5th November 2019
Extract #1 on Maurice Strong from Cloak of Green by Elaine Dewar
This is an interesting book, so some interesting extracts. This is the first:
That is why, by the time I got to Conches, I also knew that to understand and measure the machine beneath events, I also had to see Maurice Strong. He played a large role in selling the world on the Global Governance Agenda. How had he come to be such a central figure? Whose interests did he represent?
Strong’s staff had sent me his curriculum vitae. His tower of hats made Elizabeth May’s look pathetic. He listed so many businesses, honours, and NGO involvements, it was impossible to understand how one man could do so much. At first his curriculum vitae also struck me as odd, as if it was designed to sell a life, not as if a life had produced the document. When I had checked it and reviewed it, it also seemed to mirror the patterns of the Global Governance Agenda—NG0s, governments, politicians, native peoples, Marxists, Maoists, and democrats tied in knots with power companies and other great trade empires. His cv was a record of a lifetime of arrangements.
He was born in Oak Lake, Manitoba, in 1929, had only a grade 11 formal education, but had been granted 27 honorary degrees from universities around the world. (The latest count is 35.) He had com-bined private, public and non-profit ventures at several points in his career, giving rise to questions about conflicts of interest, but as one of his proteges, the writer John Ralston Saul, liked to put it, there was nothing in this that would have startled anyone in the U.S. establishment. That master of the golden braid, John J. McCloy, the man biographer Kai Bird credits with the creation of the national security apparatus of the U.S., had done such things for almost a century.
Many of Strong’s non-profit associates were also participants in the Agenda, either as advocates or as funders of advocates. Strong had been a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation; a director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Re-sources in Gland, Switzerland; a director and vice-president of the World Wide Fund for Nature in Switzerland; a director of the Beijer Institute of the Swedish Academy of Sciences (now a separate NGO called the International Institute for Environmental Technology and Management); the Aspen Institute; the Bretton Woods Committee of Washington, D.C. He’d been on that particular board- since April 1985. The Bretton Woods Committee was formed to promote the virtues of the international development banks after Bramble, Rich, et al came close to beating a U.S. administration-backed appropriations vote in 1984. Strong had also worked with the YMCA; the Vatican’s Society for Development, Justice and Peace; the North/South Institute; the Club of Rome; the Interaction Policy Board. Perhaps most important, he was chair of the World Economic Forum.
Strong had received his share of awards. He was a member of the Royal Society of Great Britain; the Royal Society of Canada; he’d won a Mellon Award; a Pearson Peace Medal; an Order of Canada; the Henri Pittier Order (from Venezuela); a Commander of the Order of the Golden Ark (the Netherlands). He became a member of the U.N. Environment Program’s Global 500 in 1987. Those in the know said he also deserved a prize for crafting the world’s greatest human network. Many of Strong’s friends, said his friend Senator Jack Austin, were also hubs of networks in their own right.
The cv also showed Strong’s meteoric rise, starting with his first job as an apprentice fur trader to the Hudson’s Bay Company back in 1945. But he was best known for his government service. He created the Canadian International Development Agency, ODA. He had been one of Canada’s representatives on various development banks. He had chaired the board of the federal government’s Inter-national Development Research Centre, IDRC. He had set up Canada’s national petroleum company, Petro-Canada; he had chaired the Canada Development Investment Corporation. He became both an undersecretary general at the United Nations and the secretary general of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. He was the first executive director of the United Nations Energy Pro-gram. He ran the office of the African Emergency for the U.N. Development Program, which dealt with the African famine. He was member of the Brundtland Commission,
We had agreed that I would come to Geneva to see him in time the third preparatory meeting for the Rio Earth Summit. The national delegations were supposed to negotiate the fine points of the international conventions Strong’s staff had drafted on forestry, cli-mate change, biodiversity, an Earth Charter, and a document Strong called Agenda 21. Needless to say, depending on the words said or unsaid, Strong and his staff had considerable ability to affect the interests of major powers.
When I arrived, Strong was presiding at a staff meeting, sitting at the head of a long polished table in what had once been a gracious drawing room. He announced what he had done on his last round of travels. These achievements had to do with adding more pearls to the thread. He’d convinced the Brazilian soccer star Pele to make public appearances. Former U.S. Democratic politician Bella Abzug was organizing women’s NGOs for him. Ted Turner had promised mil-lions of dollars worth of coverage on CNN, guaranteeing the world would pay attention to the Rio Summit.
We went upstairs to his office, a once comfortable library painted a weird shade of apple green. The bookshelves were almost empty, the windows were wide open to the hot summer air. He settled into ins chair. I’m not sure what I expected of the man at the centre of the story, but surely not this? His brown suit was rumpled, his hair white and askew. He was nondescript, of average height, average weight, with a small moustache, but his hands were huge—big enough to pull hot iron into shapes. He coughed and coughed. He’d caught some form of pneumonia and had spent almost a month in bed back home in Colorado at the Baca Grande ranch. He spat right into a garbage pail. He said he’d answer on everything except personal wealth. He said he liked risk.
Every now and again one of his secretaries would cut in with a call, but for the next several hours, and much of the following day and evening, and for hours after that, Strong devoted himself to explaining himself. His voice crackled and soared, he spoke in a Canadian prairie boy accent untouched by life in the boardrooms of the world. Except for the spectacular story he told, I could have been listening to one of my own uncles rousing the house with relentless cheer on a frigid morning in Saskatchewan.
His family were descended from United Empire Loyalists who left the U.S. and settled first around Cobourg, Ontario, then made their way west to Manitoba to settle around Brandon. His father had worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a junior station manager, his mother was a doctor’s daughter from Estevan, Saskatchewan. They lived at Oak Lake, which is close to the border between Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and not far from the international border with the U.S., over which a band of Sioux living nearby had fled to escape the U.S. cavalry. The Sioux had been reduced to a small chunk of prairie without even a treaty claim on the government of Manitoba. Strong’s family was run over by the Depression when his father lost his job.
There were four children starting with Maurice, and at times they were hungry. His mother died in a mental institution at age 56, killed by the Depression is how Strong saw it, a victim of economic devolution. It was a time of great bitterness on the Prairies. The young high school principal in the town, a socialist, took an interest in Strong. The principal found in him a fertile mind in which to sow ideas about social justice. Strong became a socialist in a family of committed Liberals who had turned out the vote for Mackenzie King.
He also had family connections in the wider world of political action which he used later. Born on the U.S. side of the border a generation ahead of him were his distant cousins Tracy and Anna Louise Strong. The children of a Congregationalist missionary based in Friend, Nebraska, their lineage went all the way back to the men who had helped endow Harvard and Yale. Christian activist Tracy Strong became the director of the YMCA’s Prisoners’ Aid committee during World War II and later the international program of the World
Alliance of YMCAs based in Geneva. Anna Louise Strong, his sister, was a Marxist and a journalist and possibly a spy, although for whom it is difficult to be certain. In 1921, she got into the new Soviet Union as part of a Quaker aid committee and got to know members of the emerging Soviet hierarchy, including Trotsky; she wrote about the new Soviet Union for the Nation and for Hearst International. She became a member of the Comintern, later married the Soviet Union’s wartime deputy minister of agriculture (a man who was purged later by Stalin). During the period between the two wars she travelled in China, corresponded and dined with Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote in praise of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. She was treated with deep suspicion by the FBI, who thought she worked for Stalin’s notorious spymaster Beria, but she also lectured at Stanford to U.S. intelligence personnel headed to China. In fact, she was flown to China by the U.S. Navy right after the war’s end. She spent two years with Mao and Chou En-lai in the crucial period leading up to the defeat of the Kuomintang? When she returned, she carried secret messages from Chou En-lai. She was arrested in 1949 during a trip to the U.S.S.R. as an American spy. After Mao was victorious in China, she was denied her U.S. passport, and her association with persons in the U.S. State Department was listed as part of the grounds for their dismissals. Nevertheless, she managed to visit a nephew working in Mexico for the Rockefeller Foundation and visit Guatemala in 1954, writing in praise of President Arbenz. She returned to China during the Cultural Revolution and died there in 1970, a full-fledged Friend of the Revolution, her burial organized by Chou En-lai himself. In part because of his connections to Anna Louise Strong, the Chinese trusted Maurice Strong.
