Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. Credit: U.K. PMO / Flickr

Stephen Harper, the former Canadian Conservative Prime Minister, plans to team up with a protégé of Carl Icahn, the notorious vulture capitalist and destroyer of American jobs. 

Harper and Courtney Mather will launch an “activist fund,” Bloomberg News reported, based on information from an unidentified person said to have knowledge of the matter.

Bloomberg said, however, that the twosome will be “constructive” activists — activism in this context being a business-press euphemism for corporate raiding. 

Of course, Mather isn’t Icahn, who has been famously described as an “Evil Captain Kirk,” after a Star Trek episode in which two Captain Kirks emerge from a broken transporter, one of them not nearly as nice as the other. Still, he is frequently called Icahn’s protégé, which is cause for concern. 

And when Harper gets involved in stuff like this, it’s an ill wind that blows no good. 

After all, while most Canadians may not know much about Icahn or Mather, they do know about Harper. 

The fund will be called Vision One, Bloomberg’s super-secret source revealed.

“Vision One plans to bet on undervalued mid-sized public companies and to try to create value through governance improvements and other changes,” Bloomberg explained, citing the anonymous source. “The firm will focus on companies with market values of $2 billion to $10 billion, especially in the industrial and consumer sectors.”

Activist investors, according to Investopedia.com, are individuals or groups that buy a significant stake in a public company:

“in order to influence how the company is run, such as by obtaining seats on its board of directors. Companies that are mismanaged, have excessive costs, could be run more profitably if taken private, or have other problems the activist investor believes they can fix are often targets for activist investors.”

When you see this kind of drivel in the business press, where your humble blogger churned out such stuff for many years, it usually means something more like this: Corporate raiders buy up shares of publicly traded companies that still make stuff but are undervalued by the stock market, take them over if they can, bust them up and sell off their assets, destroying hundreds of jobs and often looting workers’ pensions in the process.

Corporate raiders have played a key role in the de-industrialization of North America and ongoing destruction of the middle class in Canada and the United States, which remains a work in progress. 

Where corporate raiders go, look for jobs to disappear, pensions to be eliminated, wages to be cut, and bankruptcies to blossom. Indeed, bankruptcy law in most Western jurisdictions is a key part of this process, as it makes it easier to loot pension funds, break contracts, and lay off workers without paying the benefits they are owed.

Icahn, once tapped by former U.S. president Donald Trump to be his “Special Advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform,” is said to be the model for the character Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street

As for Mather, he keeps a lower profile. He is the former portfolio manager of Icahn Capital LP, and nowadays is a board member for Caesars Entertainment Inc. (nothing to do with the Roman Empire, the name notwithstanding), Newell Brands Inc., and other corporations. 

According to Bloomberg, Mather will be the chief executive officer and chief investment officer of Vision One. 

Harper — who nowadays does double duty as chairperson of the Munich-based International Democrat Union, the neoliberal internationale — will be the fund’s chairperson. 

Since he blindsided the Trudeau government with his mysterious visit to the Trump White House in July 2018 as Canada tried to negotiate a revised free-trade deal with the United States, Harper has been travelling the world, hobnobbing with leaders in places like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. 

He has joined the very short parade of former world leaders, including former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, currently free on bail as he appeals a jail sentence for corruption, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, to visit Saudi Arabia since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

Harper is also regarded by many to be the éminence grise of Alberta’s United Conservative government, and may therefore be the person who has to break it to Premier Jason Kenney that it’s time to take a walk in the snow, of which there is a plentiful supply in Edmonton today. 

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...