Frank McKenna's appointment as Canada's ambassador to the U.S. is a boon to the corporate world. During his decade as premier of New Brunswick, McKenna was heralded as a neo-liberal golden boy. Back then, his magic bullet for the struggling Maritime economy was call centres.
Today, however, it can be said that his magic bullet is bullets.
McKenna chairs the Canadian advisory board to the Carlyle Group, which bills itself as the world's largest private equity investment firm. He will presumably step down from the Carlyle board to assume the ambassadorship.
Carlyle's $18.9 billion U.S. in assets includes heavy investments in the manufacture of munitions and large-scale weapons systems.
Among its most profitable military interests is Virginia-based United Defense Incorporated, the U.S. army's fifth-largest contractor, builder of armoured vehicles, missile launchers, artillery, defence electronics and naval guns.
Carlyle employs a who's who of ex-politicos, some of whom had cameos in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. These include former U.S. secretary of state James A. Baker, former British PM John Major and a phalanx of Washington hawks. Carlyle's past chair, former deputy director of the CIA Frank Carlucci, was a college classmate of Donald Rumsfeld's.
Other Canadians involved in Carlyle include Peter Lougheed, the former premier of Alberta; Paul Desmarais, the heavily Liberal-connected CEO of Power Corp.; Bombardier's Laurent Beaudoin; and former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Allan Gotlieb.
Carlyle wields the clout of its celebrity payroll and extensive network to secure military contracts and other deals around the world. In appreciation, the former politicians are paid in equity cuts on corporate contracts.
McKenna, pitching military production as an economic stimulator for his home province, has stated that he wants to see more Canadian investment in Carlyle.
And despite criticism from organizations such as the Council of Canadians, McKenna defends the Canada Pension Plan's investment of $60 million U.S. of Canadians' accumulated pension contributions into a Carlyle venture fund.
The role of U.S. envoy will position McKenna to play handmaiden to corporate aspirations in Canada, including Canadian-based subcontracts for the U.S. military. The result will be deeper corporate integration and a further drift away from any distinction between Canadian sovereignty and American manifest destiny.
In the summer of 2002, McKenna hosted a Carlyle meeting at a prestigious golf course in Moncton, attended by former president George Bush Sr., who chaired Carlyle's Asian advisory board at the time. During a press conference, McKenna dismissed concerns about Carlyle's reputation for weapons investments greased by political connections.
"We're not here to try and talk about some military-governmental-industrial conspiracy or globalization," he told reporters. "We're just here to try to help contribute to the Atlantic economy. No more. No less."