In July 1943, fourteen-year-old Maurice Strong ran away from Oak Lake. Canada and the U.S.S.R. had become allies. In the previous month the National Council for Soviet-Canadian Friendship had been formed at a huge rally in Toronto which was addressed by Prime Minister Mackenzie King. Brandon, Manitoba soon had its own chapter of this council (headed by someone the RCMP said was a communist who’d been ejected by the CCF as an infiltrator). The Liberal Party and the Communist Party in Ontario had also joined forces to keep working-class ridings from going CCF in the August provincial election. It was in this strange, changeable, and exciting political climate that Strong headed straight for southern Ontario. Strong doctored an identity card to make himself older and jumped a train for the Lakehead, where he stowed away on a Great Lakes vessel. He was found at Windsor. He signed on as crew, got off at Sarnia. Then he headed west on another train. By September, he was in Victoria. He signed on a Canadian Pacific ship transporting U.S. troops up the coast to Alaska. The police were waiting for him when he docked in Vancouver. His father came out to bring him home and begged him to finish school. He got his grade eleven in 1945, and in July, while the war still raged in the Pacific, he boarded the Hudson’s Bay Company’s schooner, the Fort Severn, at Churchill heading for duty as an apprentice fur trader at Chesterfield Inlet on Hudson Bay.
The Hudson’s Bay Company trading post consisted of a manager, an apprentice, and an Inuit helper. The town consisted of a small hospital, a tiny RCMP station, a Department of Transport radio station, and a Catholic mission run by priests from Belgium. The Hudson’s Bay Company owned mineral rights to large stretches of the Canadian north. One of Strong’s tasks was to take the samples of minerals brought in by the Inuit or others and send them south. The Hudson’s Bay Company boats took these samples out from the various posts scattered around the Bay or the RCAF flew packages south from their base at Baker Lake at the far western end of the inlet. In his spare time, Strong and a young Department of Transport worker, Norman Sanders of Toronto, travelled around taking pictures of the Inuit in their communities scattered across the ice.
The militarization of the Canadian north had just begun the year Strong arrived. In 1944, when C.D. Howe was federal minister of munitions and supply, Canadian and allied militaries became interested in the north both as a potential path for invasion and as a future strategic resource basin. That winter, the Canadian Army ran an elaborate defence game out of northern Saskatchewan, making use of the topographical knowledge of the Hudson’s Bay Company trader in the area. In the early months of 1946 the army launched an overland trek of men and machines called Operation Musk Ox. A small group of soldiers took off from Churchill on motorized vehicles, travelled up the coast, turned overland to Baker Lake, then to the mouth of the Coppermine River, across the Arctic coast, and down through the Mackenzie Valley to Edmonton. Samples were taken from likely mineral outcrops. Aside from establishing Canadian sovereignty over the high Arctic and proving that such terrain could be fought over and defended in winter, uranium may have been one of the things the expedition was looking for.3 Strong’s friend Sanders passed on some of their radio messages to Churchill.
According to Strong, sometime during that summer of 1946 a big handsome man named Bill Richardson also arrived in Chesterfield Inlet. An American from Tennessee, he had married a Canadian woman and enlisted in the RCAF in Ottawa in 1941. “Wild Bill,” 4 as he was soon known in the mining business, told Strong he intended to prospect around Baker Lake near the geological/survey/supply base established there by the RCAF. Strong claimed Richardson came in on the Hudson’s Bay Company boat, but Sanders took the last boat of the season out of Chesterfield and met no one called Bill Richardson. Soon Strong also left Chesterfield Inlet, breaking his five-year contract with the Company. When he arrived in Toronto, he went to see Bill Richardson and asked for a job. Richardson set him up with a Toronto mining promoter and invited Strong to come and live in his home. It was Bill who introduced Strong to the world of oil, gas, big money, and geopolitics.
Richardson’s wife, Mary McColl, and her father, John McColl, took an interest in Strong though he was just a boy. McColl was of the family that had founded the largest oil company in Canada, McColl-Frontenac, in the early part of the century. By 1946, McCollFrontenac appeared to be controlled by the brokerage house Nesbitt Thomson, but in fact, since 1938 it had been secretly controlled by its U.S. investor the Texas Company (later Texaco). By 1946, John McColl had long since ceased to be a large shareholder, but the McColls were socially prominent. This perhaps explains why Wild Bill got away with so many outrageous things. He listed the eighteen-year-old Maurice Strong on the prospectus of his new company, New Horizon Explorations Limited, established in April 1947. Strong was described as one of the “five men of the north” who would help the company prospect by air over the vast Keewatin District. The prospectus claimed Richardson had access to recent RCAF mineral surveys of the whole Arctic—documents surely still classified.
The prospectus was written in the language of the brand new Cold War.5 Canada’s mineral wealth had to be secured against the communist evil rampant on the opposite side of the Arctic Ocean. The prospectus suggested uranium could be found near Baker Lake at the far end of Chesterfield Inlet. (It was, by others.) The prospectus assured investors that if the company found uranium, the government would take over the mine and the company. Yet Strong claimed later that Wild Bill also wrote at this time to Stalin about where the Soviets might find uranium deposits. Somehow, Bill got away with this too, although the U.S. had just cut off even its allies from all nuclear information. Bill also got away with stealing mail from the offices of the National Council for Canadian-Soviet Friendship. The Council patrons included a who’s who of Canadian politics, business, and the arts. Sam Bronfman had been a patron, Paul Martin, M.P. was a patron, the prime minister was a patron. But by the time of its convention held in Ottawa in May 1947, the Gouzenko scandal had burst upon the world. The RCMP had kept tabs on the organization from the beginning, noting in their files each confirmed or suspected Communist Party member who got into an authoritative position. The national director, for example, was well known to them. Paul Nathanson (who would eventually become Strong’s partner), heir to the Famous Players movie distribution fortune, was on the executive as its treasurer. (This fact was seemingly of no interest to the RCMP watchers unless particulars about Nathanson were among the things CSIS removed from the file it finally sent on to me.) The new office of New Horizon Explorations Limited was located right next door to the National Council for Canadian-Soviet Friendship offices. One Saturday, said Strong, Wild Bill just fished out the Council’s mail from under their door and found a list of people he said were Communist Party members. He wrote to the police. Pretending to be prospectors, the police put the council’s rooms under surveillance from Bill’s offices.
So who, or what, was Bill Richardson? Airman, spy, freelance entrepreneur? All of the above? Within a year, New Horizon Explorations Limited was wound up, shares in other mining companies were given to the investors to pay them off, legal niceties handled by John Black Aird, a young lawyer well connected in the Liberal Party who later became Ontario’s lieutenant-governor. Strong said he didn’t really get involved in Bill’s version of the Great Game. “I wasn’t a spy,” he said. “I was too young for that.”
On the other hand, Bill did introduce Strong to some very important persons right after that mail episode. For example, the Honourable Paul Martin, M.P. for Windsor, dropped by the house. Martin had acted as a lawyer for Paul Nathanson’s father, who had died in 1943; the young Nathanson had also become Martin’s friend. Martin was on the continentalist side of the Liberal Party, along with Prime Minister King, and had become a member of King’s cabinet after the June 1945 election. In December 1946, he had been made both minister of health and welfare and the leader of the Canadian delegation to the U.N. The Partition of Palestine was to be discussed by a U.N. commission in the fall of 1947—a matter of some considerable interest to major oil companies. Strong was introduced to Martin by Richardson. Later, Richardson took Strong to Ottawa and asked Martin to get Strong a job at the U.N. Strong professed fascination with the U.N. since he read a newspaper article about it during his hobo summer of 1943. Martin said he couldn’t help.
