Inside the pro-war lobby’s secret funding deal with Harper

Update! Sun TV attacks, calls letter “despicable.” Video.


Kathleen Walsh, our Donor Services Officer

If you would gladly give $7 each month to stop Harper’s stealth fighters, click here.



Dear supporter,

I was utterly appalled by the remarks when I read them.

A pro-war advocacy group made up of retired military generals, called the Conference of Defence Associations, used the bodies of soldiers killed and wounded in Afghanistan to lobby for more money.

This money would go to defence companies and the military brass. Later I’ll tell you some even more appalling stories, one that involves what appears to be complicity between a reporter and the CDA. But first, let me finish this story.

This military lobbying was done at a meeting where Members of Parliament were trying to find ways to maintain social programs and deal with the country’s finances. Instead, the old generals urged the MPs to continue with Canada’s record-high war spending.

“After the sacrifices made in Afghanistan and the casualties taken there because we weren’t ready, let us never again find ourselves having to rebuild essential military capabilities which we should have kept up all along,” the old boys said.

Sounds noble . . . But their idea of “essential military capabilities” is a $30 billion fleet of F-35 stealth fighters, and the tens of thousands spent on VIP flights for the military brass and Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

This is why depends upon your support. Your donations allow us to confront the old generals, and Stephen Harper and his pro-war lobbyists, at every turn.

This year, I hope you’ll become a sustaining supporter of our work by joining our Peacekeepers monthly donor club by making a small regular gift of $12, $9, or even $7 each month to work for peace.

Once you join our Peacekeepers monthly donors club, we can spend less time raising funds and more time working for peace, speaking out and challenging the pro-war lobby.

The behaviour of these old boys is truly sickening. These generals knowingly lobby for more money on the backs of young men and women destroyed fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan – a war these same old generals have promoted all along.

Col Alain-Michel Pellerin (ret’d) of the military-funded CDA tells CTV that the Afghan mission should be extended

Col Alain-Michel Pellerin (ret’d) of the military-funded CDA tells CTV that the Afghan mission should be extended

I know these generals well. I have sat face to face with them in television studios many times while they told audiences that we were winning the war in Afghanistan. I challenged them at every opportunity, but they have far more money to tell lies than we have to promote the truth.

While we rely on supporters like you, the pro-war lobby is lavished with funding from Harper’s Department of National Defence, spending our tax dollars to promote war and conflict instead of spending on real needs such as health care or humanitarian aid.

The Conference of Defence Associations’ secret funding deal with the military was revealed in 2008 by the NDP, who had obtained a copy of the agreement.

The terms of the funding deal are astounding. This pro-war lobby group is guaranteed a half-million dollars over five years, given direct access to the highest levels in the Department of National Defence, and provided “a minimum of 24 extended invitations to CDA staff to participate in meetings or briefings.”

Even more shocking is that the Harper government ensures that it gets support from the pro-war corporate lobby – the half-million dollar grant is only to be paid out if the group gets plenty of media coverage.

According to the deal, the Conference of Defence Associations is required to “attain a minimum of 29 media references to the CDA by national or regional journalists and reporters . . . 15 opinion pieces (including op-eds and letters to the editor in national or regional publications) . . . [and] a minimum of 100 requests by media for radio/television interviews and materials.”


And this is where the story gets most interesting.

Not only does the Conference of Defence Associations have deep links with Harper’s military, but it is also closely tied to war-friendly media and journalists.

Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford accepts her Ross Munro Media Award from the military-funded Conference of Defence Associations in 2006. She now writes for Postmedia newspapers. (Photo: CDA)

Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford accepts her Ross Munro Media Award from the military-funded Conference of Defence Associations in 2006. She now writes for Postmedia newspapers. (Photo: CDA)

You see, the old generals know they need media coverage to promote their own pro-war views, secure their military funding, and support Harper’s government.

