Is this what corporate welfare looks like today?

Back in the 1970s, free enterprisers running corporations attacked government spending on social investments. That didn't stop them from cashing in on direct government cash payments, incentive grants, and tax concessions for themselves. The term corporate welfare bums fit the bill perfectly.

Today, corporate welfare in Canada has... evolved.

At the Department of Natural Resources, the Conservative government plans to spend $40 million this year on an advertsing campaign to promote Canada's oil and gas industry. We already know Big Oil has an inside track when it comes to developing government policy, and now they can apparently save their own advertising dollars.

Over at the National Energy Board, internal government records released to the Vancouver Observer under access to information laws show that the federal government spied on environmental groups and deployed public resources earlier this year as an "'insurance policy' to ensure that federal strategies on proposed pipeline projects are achieved." That meant marshalling "security and intelligence operations between government agencies and private interests."

Meanwhile, the newly branded Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has come up with a new framework for Canada's diplomats. Called "economic diplomacy," it's now all about making sure Canada's diplomatic assets "are harnessed to support the pursuit of commercial success by Canadian companies and investors."

The promotion of Canada's commercial interests has always been a key part of the federal government's foreign policy agenda, but at least human rights and development co-operation used to have a place in the broad spectrum. That's gone in favour of this all-in approach. This could explain the government's promotion of Canada's mining industry at the expense of aid programs.

Looks like it's time for an updated edition of David Lewis' 1972 book, Louder Voices: The Corporate Welfare Bums.

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