Soon another important person dropped by Bill’s house. Noah Monod, then treasurer of the U.N., was from France and of a Huguenot family. Strong was introduced to him too as a young man fascinated with the U.N. who wanted a job there. Monod got him one as assistant pass officer in the Identification Unit of the Security Section and said he might become a clerk on the Palestine Commission.
That is how it happened that in the summer of 1947 Maurice Strong went to New York. He stayed briefly with Monod, where he was also introduced to David Rockefeller, grandson to the man who’d made the oil business global. Rockefeller already had charge of the U.N. account at the Chase Bank.
As Strong remembered it, he said straight out to David Rockefeller, “I’m deeply prejudiced against you and all your family stands for.” Nevertheless, over the next fifty years, Strong became associated with various members of the Rockefeller family. He knew Nelson Rockefeller, who had an intense interest in the development of Latin America; he knows Laurance, who has interests in conservation. But he met David Rockefeller first. David Rockefeller had been an intelligence officer in World War II in North Africa, where using young boys for information was a standard practice. David Rockefeller knew Canada well: he’d been sent by his father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to meet Mackenzie King in 1935, the year King became prime minister again after a federal election that returned the Liberals to office.
David Rockefeller, according to his spokesman, did not remember that first meeting quite as Strong did, although he did confirm it had happened at Monod’s. The spokesman said Noah Monod was a very good friend of Rockefeller’s—they sent each other Imari vases and other niceties at Christmas. On the other hand, said the spokesman, Strong was a person Rockefeller felt he could just say he knew well. “They just ran into each other their entire lives” was how his spokesman put it. For example, David was in Norway for a conference, a Bilderberg Conference or a meeting of the Trilateral Commission, something like that, the spokesman said. He went salmon fishing and there was Maurice Strong, salmon fishing. The spokesman said David Rockefeller thought a phrase to describe this would be that he and Maurice Strong have “a strong working relationship.”
It certainly seemed that after meeting Rockefeller, Strong deliberately went about grafting himself onto the U.S. side of his family. (Did Rockefeller tell him he had an aunt who had married a man named Strong?) Strong already knew about Anna Louise Strong—he said he’d read her work on China in Toronto. She’d spoken in Montreal in 1942 and whistle stopped through Canada. In New York he sought out Tracy Strong, her brother, then head of the YMCA’s international operations.
David Rockefeller’s grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, had created one of the world’s great global businesses by virtue of a myriad of strong working relationships. As detailed by Daniel Yergin in The Prize, using such tools as stealth, deception, spies, violence, and the secret takeover of enemies who became friends, the Standard Oil group he headed achieved a stranglehold on the exploration for and the distribution of oil and its products around the world before the turn of the century. Rockefeller’s methodology, the strategy of buying up all sides at the negotiating table, of paying for political influence, of buying or squeezing out competitors, was initially done to smooth out the boom and bust cycles of the oil market. Many Standard Oil companies were established in many U.S. states, including Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon); Socal or Standard Oil of California (now Chevron); Standard Oil of New York (then called Socony); and Standard Oil of Indiana. Each of these state-based companies also quickly expanded abroad. ‘The whore structure of their interrelations was managed through a trust, a precursor corporate structure to a modern holding company, which permitted those who ran the trust to co-ordinate the various companies. This trust was the structural basis for what, according to Yergin, John D. Rockefeller used to refer to as “our plan,” which involved vertical integration of the entire global oil business.
In 1911, the year Canada voted against Laurier’s version of a free trade agreement with the U.S. and pushed the Liberals out of office, the U.S. Supreme Court had finally forced this trust to break up. It was the only jurisdiction big enough to deal with “the Octopus,” as it was widely and derisively called. Rockefeller’s shareholdings in the previously related state-based oil companies were ordered held below 5 per cent, and no attempts to organize the behaviour of these companies were to be allowed in future. This seemingly devastating blow apparently taught the Octopus members to pay close attention to the formation of public opinion. Through the Rockefeller Foundation, also started in 1911, and various other vehicles, the Rockefellers hired the very best public relations talent money could buy—up to and including a Canadian politician who yearned to be prime minister.
In 1913, a company in which John D. Rockefeller, Jr., had controlling interest, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, became embroiled in a widely publicized strike in Ludlow, Colorado. Ludlow was a company town; working and living conditions were terrible. The company refused to recognize the union. There was a strike. The militia was brought in to break the strike. Seventy-two women and children were killed in fires set by company security agents when they attacked the strikers’ tent camp. There was a public outcry: there had already been a congressional investigation and soon there was a commission of inquiry. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., through the Rockefeller Foundation, contracted Mackenzie King, formerly minister of labour under Laurier, to advise him on what to do in Ludlow. In due course, Mackenzie King presented him the solution—which later spread to many other industries in the U.S.—the formation of a company union. This inspired public relations concept, to control the union while appearing not to, was not far from the notion of a government-funded NGO. It was imposed by democratic means. A vote was held among the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company workers: coloured ballots were issued so it could be seen who voted for and against this proffered solution. King, then being paid about $25,000 a year by the Rockefeller Foundation, also testified on Rockefeller’s behalf before the Conunission on Industrial Relations investigating matters—calming the waters during a very dangerous time for the Rockefellers. King continued to work for the Rockefeller Foundation and other Rockefeller interests for the next few years while he awaited the right chance to return to Canadian politics. It was John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who helped position King to run for the leader-ship of the Liberal Party after Laurier announced his intent to retire in 1918. As Henry Ferns and Bernard Ostry recount in their splendid The Age of Mackenzie King, as he manoeuvred for support, King sent a testimonial to Laurier from a gentleman in Toronto named McColl urging Laurier to get things moving on King’s behalf. King made it clear a certain gentleman in New York (Rockefeller) might be able to do a great work of post-war reconstruction in Canada if local prejudices could be dealt with and adjustments made. After receiving this letter, Laurier suddenly warmed toward King. At the convention, King triumphed.
King’s warm relationship with Rockefeller, Jr., David Rockefeller’s father, continued throughout his long years in office. By the time he died in 1952, Mackenzie King, who had started public life as a poor man, had squirrelled away a fortune of $750,000. A significant portion had come from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., starting with the huge salary King received from the Rockefeller Foundation during World War I. A month after Mackenzie King retired from office in 1948, on the occasion of his seventy-fourth birthday, Rockefeller gave him the then huge sum of $100,000 to allow him to be comfortable in his retirement. The Rockefeller Foundation paid a further large sum to support the work of drafting King’s memoirs.
By 1947, when these arrangements were likely being considered, legal advice on much of the Rockefeller family’s business and philanthropy was provided through the firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley, and McCloy in New York. John J. McCloy was a new partner in the firm but an old friend of the Rockefellers and their colleagues. By 1947, McCloy had also become a leading figure in the post-war U.S. business/military/intelligence establishment. He had helped set up the World Bank and had been its first president. He provided advice to President Truman on the creation of the CIA. Soon he would become chairman of the Chase Bank (he trained David Rockefeller to take that job later).
