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

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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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Tags: Conference of Defence Associations, Defence lobby, Ross Munro Media Award