Every year the Conference of Defence Associations holds a gala event inside Ottawa’s National War Museum, drawing the elite of Canada’s military, arms industry, media and government.

Literally surrounded by old tanks and weapons of war, they slip on their tuxedos to lavish praise and give a “military reporting” award to a “worthy” journalist. The reporter even takes home a $2,500 cheque.

You might think that only extreme, biased media outlets like Sun TV, or “Fox News North,” would ever stoop so low as to take an award from a military-funded lobby group.

But that’s not so. In fact, Canada’s most powerful media outlets and well-known journalists have lined up to accept the award from the head of the military and the other old generals, basking in glowing applause from the military establishment.

The military reporting award has been accepted by reporters for the CBC, the Globe and Mail, and the Canadian Press. This year, the award was given to a columnist for the Toronto Star.


Let me tell you a story. I know personally how the journalists work with the defence lobby to help the Harper government.

Last October I wrote a report on the F-35 stealth fighter called “Pilot Error,” pointing out the many reasons why it was a bad deal for Canada. The day it was released we received massive media coverage. Jane Taber, who was hosting CTV’s Power Play, invited me to be on her program. She had read the report and written about it on her blog earlier that day.

I arrived at the studios at the top of an office tower in downtown Ottawa, and as I joined her on the set Jane leaned over to me and asked, “Do you know this reporter, Matthew Fisher from the Ottawa Citizen?” I replied I had only read his articles in the newspapers about the war in Afghanistan (they were always pro-war).

What Jane told me next left me stunned! She said that he had called her when he read her blog post about my report that morning, and he told her that she should not be giving me any media coverage.

Media Watch: The Generals and the Journalists

Click to download

Can you believe it? A reporter calling another reporter, from a completely different news organization, to urge her to not talk to me.

Later I traced it all back to Harper’s military-funded lobby group, the Conference of Defence Associations. Matthew Fisher had close links to the Conference of Defence Associations. He had taken their “media award” back in 2007. Now he was doing his job to protect the Harper government from my critique of the F-35 stealth fighters.

I think Jane Taber was as offended as I was, and of course the interview went ahead regardless of Matthew Fisher’s underhanded attempts to shut it down. I wrote to Fisher and asked for an explanation. He never replied.

This is why your support is vital. Without it, the old generals and their media friends will protect the Harper version of the military. How many other stories critical of the government will be quietly shelved because of backroom smear campaigns like this one?

A few weeks ago I appeared before the very same MPs that the Conference of Defence Associations did when they were lobbying for war funding – only I urged them to support peace funding!!

I told them the truth that since 9/11, Canada has spent an additional $92 billion on the military and national security – a 105 per cent increase!

As the Rideau Institute published in its report “The Cost of 9/11,” by economist David MacDonald, for that $92 billion the government could have covered the cost of every prescription medication for every Canadian, built new public transit systems for ten major cities, and even provided an affordable national daycare program for every Canadian child.

Without your support, the old generals will be able to continue their vulgar lobbying for more war spending.

To meet our campaign goal, we are hoping to raise another $10,000 before the end of the year. Will you help us?

When you join our Peacekeepers monthly donor club, or even make a one-time special gift, we will use your donations to challenge the pro-war lobbyists at the Conference of Defence Associations, do the much-needed research, speak to MPs, and work with journalists.

Thanks for everything you do for peace.

Steven Staples

Steven Staples,

P.S. Please make your donation to stop the pro-war lobby from stealing from Canadians, and to make sure public funds are used for human needs and the environment.