The Rockefellers took a long view of things, a global view, commensurate with the reach of their interests. According to McCloy’s biographer Kai Bird as detailed in The Chairman, after Hitler invaded the Sudetenland in 1938, McCloy—who had had considerable experience of Germany and German sabotage in World War I—was invited to join the top New York lawyers’ luncheon club Nisi Prius whose most important member was John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s brother-in-law, Winthrop Aldrich, then chairman of the Chase Bank. According to Bird, most members of Nisi Prius were also members of other meeting groups where many believed the U.S. should plan to emerge from the coming global war as the dominant superpower. McCloy was also invited to become a member of the Rockefeller-funded Council on Foreign Relations. The council and the members of the overlapping Century Group also shared these views. The Century Group included in its membership close friends of McCloy’s like James Conant, then president of Harvard University. As the war began in Europe, members of Nisi Prius helped draft the Lend-Lease agreement which swapped British bases in the Americas for U.S. ships. This was conceived as the first step toward this post-war restructuring of global power. Later, McCloy became an assistant to Roosevelt’s secretary of war, Henry Stimson, and stuck his nose into everything. He paid particular attention to control of strategic materials, security, intelligence, the internment of Japanese-Americans in camps, smoothing out the fuss over left-wingers in high places in the army, and in Bill Donovan’s new intelligence and sabotage organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). He also tried very early to set up a practical post-war relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union: the Rockefellers had long dormant oil interests in the Baku area which they had hoped Stalin would permit them to get back. McCloy was with Truman, as part of the American team negotiating the shape of things to come at Potsdam in July 1945: Andrei Gromyko was there with Stalin. It was McCloy who first got the news there that the atomic bomb test at Almagordo had been successful.
It was McCloy’s first task upon joining the New York law firm of Milbank, Tweed after the war to persuade his friends in the Truman administration to curtail a Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into Socal. The issue was whether or not John D. Rockefeller, Jr., owned more shares of Socal than he was allowed to under the 1911 Anti-Trust ruling and whether he influenced Socal’s board. Bird said Rockefeller did own more than 5 per cent and did influence the board. Nevertheless, McCloy convinced the SEC that all was well. At this time, he also served on a presidential commission to respond to the Soviet proposal that the United Nations control future atomic development. The Soviet Union did not yet have its own bomb, but McCloy’s commission recommended that the U.S. relinquish control over the atomic bomb and information about where uranium might be and hand this to a U.N. Atomic Development Agency. The idea of such a supranational agency with such power led inexorably to the idea of world governance through a congerie of international institutions. This larger vision was also shared by some members of the Rockefeller-supported Council on Foreign Relations. David Rockefeller took an active interest in the council at that time. Norman Cousins, Elizabeth May’s relative by marriage, became a leading advocate of this policy.
According to Bird, in these early days of the Cold War, the FBI labelled McCloy and others as members of a huge communist spy ring. These allegations did not stick: McCloy was appointed as the U.S. high commissioner to Germany. In that position, he presided over many U.S. covert intelligence and political influence operations aimed both at Eastern Europe and at the democracies of Western Europe. This was the period when the U.S. paid millions to influence the results of elections in Italy and France to deny communists electoral victories. This was also the period of the great turnaround in the treatment of German and Japanese war criminals. In order to rely on Germany’s industrial strength to meet the challenge created by the Korean War, McCloy released Nazi industrialists like Krupp from prison and helped forge the U.S. policy that former Nazis be trusted to hold the line against the Soviets. The CIA carried out a similar policy in Japan—where war criminals like Ryoichi Sasakawa and his former associate Kodama were released from prison. They eventually helped form and finance the right wing LDP party, which ran Japan for the next forty years. The CIA funded the LDP until it became self-financing.
These policies should have created a furore at home but the Rockefellers and McCoy understood the importance in politics of controlling the shape of public discussion. McCloy sat on the boards of both the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, which provided funds for thinkers, writers, scientists. Certain political thinkers of the right ideological hue, such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, later rose to prominence through these circles and became advisers to U.S. presidents. McCloy and his colleagues at Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation also had huge funds at their disposal to finance NGOs doing appropriate work in shaping public debate. Many such organizations were funded: McCloy went on many of their boards. The Aspen Institute is a place where such debate occurs; in 1992, it had on its board of trustees a person from the law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley, and McCloy. Maurice Strong is a trustee emeritus.
According to Bird, after he became chairman of the Chase Bank in January 1952, McCloy also allowed the Chase to be used to move funds abroad for CIA operatives. When McCloy acted as a member of the Rockefeller Foundation’s board and sat as chairman of the Ford Foundation, there was regular communication between the leadership of the Ford Foundation and the leadership of the CIA. This communication was channelled through McCloy and two others. In the late 1950s more niceties were attached to this relationship at Ford. The Ford Foundation circulated to the agency the names of persons it had funded abroad only after their grants ran out. This practice spread to other charitable foundations.
Through these and other means, McCloy and his group, acting for the U.S. government some days, and for clients like the Rockefellers on others, acting sometimes with the CIA and sometimes through other philanthropies and other NGOs, set the parameters of reasonable political discourse both at home and abroad.
When Maurice Strong met David Rockefeller in 1947, he wasn’t just meeting a rich man’s grandson: he was being introduced into an expanding post-war empire as it was being made by those leading the work, an empire that had long included the prime minister of Canada who was about to retire.
Strong started work at the U.N., preparing accreditation cards and passes, on September 15, 1947. He met lots of famous people. Paul Martin saw him there. Strong met Andrei Gromyko, who made the speech for the Soviet Union in favour of creation of the state of Israel. When the U.N. commission recommended that Palestine be split into the state of Israel, Gaza, and Jordan, it was a green light for joint venture oil partners like Socal and the Texas Company, which had exclusive oil concessions in Saudi Arabia. Socal and the Texas Company together owned a joint venture called CalTex which had paid the Saudi king, through his adviser, Kim Philby’s father, a lot of money for these rights. Soon after the commission’s report, McCollFrontenac’s stock split two for one. It revealed itself later as a company controlled by the Texas Company and announced it would bring the first shipments of oil to Canada from the Middle East.
Two months after he arrived at the U.N., Strong quit, went back to Winnipeg, joined the RCAF, scrubbed out, and then became a trainee analyst at the brokerage firm of James Richardson and Sons. After oil was struck at Leduc, he became an oils analyst in Calgary. There he met Jack Gallagher who’d spent twelve years working for Standard Oil of New Jersey and its Canadian subsidiary, Imperial Oil. Gallagher had just been hired by Dome Mines to build an oil and gas exploration company called Dome Explorations (Western) Limited. Dome Mines was controlled from New York. Henrie Brunie, a close friend of John J. McCloy, was on its board. Dome Explorations raised $7 million through a syndicate led by New York investment banker John Loeb of Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb (soon to be Edgar Bronfman’s father-in-law). Investors included Harvard University’s endowment fund and the New York-based Empire Trust, managed by McCloy’s friend Henrie Brunie.6 Dome Exploration became one of the largest so-called independent oil exploration companies in Canada—but its controlling shareholders were embed-ded deep in Wall Street with ties to the family who started Standard Oil. By 1951, Strong had married, bought a house, and gone to work at Dome as Gallagher’s assistant. In Gallagher’s memory, Strong was no genius: his most important characteristic was that he had a flexible mind.
In 1952, Strong sold his new house, quit his new job, and travelled with his new wife around the world. His friends thought he must have made a fortune because prairie people, seared by the Depression, often could not bring themselves to walk away from any job. His friends knew he revelled in finding multiple virtues and uses for every course of action he took. Nothing was done for its own sake. So what, one wonders, were the multiple utilities to be found in these travels? It was a difficult time to wander. The Korean War was on and J. Edgar Hoover’s tool, Senator Joseph McCarthy, was attacking the CIA as an institution crawling with communists. Nonetheless, the poor boy from Manitoba set out with his wife.
They were in Paris when Joseph Stalin died. They took a ship from Genoa headed for South Africa but got off instead at the port of Mombasa, Kenya, as the Mau Mau revolt was at its peak. The Cold War had by then become the central fact of life for the world. By the late summer of 1953, according to Bird,7
The Eisenhower Administration had made covert action a major pillar of its foreign policy. Eisenhower himself felt that covert operations were “just about the only way to win World War III without having to fight it.” He rejected the notion previously endorsed by the 1952 Republican convention of “rolling back” Soviet control of Eastern Europe. This was impractical and might lead to general warfare. But he, like McCloy, believed that there were many things that could be done on a covert level that might greatly diminish Soviet influence over the period of a decade or more. So, in the spring of 1953, he authorized a major review of the country’s Cold War strategy in a series of seminars codenamed Project Solarium. The resulting study urged the president to prosecute an “intensified cold war covertly using a national program of deception and concealment from public disclosure and Soviet discernment.”
