential return to Official Opposition, and eventually power, through Quebec. Mulcair is the only potential Federal leader in that Province, who can obtain traction in the ROC, and an eventual reconfiguration of centrists is not a long shot, by any means. If one follows the morning line, the odds are much closer than they appear. Anyone seriously opposed to Harper would not only consider it, they would actively contribute to it. $500 will bend an ear, two cents worth is simply one's pebble in the pot.

Given that Mulcair has made the statements he has on Israel, and that he has a reputation as anti-Palestinian, it may be that these people are backing him independently, as a way of hedging their bets. If this is the case, the question returns to whether or not Mulcair is in fact a backer of Israeli militarism and the occupation. 

Schwarz and company are in very tight with the Harper government. Onex contributed their whiz kid as the Chief of Staff.

Same names are not unusual on EC contributor lists. But a Gerald W. Schwartz and Anthony Munk who both gave Mulcair $500 each in December [and could have given more since].

I dont think there is any question we are talking about the same individuals.

There is an ongoing discussion at

http://rabble.ca/babble/canadian-politics/bay-street-backing-thomas-mulcair

And Derrick said he would check in there soon.

Regardless of if these are the people you say they are, what's the point of this exercise? I personally think he is the right man for the job, but even if I didn't, I would prefer to read a thoughtful article on why you disagree with the policies he's unvelied during the campaign, or his vision for the future of the NDP. Not an analysis of other people's donations, which he has no control over.

Is it confirmed that these are the same people in the first place?

Good article. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it must be a duck. If Mulcair wants to agree that the current brutal Israeli gov't is apartheid in its dealings with the Palestinians, then great. Until such time, he is not fit to lead the NDP. We need leaders who understand that all peoples must be treated equally. There are no second class citizens on planet earth.

Over 600 donations to the Mulcair campaign and you write a column about three of them as if it means anything? Right.

Mulcair would move the NDP to the right of the Chretien Liberals, not that they weren't and aren't already heading in that direction.  After all of the shameful equivocation on Afghanistan from people like Dewar, none of this comes as a surprise.  Prepare to be disappointed by the whole lot of them (minus Liiby Davies), not just Mulcair. 

Mulcair can say he "adheres" to the NDP policies on the Middle East. That's easy because the party's policies are so vague they don't exist. A debate on Middle East policy in the leadership campaign would be revealing.

Login or register to post comments