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70 Responses to “Inside the pro-war lobby’s secret funding deal with Harper”

  1. Steve MDecember 6, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Well, I’m not even sure why I’m giving voice to my views here, but I have to admit that while my particular world view may not be entirely accurate, it’s a hell of a lot closer to reality than a lot of the opinions I’ve read thus far. I do not wish to adress the specific issues surrounding the F35 deal (I’m not privy to them) other than to state that while this may or may not be the best proposal, we do need something.
    As a currently serving member of the Canadian Forces (12 years as an NCM; that’s Non-Commissioned Member, or non-officer for the lay person), before anyone starts criticizing military spending, let me shed a little light on a few things. Most of the equipment I work on is older than my father. Even our “new” frigates are equiped with sensors and systems that were modern in the ’80s (I don’t feel I should detail all the technological advances we’ve made in the last 30 years for the point here to be apparent). Our helicoper fleet requires over four hours’ ground maintenance for each hour of flight due to the age of the systems, and lack of part fabrication facilities (and I say fabrication because most of the companies that created the systems no longer support them in any capacity; they’re too old, and this leaves us to try and make the replacement part). I won’t get into our current fighter fleet which is in worse shape than the helos. How did this happen? Almost 40 years of consistant underfunding and underrecruiting. So fine, abolish the military, as so many of the responders here seem in favour of doing, just don’t be surprised that, because the rest of the world WILL NOT follow suit, Canada ceases to be. Doubt the verasity of this? Our own northern passages are under contention with other nations because we are unable to maintain ANY military presence there. But hey, we don’t need those, no one lives up there anyway right? But I digress…
    At this point I’m going to assume that the majority of canadians will concede the requirement for some sort of military. Do I not deserve to feel reasonably safe in my workplace? Would you willingly work around equipment where safe work policy ends up being something akin to, “be careful when you turn that on, it has a habit of catching fire”? Why should I? I have enough worry with the unknown threat over the horizon, I shouldn’t have to worry about an electrical panel blowing up beside me because there haven’t been proper replacement parts available since the 1990′s. And to the contributor who lauded that Canada never “punches above its weight” militarily has no real appreciation of the facts. With a military this underequiped and underfunded, anything we do is “punching” above our “weight”.
    In closing, I’d like to try and persuade much of the moderate population of this country to remove their “rose-coloured” glasses, and take an honest look at the world. It’s an ugly place where the majority care nothing about peace or rights, only with survival; and if survival means joining a despotic regime, and in essance, comitting atrocities on others before they’re comitted against themselves, there’s no hesitation, no moral second-guessing, survivalism takes over. In the light of this world, I for one, believe in a military that will keep Canada the land I know and love, and preserve us from those who would willingly supplant their societal values over ours and change this land into something entirely unrecognizable. I welcome Mr. Staples to email me in regard to this, I’d be interested in hearing his justification for subjecting both myself and my serving bretheren to the additional and undue peril of deploying operationally with inferior and outdated equipment.

  2. Rob MacLachlanDecember 1, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    I support the calls for “balance” in all these debates – but that stance has to be accepted by both parties to the debate. And I agree with the format to be “one-on-one”. Still rules of debate have to be agreed to before the debate and if there is to be no moderator at all then how to point failures to keep the rules becomes difficult. Perhaps as in the selection of an arbitrator, you and whichever other person you are to debate with could agree on an independent third party person to moderate. All this looks very difficult to achieve so my support for this move is moderated and conditional.

    It is too bad that so much of the discourse in our political spheres is so polarized. Having seen and heard you on CBC a couple of times I was impressed that your stance was not extreme but some of the terminology used in the letter in this case appears to move in that direction.

    The other concern we all have is that so much of the processes of decision are carried out in secret and even Parliament itself becomes mostly the theatre of the Question Period.

    So with the correct (in your terms) rules in place go on Sun TV for a confrontational debate.

  3. Mary SmithDecember 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    If a bunch of old fart generals want to keep blowing up children in Afganistan or any other oil bearing country NATO thinks it owns…then put a gun in the generals hands and save our youth who want to live in a peacful world. Hell send HARPER and any other Canadian who wants to kill…let them !