The CIA had $200 million a year to spend on spreading democratic influence and trashing things communist. CIA operatives and freelancers were used, sometimes former employees who had returned to private business abroad but still did the CIA’s bidding. The tools of covert war were both public and hidden: they included the written word, images, business assets, payments to heads of state and their political opponents, and support for organizations like student groups and trade unions. Money could buy influence anywhere on the po-litical compass, and all at once. ‘The point was to have certainty.
When Strong arrived in Africa, the pre- and post-war colonial governance structures were crumbling and there was a struggle for power and market share among the major oil companies—British, French, and American. They were like bridgeheads for their governments. David Rockefeller was active in Africa: the Rockefellers had made a decision to do business with South Africa in spite of Apartheid, so that meant they had fences to mend among new African leaders as they searched for business opportunities in newly emerging national states on the continent. Often the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a family philanthropy run by the children of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was used to pave the way. In Nairobi, Strong got a job with CalTex, the joint venture between the Texas Company and Socal to exploit Saudi oil. His job involved travel. He went to Eritrea, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Uganda, Mauritius, Madagascar, Zaire, a roll-call of places soon to be embroiled in the gilt-edged tyrannies of the Cold War. He stayed in Africa for a year. Then he and his wife hopped freighters home, passing through India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Hong Kong, the Philippines until they arrived back in Calgary in December 1954.
Strong then tried to get a job in the Department of External Affairs: he was told he couldn’t even apply without a university degree. So, he said, he decided to use business as a platform, a means to power, He never explained to me what he wanted this power for: it just hung in the steamy Geneva air that he wanted it to pursue the General Good.
He seems to have understood early that power is augmented by influence spread throughout a number of networks. He moved rap-idly into three. He not only went back to work at Dome, he also volunteered at the YMCA very quickly after his return, and by 1956 he was already so close to the federal Liberal Party, in the person of federal cabinet minister Paul Martin, that Martin regularly visited Strong’s house when he was in Calgary: Martin was then getting ready to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party.
The YMCA had a worldwide network that crossed Cold War barriers. It was one of the few Western organizations that maintained its facilities in Eastern Europe and mainland China. Strong managed to attend the Y’s 100th anniversary in Paris in the summer of 1955, though he’d only been back in Canada for six months and was a brand new Y volunteer. He detoured to Geneva and introduced himself to his very distant American cousin Robbins Strong. Robbins Strong, like his aunt, Marxist journalist Anna Louise Strong, had spent some of the war years in China. The Y had just appointed him the professional secretary of its extension and intermovement aid division which divvied up government and private money for aid projects. These monies were moved discreetly around the world by the Protestant-owned Swiss banks of Geneva. Leonard Hentsch of the private bank Hentsch et Cie. was the division’s treasurer that year. Strong met Hentsch, too, and they became friends—later partners. Strong told Robbins that he wanted to travel the world as a Y professional based out of Lausanne, that he could work without salary for a year. The Y said no. But Strong found reasons to go back to Switzerland anyway. In due course, the two Strongs formed what Robbins referred to as “a cabal” to reduce U.S. dominance of the Y’s international system. As Robbins saw it, there were problems with the International Committee of the U.S.A. and Canada, which raised funds for work abroad. By 1958, at twenty-nine, Maurice Strong had got himself appointed to that committee and went regularly to New York.
The next year, a worldwide oil glut caused the major oil companies to drop the price they paid at the wellhead for oil, which led to the formation of the OPEC producer’s cartel. Strong picked this time to leave Dome and form his own company, MF Strong Management. Empire Trust, run by McCloy’s friend Brunie, with two reps on its board from Standard Oil of New Jersey and one from Texaco, had a business problem Strong was allowed to fix in Edmonton. Ajax Petroleum, one of their “independent” oil companies, had signed an unfortunate contract. If Strong could get Ajax out of this contract with Imperial Oil, he was promised equity in the company. By 1960 Strong was an equity holder in Ajax, and that summer Paul Martin’s son, Paul Martin, Jr., came out to work for Strong during his vacation from university.
After the election of John F. Kennedy and the disaster of the CIA planned invasion of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, Cold War tensions heightened. The Rockefellers and their friends were pushing for a test ban treaty and a rapprochement with the U.S.S.R., as well as European union beginning with the Economic Community. Allen Dulles was dropped as the head of the CIA, and John McCone, on the board of Socal, was appointed the new director of the CIA. (“Did you know McCone?” I asked Strong, at one point in our conversations. “McCone?” he asked. “I knew McCloy,” he corrected.) Kennedy had appointed the Rockefellers’ lawyer John J. McCloy his disarmament commissioner. McCloy held negotiations in Geneva with the U.S.S.R. McCloy tried to inch the U.S. back towards the idea of an international body responsible for global arms policy.
By 1961, Strong had been appointed chair of Robbins Strong’s international division at the Y, which gave Strong a reason to rent a house outside Geneva. Paul Martin, Jr., came to visit Strong there and observe the beginnings of European unification, something strongly supported by the people at the Council on Foreign Relations. That same year, Strong also met Harold Rea, the new president of the Canadian YMCA and a man who ran an oil company controlled by Power Corporation in Montreal. Rea was looking for a new president for Power Corporation.
Power Corporation was a network nodal point for Canadian politicians and their arrangements. It had been put together in 1925, when Mackenzie King was prime minister, to control the ownership of power generation facilities across the country, specifically in Quebec, Manitoba, and British Columbia. Like a junior Octopus, it also held control blocks in many other oil and gas companies. Former and future politicians and political back room boys worked on the staff or served on the board. Control of Power had been in the hands of Peter Thomson, Sr., head of the Montreal brokerage firm Nesbitt Thomson (the same company that had appeared to control McColl Frontenac when it was actually controlled by the Texas Company). Power Corporation shares were publicly traded, but voting control rested in a block of special preferred shares each of which carried multiple votes. These preferred shares had just passed to Peter N. Thomson, Jr., upon the death of his father. He was only a year older than Maurice Strong but already a bagman of some note. He was then the treasurer of the Liberal Party of Quebec, which had just edged out the corrupt Union Nationale machine in a tight election.
Power Corporation had for years made many perfectly legal arrangements for men active in public life. It was easy to be legal. Canada then had no pesky rules to control campaign expenditures, no rules to force disclosure of campaign contributions and few to forbid certain supportive measures a politician might choose to take before, during, and after public life. (If Prime Minister Mackenzie King could have his trust fund filled by his business friends while he was in office and take a large gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., then why shouldn’t everyone else?) As John J. McCloy would point out when he later investigated for Gulf Oil Corporation its political payments to politicians abroad, Gulf Canada alone had paid $13 million to Canadian politicians between 1961 and 1973.8 Power Corporation employed and still employs persons who organize the campaigns of those seeking public office. Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s chief leadership aide and the architect of his election victory in 1993, John Rae (Ontario Premier Bob Rae’s brother), is an executive and director at Power Corporation.
In 1961, the governments of Quebec, Manitoba, and British Columbia announced their intentions to expropriate the hydroelectric companies in their provinces controlled by Power Corporation. Power would thus have much cash at its disposal. Peter N. Thomson, Jr., did not wish to run the company. Rea, the head of the search committee, told Strong the company needed a president who could get along with the “dissolute” Thomson and yet not be taken over by him and his friends. Strong was taken on as executive vice-president, but he was also permitted to continue running the Alberta gas company, Ajax, eventually renamed Norcen. Strong carefully presented no threat to Peter N. Thomson, Jr. According to one of Strong’s friends, Thomson “had an office you could golf in, while Maurice’s was so small you couldn’t swing a cat in it.”
