Our leaders are not actually running multi-national corporations. Well, okay, they might return to sit on the Board of Directors of some corporation once they leave office, but in the mean time they are speaking for all Canadians and looking out for our national interest.
In one respect this is quite true. With its roots in colonialism, Canada has always been a trading nation. As one of the richest countries of the world, Canada has obviously benefited from our economic ties to larger imperial powers, including Britain and the United States. Canada has benefited by exploiting the people and resources of colonised regions of the world, as well those of the First Nations contained within the national border. Canadian producers are some of the worlds largest exporters and they generate revenue for the Canadian economy. Many Canadian workers depend on wages derived from these traded sectors.
But what does it mean to talk about our national interest? In preparation for the Womens March Against Poverty and Violence Against Women 2000, thousands of Canadian women declared that their interests are not served by the Canadian governments rush towards free trade and globalization. The winners belong to an exclusive club. Womens groups in Canada and throughout the Americas argue that there are very few members.
So, if the interests of women are not met by free trade, who defines what is in the national interest?
Business groups are given certain rights to own private property and make investments as they wish. These rights are protected by the state. Because of their power over the economy, their particular concerns appear to be societys concerns more generally. 1 These days, its the interests of business groups, especially the largest multinational corporations, which define the national interest.
1.W. D. Coleman, Do business groups have privileged access to government? in M. Charlton and P. Barker (eds.) Crosscurrents: Contemporary Political Issues (Toronto: Nelson Canada, 1994), 345.