  4. ConnieNovember 30, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    I would like to see a big plan for the government spelled out with all the things a government should be doing to make a strong country for the people and the environment. I have zero tolerance for a bunch of people increasing their own net worth and using tax money to facilitate that process. I also abhor the war machine of destruction when civilized people have plenty of work to do to make things nice and conform to global human rights. We need a consensus conference to let citizens list the things they need but to go simple and easy on the environment. Our government is punishing people with heavy taxation, destroying our environment, allowing our food to be poisonous, compromising our health care in favour of profits over effectiveness, and filling our lives with obstacles, injustices, corruption, and atrocities. Our government is not democratic and we need improvements in that regard and in our voting system for fair representation. How can we have a peaceful revolt? Things are bad. We can do better. We need to emphasize what kind of a world we can have without military spending and destruction.

  5. Rosalind IrvingNovember 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Thank you for the courage you are showing to stand up against the “big guns”!
    The more war toys Canada develops the more Harper and co will be itching to deploy them.
    Conflicts will be fanned rather than avoided in order to convince Canadian taxpayers that their investments were worthwhile.
    Rosalind Irving

  6. NeilNovember 29, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    I many earlier commenters have already made really great, far more articulate posts than I could hope to. I too have written in the past that the sometimes inflammatory language used by CeaseFire needs to be tempered. Language like that used in the letter can really open yourself up for the sort of attacks that SunTV used.
    I think though that you should go on the show and challenge them, just do it in a respectful way and point out other problems. I think viewers might be interested to be reminded that Lockheed Martin, the builder of the jets, is a big advertiser on SunTV.
    Best of luck to you, and thank you for all your hard work.

  7. M.K. MulhollandNovember 29, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    Hi Steven,
    I am very impressed with the responses and agree 100% with J. Hebert’s analysis of the situation. Basically I would suggest that you do not descend to the attacker’s level.

  8. MSNovember 28, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    I agree that your language could be more calm, measured and less inflammatory. Be a passionate leader who speaks with a quiet strength grounded by the truth in his heart. You must be able to give the courage of peace to your readers and supporters. Exaggeration does not help to convince the discriminating reader.
    When we are spoken to about the ‘’enemy’’, let us respond speaking of interconnectedness, respect and fair treatment of our neighbours. When we are told to be afraid of a possible attack, let us answer that inciting unnecessary fear is also an attack.
    Inequity, the feelings of superiority and entitlement have no place in a world society that is increasingly being challenged to act as a cooperative community. Peace is a noble concept which cannot be reached through brutality or through harsh words. Continue to expose the hidden agendas of those who try to deceive us into hating or fearing our fellows. Greed and corruption cannot withstand public scrutiny. Continue to shine your considerable light on these actions and leave personal attacks to the Sun/Fox Media. No cheap shots and you will gain and maintain respect.

  9. John ThomasNovember 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    Steven, You deserve great appreciation from far more than the ’20,000′ supporters. I notice in the comments there are several like me on a very tight pension – us young guys in our 80′s and 90′s – . I admire your courage and willingness to dig for, and expose, the truth as you see it. Very thoughtful comments by responders. IF you decide to appear on their show, maybe you should consider a comedian’s approach. Compliment them on their shrewd, learned debating skills and their dedicated loyalty to the pursuit of truth. Then hoist them on their own petard by sticking to asking them questions only. I agree that you leave yourself open by baiting ‘old generals’ and expressing similar emotional rhetoric. Don’t try to debate; play a ‘Colombo’ detective game. Your questions will imply principles they do subscribe to. Cheers

  10. HowardNovember 28, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    This is typical SUN/FOX BS. Ignore it. If you try to challenge them on one of their shows they would not let you say anything to counter their crude. They don’t want to debate. They just want to pontificate. Why should you subject yourself to their insults and screams.

    The best thing thinking people could do would be to write to the show’s sponsors and advertisers and tell them to drop their advertising or you will not buy their products.