In June 1962, just as Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservative federal government was reduced to a minority and nationalism exploded in Quebec, Maurice Strong arrived in Montreal as a senior executive of one of the most important companies in the country. He was also a player in the international YMCA network and in the Liberal Party. He described the particular virtues of running Power Corporation. “We controlled many companies, controlled political budgets. We influenced a lot of appointments. … Politicians got to know you and you them.”
He recruited to Power more young men interested in business and politics many of whom had attended Harvard, the intellectual corn- munity he had ties to. He hired James D. Wolfensohn (Harvard MBA) to run the new Australian-based subsidiary called SuperPower International. Wolfensohn went on to a brilliant career on Wall Street, and then created his own firm, James D. Wolfensohn Co., which is presided over by Paul Volker. Strong hired William Turner (Harvard MBA), who followed Strong as president of Power Corporation and crafted the merger of two pulp and paper giants into Consolidated-Bathurst. Strong hired Paul Martin, Jr., who later managed that investment.
After Lester Pearson’s Liberal government came to power in April 1963, Power funded think tanks to make public platforms to sell the political agenda of the new government. Jim Coutts, Pearson’s principal secretary, introduced Strong to Finance Minister Walter Gordon, then proposing a Canadian development corporation to help Canadian companies compete globally. Strong gave speeches in support. Power Corporation’s meetings at Mont Tremblant became semi-public stages to test market the not-yet-widely-known but politically interested, such as Pierre Trudeau (London School of Economics and Harvard).
Strong also began to influence Canadian foreign policy. As part of the thaw after the Cuban missile crisis the Rockefeller interests were pushing for, he led a Canadian YMCA group to the Soviet Union and brought Soviet youth officials back to Canada. In the summer of 1964, while Strong helped Prime Minister Pearson with the creation of the Company of Young Canadians, he also started to criticize the tiny department of External Aid. Fostering Third World development and U.S. business through foreign aid was also part of the Rockefeller agenda. The director general of External Aid reported to the Honourable Paul Martin, Strong’s old friend and Pearson’s minister of External Affairs.
The first entry for Maurice Strong on David Rockefeller’s legendary card index of important contacts indicates that Strong, as the new president of Power Corporation, attended a Chase investment seminar in Montreal in 1965. That was the year Pierre Trudeau, Gerard Pelletier, and Jean Marchand were elected as federalists from Quebec to change the facts of francophone life in Canada. That was also the year Strong renewed his business acquaintance with Paul Nathanson, Paul Martin’s friend and backer, on the occasion of Paul Martin, Jr.’s, wedding in Windsor. Strong and Nathanson had done business in Calgary in the 1950s and proceeded to do business together again through Power Corporation and in other private ventures. Among the things they tried but failed to do was to set up a third Canadian television network controlled by Power Corporation. Strong also introduced Nathanson to his friend John Wanamaker, then working for Sam Bronfman’s children’s investment vehicle, CEMP.
Soon all these parties were interconnected to each other in so many triangles it was hard to tell where one left off and the other began. Power, Nathanson, and CEMP all tried to take over National General Cinema in the U.S. At the same time, Wanamaker took on the management of External Affairs Minister Paul Martin’s investment portfolio. Martin had already come to own through Nathanson three movie theatres in western Canada, which he leased out in management deals to Paramount Pictures. CEMP tried to buy Paramount Pictures. Paul Martin, Jr., (Harvard Law) then went to work at Power Corporation. Soon the job of director general of external aid opened up: someone, it can’t be recalled who, told Prime Minister Pearson that Maurice Strong was just the man for the job. In June 1966, Strong left Power Corporation to become the director general of external aid, reporting to the minister of external affairs, Paul Martin. Once again, Paul Martin was planning to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party.
Much astonishment was registered in print: why would a man at the top of the business world want to work as an assistant deputy minister for the government of Canada at a piddling salary? Grossly inflated accounts of Strong’s salary at Power were published at this time. The same month he joined External Aid, he also became president of the YMCA of Canada. While working for the federal government in charge of Canada’s foreign aid program, he also pulled the Canadian Y out of its special relationship with the U.S. on the International Committee.
It was a very significant time for Strong to join the top ranks at External Affairs. That was the year External Affairs Minister Paul Martin, at the urging of new M.P.s Pierre Trudeau and Donald MacDonald, moved at the U.N. that it admit both Peking and Taiwan. This had the flavour of a triangular transaction with the Chinese. The Chinese had just entered the turbulent Cultural Revolution: their operatives and networks were being rolled up in Africa. Canada had problems of its own in French Africa. The Liberal cabinet was concerned about Gaullism in France and the role France might play stirring the nationalist pot in Quebec. Letter bombs had begun to explode in mailboxes. There was fear in cabinet that France might entice its former colonial governments in Africa, over which it still wielded great influence, to proffer Quebec a de facto sovereign recognition. There were no Canadian embassies in French Africa. Sharp elbows were needed in back channels. Perhaps African nationalists could be encouraged to avoid contact with their Quebec counterparts?
The committee of cabinet dealing with these issues wanted a flexible fix, something that would soothe Quebec while taking the offensive against foreign manipulation. A layered solution was found. Both could be done through development aid programs for France’s former African colonies. Interestingly, the use of aid in this fashion fit with American policy, which in turn fit in with development policies Nelson Rockefeller had been advocating since the end of World War II. As Rockefeller used to say, it was hard to get rubber out of the Amazon for the Allies from people who were too hungry or sick to work. By 1962, the U.S. had also begun to use the new USAID to back nationalist movements abroad to counter communists.
Strong, as the new director general of external aid, lunched frequently with Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who decided to send his new parliamentary secretary, Pierre Trudeau, to Africa to scout possibilities. Trudeau had last visited China in 1960 and had been a traveller in the Soviet Union in 1951. He knew his way around. Trudeau’s report led to a larger mission headed by Lionel Chevrier, whose orders were to get out there and say yes to whatever French African leaders wanted. Chevrier returned with proposals from Morocco, Tunisia, Cameroon, and others.
It fell to Strong to arrange delivery. Since he had almost no staff at External Aid, he made a deal with SNC (now SNC-Lavalin), a Quebec-based engineering company, to offer “technical facilities” to External Aid in Africa. The terms were simple. SNC would act as overall contractor but was not permitted to bid on any of the individual aid contracts let by the government (other companies in Quebec did that). SNC was also required to hire for the field anyone Maurice Strong wanted hired and no one Strong didn’t approve of. (One of those hired later became Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. and also ran Petro-Canada International for ten years.) One of the most successful projects was the construction of a series of microwave towers across northern Africa. These towers permitted African countries to phone each other directly instead of running their communications through France (where they could be listened to).
These odd arrangements between External Aid and SNC were the root for the government agency CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, which Strong created in 1968 to replace External Aid. Before Strong had even finished the legislative frame-work for CIDA, Prime Minister Pearson, planning to retire, also dreamed up the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a similar organization to CIDA but more loosely tied to the government. IDRC had a clause in its enabling legislation that allowed it to give money directly to individuals as well as to governments and private organizations. It was set up as a corporation, reporting to Parliament through the minister of external affairs. Its board of governors was designed to include private and even foreign persons. Like a company union, it was a device of the federal government, but it wasn’t actually a part of the government—it can best be described as a governmental organization privatized—a GOP. This legal structure was an inspired way to extend government influence into the private domain, and vice versa, without attracting attention. Since IDRC was not created as an agent of the Crown (as CIDA is), it was able to receive charitable donations from corporations and individuals as well as government funds. By 1976 it was able to issue charitable tax receipts. Strong became its chairman—in October 1970.
