Derrick O'Keefe: Is Bay Street backing Thomas Mulcair for NDP leader?

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      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 cofounder 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.

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      Taxpayers R Us

      Feb 27, 2012 at 10:29am

      $500 doesn't buy a heck of a lot of influence, never mind the $250 he gave to the CPC. Still think it's a positive sign though, the NDP could use what help and backing they can get, yet still maintain their values.

      As to Schwartz' support for Israel? No surprise there, look at the last name. Besides, when not looking at it from some extreme position left or right, support could go either way. I'm not Jewish, but I lived there for a year and have seen the struggles first hand.

      All I can say is if I were a parent there and saw people lobbing rockets and what-have-you at my kids, my response would be a hell of a lot more aggressive than anything Israel's done. And the zionism (moral or not) is no different than what the UK, the US, Germany, Russia, etc. have done in previous wars and what the Chinese are now doing in peace time (foreign ownership of Vancouver anyone??)


      Feb 27, 2012 at 11:34am

      Beware of social-democrats!... NDP et al. Look at Greece, how they turned the government over to the banks, and the working people are now paying dearly. Friends of labour? foot! Wake up, NDP rank and filers!

      James G

      Feb 27, 2012 at 12:22pm

      @ cochran

      Well, beware of all governments of every hue firstly and know whatever rights your constitution and circumstances appear to fix in place can only be certain if your population is always on the ready to go out and fight to keep them.

      The government of Greece that joined was at the time Conservative. Greece joined the Euro in 1991. The arrangements, which successfully hid the true debt level were handled by none other than Goldman Sachs and the entry was negotiated by the Conservative majority government. Tax evasion by the wealthy was a Greek tradition dating back to the military dictatorship of the early 1970s and although incoming social democratic governments were unable to ever get control, it is misleading to keep repeating the constant and untrue mantra that social democrats cannot manage finance.


      Your comment on funding is a welcome one. Five hundred dollars isn't a lot of money and as for myself as a contributor to Mr. Mulcair's campaign, my own totals may end up exceeding that amount. I assure you that it has gained me no influence at all nor would I have given any money if I thought it could buy any.

      The mid-east question is a thorny one but it is incumbent on any Member of Parliament to answer to his constituency. To this end, Mr. Mulcair is largely doing his duty and being respectful while staying within the NDP party positions (although these are somewhat muddled).

      The thing about this issue is that it might be seen as a litmus test by those who assume Canada's place and reputation in the world is one of well-recognized benevolence. The true state of things is that our profile is substantially lower and less heralded than we are led to believe (not that the current Harper regime is helping).

      The fact remains, that if the NDP is awaiting the arrival of a political figure that can lead Canada and at the same time have the kind of impact on world affairs that will aid peace in the Middle East, they will simply be waiting decades to choose a leader.

      I admire some of those in the race for the NDP leadership and some, such as Peggy Nash, Niki Ashton and even Paul Dewar are more in line with my own views, I have no reason to quibble about details of policy over governments they may never form. I think Mr. Mulcair has the stuff to bring to leadership, to government, to Canada. I can see him as Prime Minister and negotiating and understanding every nuance of policy alongside Presidents Obama and Sarkozy (or Hollande, should that happen) and Chancellor Merkel. He is for me the only candidate in the race of this stature.


      Feb 27, 2012 at 1:30pm

      “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.”

      [“…je suis un ardent supporter de toutes les instances et de toutes les circonstances d’Israël.”] – Thomas Mulcair, quoted in Canadian Jewish News, May 1st, 2008

      Following in Harper's footsteps, Mulcair's slavish devotion to Israel, a racist, expansionary, belligerent/illegal/brutal occupier/oppressor state and a well documented serial violator of hard won international humanitarian law confirms he is unsuitable to lead the NDP.


      Feb 27, 2012 at 1:54pm

      Taxpayers R Us

      Perhaps you are not aware that rocket attacks from occupied Gaza started in 2001 and took their first Israeli victim in 2004. Since then, there had been 14 Israeli victims prior to “Operation Cast Lead.” Tragic indeed, but hardly comparable to the seventeen hundred Gaza Strip Palestinians killed by Israel during the same period (i.e., 2004-08), including many innocent men, women and children.

      For the record, during "Operation Cast Lead," Israel suffered some damaged buildings and 13 dead, including three civilians from rocket fire and three soldiers killed in a friendly-fire incident.

      In contrast, 1,417 essentially defenceless Gaza Strip Palestinians were killed by the IDF, including 926 civilians, of whom 313 were children and 121 were women. Also among those killed were 255 civil police officers, i.e., traffic police (240 policemen perished in airstrikes during their graduation ceremony on the first day of the assaults) and 236 combatants. A total of 5,303 were wounded, including 1,606 children and 828 women. In the village of Zeytoun alone, the IDF killed 26 members of the Samouni family, including 10 children and seven women, who were waving white flags as they exited their homes. In short, Operation Cast Lead was a slaughter of imprisoned people, not a war.

      Taxpayers R Us

      Feb 27, 2012 at 4:55pm

      So the Israelis have better armour therefore less deaths. Point made?

      Also curious why the whole "including women and children" thing. Is there higher value than men there Harold?

      Also curious though why there aren't an equal number of lefty activists throwing up a shit storm every time this happens in South Africa?


      Feb 27, 2012 at 6:50pm

      WHERE is the list of donors for each of the candidates. I cannot find it on Elections canada website.


      Feb 27, 2012 at 10:38pm

      Mulcair is considered a bully by many members of the NDP Caucus, so it comes as no surprise that he supports the Israeli bullies who run the Israeli govt'. Canadians for Justice & Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) have recently published <a href="">two assessments</a> of Thomas Mulcair and <a href="">of the other 6 Candidates</a> running to replace Jack Layton.


      Feb 27, 2012 at 11:00pm

      It is no wonder that Bay Street supports Tom Mulcair. In November, Brian Topp came out with a <a href=" paper on restoring balance to our tax system</a>. In it, he proposed taxing the 1% more and increasing corporate taxes. Thomas Mulcair immediately challenged Topp on these increases, even though our taxes on these two groups are among the lowest in the western world, ever since Steven Harper took over.

      Clearly, Tom Mulcair is more aligned with another political spectrum, the Conservatives.