  11. RNovember 28, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    I watched the program at

    The program is a sad commentary on the near non-existence of logical argument in the media. They use ‘ad hominem’ argument to attack Staples credibility as a “bad man”. And they discredit David Suzuki as unqualified to speak on warfare. But similarly, considering military generals as qualified to speak on war is even a bigger mistake because this violates the “Appeal to expert” argument in logic. Military generals have a vested interest in war, and such, cannot be considered unbiased.

    What is needed all around is more logical arguement. Steven, go read a book on logical argument, or hire a tutor in logical debate (If I had the money, I would do this myself) and address their weak, emotional, and right-wing criticisms with a powerful logical arguement. Chomsky does it all the time.

    Keep up your great efforts!

  12. LeonNovember 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    It doesn’t matter what you say to the extreme right-wingers. They’ll never be convinced otherwise. It’s the mainstream Canadians you must reach. Hopefully, they are not yet watching Sun TV. Worry instead about the propaganda that opened the Grey Cup game. With the Minister of National of Defence at his side, the Chief of the Defence Staff was praised for a “victory” in Afghanistan. Along with the support the troops stickers, Highway of Heroes, November 11th ceromonies, and recruiting ads, this sort of thing creates a lasting and widely-based militarist “brand.” Unfortunately, it is quite effective. Although it’s the Liberals and Conservatives who jump into U.S. led wars and who spend lavish sums on defence equipment, even the NDP feel obliged to vote for troop deployments in Parliament. Better to try undermining the militarist brand intended for the majority than bothering to challenge the fringe radicals and risk giving them legitimacy.

  13. GregNovember 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    These folks are hardly professional or well-researched. It wouldn’t be hard to make them look silly. Unfortunately, I fear much of their audience is of the same type. It is hard to reason with a fool. That will be your challenge.

  14. Gail SchrohNovember 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Obviously this media outlet has been educated the wrong way or else government is paying them off by educationg them this way and covering up many crimes involved! Like I said before prevention is the best way on all issues the number one is bullying often leads to many herendous crimes. Go for it and educate these arrogant media outlets who seem to want to brainwash alot of people the wrong way. Our voice and power beats money!! Together we can make it right and lead with peace.

  15. AngeleNovember 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    Great bunch of feedback… some very wise insights
    take it to heart and do what feels right…

    It would be good if the opening statement on the website was NOT about donating money. I tithe to GreenPeace and Maude mainly and your group once in awhile.

  16. Susan BrownNovember 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    Go for it, but watch your back around those slimeballs! Bring along a partner if you can who can signal you when the timeslot is nearly up so you can try to get in a good soundbite as the last word. And I do like the point of a previous poster to insist on a live broadcast to preclude deceptive editing. I will say that you left yourself open to criticism in choosing the wording “old generals”. Like I said, watch your back. And vaya con dios!

  17. D DobieNovember 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Listen up. Not everybody who agrees with you can Afford to give you money. In that way you are Exactly like the political animals you wish to reel in. get creative or get lost. If I gave cash to everything I thought was worthy I’d [edited for language] starve..

  18. TeriNovember 28, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    The Ego just wants to win. Avoid confrontation and just follow your heart. If you choose to confront these negative forces, then the positive work you do will be stalled and then it is status quo. If the people lead then the leaders must follow. Don’t get fooled into playing their games as you cannot convert people who are ambitious, have their own agenda and are closed minded.

  19. Sheila Nabigon-HowlettNovember 28, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Like several of my friends I appreciate what Steven Staples stands for and is doing. Keep up the good work! It looks like the F 35′s are in financial trouble in the U.S. anyway, from what i read in the papers down there. Let’s hope so. But our fight is here with Ottawa. So, do your best Steven.


  1. Sun TV attacks! | - November 25, 2011

    [...] Watch the Sun TV video, above, for yourself. Then read the letter that Sun TV calls “despicable,” and make a donation to help our defence cam…. [...]