By the time Strong got to the part in his story about how he used SNC as a private front for federal government skullduggery in Africa and Quebec it was Saturday afternoon. He had invited me over to his rented house in Aniers, a village outside Geneva. His house was a plain modern box with French doors opening onto a nice rolling lawn. We sat in his living room. He appeared relaxed. His second wife, Hanne Marstrand, drifted around. She showed little interest in this conversation about SNC and CIDA, as if she’d heard it all before, but it was news to me. I found myself sitting bolt upright. His meaning was quite clear. He had helped create a federally funded but semi-private intelligence/influence network that could have impacts both in Canada and abroad. He later confirmed this interpretation, although he said he had never described it that way before. I was shocked. It had never been acknowledged that Canada had a foreign intelligence or influence capacity outside its embassies. Yet Stong was telling me that he had created one out of virtually nothing. There was no reason to suppose that this network wasn’t still miming through CIDA and its cousin IDRC: I had reason to believe it was.
It seemed to me that Strong and the federal cabinet got away with this semi-private intelligence/influence system because he’d hidden what he was doing in plain sight. ODA, the successor organization to External Aid, made regular reports to Parliament and was audited by the auditor general. It was frequently excoriated for the absurd wastes of its tied-aid practices. CIDA may well be wasteful, but that is surely part of the point of the arrangement. Strong ran federal funds through a Quebec-based engineering company, which gave that group bankability and yet tied it to the federal power. Other Quebec companies also got a large cut of federal largesse through tied-aid programs, meaning the aid recipient had to purchase Canadian prod-ucts and services. Meanwhile, Strong’s hand-picked people in Africa got private companies to hide behind. While the public works done abroad may not have given much benefit to the poor, they made foreign political actors happy. As Paul Palango would later suggest in his book, Above the Law, some Quebec political leaders were made happy too because they got a cut from these contracts as campaign contributions. Maurice Strong got information and could exert influence.
This whole layered arrangement was also useful to more parties than the government of Canada. Who? Any group with heavy levels of investment or loans outstanding in Quebec who required continued political stability there—parties like the Chase Manhattan Bank, like Empire Trust, which had just merged to become the Bank of New York, like the M.A. Hanna Company. Only four years earlier, M.A. Hanna Company had helped organize a coup to preserve interests in Brazil. Canada and Canadian investments were at least as important to M.A. Hanna as those interests in Brazil.
In 1968, Pierre Trudeau (a man featured at Power Corporation think tanks) defeated Paul Martin (whose son Paul Martin, Jr., had taken leave from Power Corporation to work on his campaign) and Robert Winters (a Power Corporation board member) to become leader of the federal Liberal Party. Strong arranged to be out of the country so he wouldn’t have to choose publicly among these powerful men at the convention. In June, Trudeau won a landslide election preaching about the Just Society and participatory democracy.
In July, after Trudeau became prime minister, Strong got in touch with both the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. He now reported to Mitchell Sharp, Trudeau’s minister of external affairs. Sharp had been a trade bureaucrat under C.D. Howe and a senior executive of Brascan. He was a continentalist in trade matters. Strong indicated his willingness to co-operate with Rockefeller and Ford and offered to put his special people in touch with their counterparts at Rockefeller Foundation. He had promised them CIDA funds for a project to join together the Rockefeller and Ford-funded international agricultural research centres in the Philippines, Nigeria, and other countries. However, after a conference of donors in Italy in 1969, Strong wrote the Rockefeller Foundation to say that for certain political reasons related to wheat, CIDA was unable to deliver the money he’d promised. According to a letter about a phone conversation between an officer of CIDA and an officer of the Ford Foundation, sent on to the Rockefeller Foundation, Strong promised to make up the difference through the brand new IDRC’s budget. IDRC offered real advantages as far as Ford and Rockefeller were concerned. It could make its grants direct to individuals without going through foreign government agencies.9
That same year, Strong got a call from the Swedish representative at the U.N. The Swedes had pushed a resolution at the U.N. to hold an international conference on the human environment at Stockholm. Strong said he was asked if he would take over running it. A French person had previously been asked to do it: there were certain difficulties.
Strong’s appointment had always puzzled me. Given his history in the energy business, in which he seemed never to have shown interest in the environment except as something to be used, why him?
Strong explained that when he became active “in the international network,” he was seen to have some influence in developing countries. These developing countries, led by Brazil, were resisting the conference. As Senador Passarinho had explained, nationalists in the Brazilian military were convinced this U.N. environment conference was part of a plot to grab Brazilian resources. The Swedes thought Strong could deal with Brazil.
It took a while for Strong to get Trudeau’s permission to take this appointment. Why? Strong said he was busy “recruiting” people for Trudeau. What did he mean by recruiting? He would suggest people for government positions, and mostly Trudeau would taken them on. Strong recruited Jack Austin as Trudeau’s deputy minister of what became Energy Mines and Resources, for example. While finishing these tasks, he hired Jim Coutts, Pearson’s former appointments secretary, to get things going in New York on the Stockholm Conference.
Strong, a federal civil servant, had certain private investments to take care of too. He had been involved throughout his tenure in government in real estate in Toronto through a company called Plural Properties (with Paul Nathanson) and another called M.N.S. Investments, which was one-third owned by former External Affairs Minister Paul Martin, one-third by Nathanson and one-third by Strong. These companies had just taken over and reorganized a Toronto real estate company, renamed Y and R Properties. Ken Rotenberg continued to run the new venture. Strong put CIDA’s new director general of special advisers, John Gustave Bene, a war-time Czech immigrant to Canada, on Y and R’s board. Strong had recruited Bene to manage the special people he’d hired through SNC as they continued their work at CIDA. (Bene later did a similar job at IDRC.) In January 1969, Y and R went public. In the spring of 1969, Paul Martin, now a senator, became Liberal House Leader in the Senate, which made him a member of the government. Strong, Martin, and Nathanson sold some of their Y and R shares at this time.
Strong went to New York both as an undersecretary general of the U.N. reporting to U Thant and as the secretary general of the Stockholm Conference. Plaudits rained upon him: the New Yorker said he might save the world. He was made a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1971—a position he retained until 1977. The Rockefeller Foundation made a grant for the running of his Stockholm Conference office. He became a member of the Century Club and the Yale Club. He was handed the writing services of Barbara Ward, a British political theorist who promoted the virtues of the one-party states of Africa, and of Rent Dubos, a French ecologist who’d spent his life working at Rockefeller University.
Around this time, and partly to service the Stockholm Conference, the government of Canada began its practice of funding NGOs. Previously treated as private organizations, charities and other groups opened themselves to the money and policies of the federal government—becoming, in effect, PGOs, private government organizations, while calling themselves NGOs, nongovernmental organizations. It began with Opportunities for Youth grants, then spread through the larger Local Initiatives program. Canada put together a participatory task force to involve various Canadian environment groups and business representatives in its delegation to Stockholm. Strong’s former protégé William Turner,10 by then president of Power Corporation, went to the Stockholm Conference as an NGO concerned with transportation. Why not? Power Corporation owned Canada Steamship Lines. Shipping owners were worried that there would be a convention signed at Stockholm to require the transport of oil in double-hulled ships. This is when Strong first demonstrated that the phrase NGO could be applied, like a democratic varnish, to dignify any group. This rubric could be applied to private organizations funded by government (PG0s); government organizations privatized (GOPs); three people meeting in a basement; or a highly organized business lobby. By calling them all NGOs, he dignified them as the vox populi.
The Stockholm Conference may also have served as a cover for certain triangular reconfigurations of the global power map. In 1969, as Strong was invited to put the conference together, Canada and China also began to negotiate in secret at Stockholm the resumption of their diplomatic relations. This move also fit with the Rockefeller view of global affairs. In 1968, while running for the Republican presidential nomination, Nelson Rockefeller had argued publicly that the U.S. should open discussions with China. One of Richard Nixon’s first acts as president in 1969 was to order his new national security adviser, Henry Kissinger (a man who had risen to prominence through the Council on Foreign Relations and who was paid a $50,000 tip when he left the Rockefellers’ service to work for Nixon), to get secret talks going with the Chinese. The People’s Republic of China agreed to come to the Stockholm Conference as their first appearance at a U.N. function since the 1949 Revolution. When Strong went to China for discussions, the Chinese took him to see Anna Louise Strong’s grave.
Strong found there was real scope at the U.N. for anyone with his skills. He could raise his own money from whomever he liked, appoint anyone he wanted, control the agenda. He told me he had more unfettered power than a cabinet minister in Ottawa. He was right: no voters had put him in office, he didn’t have to run for re-election, yet he could profoundly affect many lives.
Just as he had done at Power Corporation, he used the U.N. as a public platform from which to promote certain ideas. Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos co-wrote Only One Earth, a paean to the idea of globalism. They published it themselves and stuck a U.N. logo on it. Dr. Carroll Wilson of the Sloan School of Business (later the holder of the Mitsubishi chair at the school) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sent his protégé Bill Matthews, a systems analyst, to Strong. He also organized think tanks for Strong at MIT. Established conservation groups like the Sierra Club developed new international committees, as did Friends of the Earth, then a brand new organization.
As the Stockholm Conference opened in 1972, Strong warned urgently about the onset of global warming, the devastation of forests, the loss of biodiversity, the polluted oceans, and the population time bomb. He suggested a tax on the movement of every barrel of oil and the use of these funds to create a large U.N. bureaucracy to blow the whistle on pollution wherever it was found. As I read this old speech, I realized it could almost be repeated at the Rio Summit. How could the same issues be on the table twenty years later? A Greenpeace document, circulating before Rio, alleged that the Stockholm Conference was a failure because of what was not discussed. Certainly for some the limited discussions constituted failure. For other interests, they constituted success.
After Stockholm, some Western countries followed the U.S. lead and set up new departments of the environment and passed laws and regulations. Environment issues became part of various national governments’ administrative frameworks. The public process of environmental impact assessments in the U.S. became identified in the public mind with a new meaning of democracy—the right of affected parties to group together and be heard before public land use decisions are made.
The other by-product of the conference was the creation of a new U.N. bureaucracy, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Like so many of the organizations Strong has made, this one too had multiple uses. In 1974, UNEP rose out of the undeveloped soil of Nairobi, Kenya, Strong’s old stomping ground. Placing UNEP in Africa was explained as a sop to the developing countries, who had been suspicious of Western intentions. But it was also useful for the big powers to have another international organization in Nairobi. After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Nairobi became the key spy capital of Africa. Strong became UNEP’s first executive director.
Right after the Yom Kippur War, OPEC raised prices 70 per cent and placed an embargo on those states that had sided with Israel. Aramco, the consortium extracting Saudi oil, enforced it: the m?, oil companies claimed that they weren’t behaving as a cartel by choice–foreign governments made them do it, When supply was curtailed by major oil companies to the eastern half of Canada at the beginning of the winter, to alleviate public concern and suspicion of oil company motives, Pierre Trudeau’s minority government announced its intent to create a national oil company. Stories then appeared in various newspapers describing certain financial arrangements among Liberals in office. It was a bad time for political leaders to be seen to have had help from corporate interests. The Watergate hearings, which delved hard into relations between corporations and the campaign to re-elect Richard Nixon, had an avid television audience.
The newspapers pointed out that Paul Martin (Trudeau’s leader in the Senate), Jack Austin (Trudeau’s principal secretary), Bill Teron (head of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation), Paul Martin, Jr., (still associated with Power Corporation), and Maurice Strong all had private as well as public business links. In addition to Power Corporation, the companies named were Nellmart, a Martin family company, and M.N.S. Investments, which had since merged with St. Maurice Gas and been renamed Commerce Capital Corporation. Martin’s supporters said his assets were handled by others. Jack Austin said there was no conflict between his job with the prime minister and his investments in financial services. There were certainly no rules forbidding such relations, but the Liberal minority government moved fast to create conflict-of-interest guidelines, which included strictures against even the appearance of a conflict by ministers, deputy ministers, and order-in-council appointees—unless permission had been given by a direct superior. Outside directorships or active management of any commercial ventures were forbidden. Great care was urged on those who took part in non-profit activities too. Nevertheless, when the time came to actually create Petro-Canada in the fall of 1975, Jack Austin was still too politically radioactive to get the job. Maurice Strong, on the other hand, had been mainly out of the country for five years. He was a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation. He had just been given an award by the Mellon Foundation, a philanthropy of the family that started Gulf Oil. Some also thought Strong had the ambition to lead a political party. On January 1, 1976, Strong became the first chairman and CEO of Petro-Canada. He also returned to the chair of the IDRC.
Strong launched Petro-Canada with four recruits. The president was Wilbert Hopper from the federal department of Energy Mines and Resources. (Hopper’s brother David had been a Rockefeller Foundation economist before he was made president of IDRC. By 1993 he too was on the Rockefeller Foundation board of trustees.) Strong hired John Ralston Saul, a Canadian expert on the French military/industrial complex, after he was introduced to him by a former protégé of S.G. Warburg, New York banker David Mitchell. Joel Bell, a Montreal lawyer who worked for the prime minister, was hired too. They bought oil companies from a Calgary hotel room. The first was the Canadian subsidiary of Arco. Strong was friendly with the head of Arco, Robert 0. Anderson. Arco and Exxon were partners on the Alyeska oil pipeline: Arco had struck oil and gas in the Arctic back in 1968. “Bought it over breakfast,” Strong said.
Within a month of startup, Strong hired Doug Bowie, a Mormon who’d done his missionary stint in France and then worked as a political aide to Liberal cabinet ministers Gerard Pelletier and Hugh Faulkner. Bowie became vice-president/environment reporting direct to Strong, no intermediaries. Bowie’s first task was to look out for the social and environmental impacts of Petro-Canada projects in Canada’s north and abroad. He then taught other government-owned oil companies how to deal with their native peoples. Bowie found Petro-Canada was able to go places U.S.-owned private oil giants could not easily enter—such as the disputed area in the sea between Vietnam and China.
In spite of the new conflict-of-interest guidelines, Strong quickly braided layer on layer of public and private interests. He remained for a time both a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, chair of the IDRC, and chair of Petro-Canada. The last two were order-in-council appointments covered by the conflict guidelines. He also set up a number of new private business ventures. Strong did these deals so publicly and with such vigour that they must have been designed to feed public policy or he must have had political permission. In February 1976, a month after he started work as chairman of Petro-Canada, he contacted Bill Holt, an accountant introduced to him by a former Empire Trust executive in 1971. Strong invited Holt to manage his continuing partnership with Paul Nathanson. A new entity called Stronat was registered in Alberta in April 1976. The first deal Strong asked Holt to manage was to purchase the control block ire Commerce Capital Corporation, an entity that originated as M.N.S. Investments, owned by Strong, Nathanson, and Senator Paul Martin. Holt arranged a Royal Bank loan, closed the $10-million deal in ten days, and then Stronat resold the control block immediately. Stronat then joined with Ken Rotenberg of Y and R Properties in Toronto to create the Rostland Corporation. Holt and Strong sat on Rostland Corporation’s board.”
These arrangements were made in the context of a surge in nationalist popularity in Quebec, similar to the situation that had first brought Strong into public life from Power Corporation. In the November 1976 election, the separatist Parti Quebecois defeated the Quebec Liberal government. Looser money began to hemorrhage out of Montreal. Rostland Corporation built the new Sun Life buildings in Toronto (headquarters shifting from Quebec), bought the Arizona Biltrnore Hotel, and did other developments in the U.S.
Political events in Quebec also coincided, again, with a crisis in China. Mao had become enfeebled. A struggle for power raged between the ruling faction, led by Mao’s wife Jian Qing, and a faction led by the trade-oriented Deng Xiaoping. On September 9, 1976, Mao died. For a month, Mao’s concubine held the balance of power and the keys to Mao’s treasury which held his will, his diaries, and certain other precious things. The Chinese leadership, particularly the head of security, had become avid connoisseurs.
Around the same time he organized the purchase of the control block in Commerce Capital Corporation, Bill Holt had also been asked to set up a company first called China Ventures and then SinaCorp with a Toronto marketing expert, Harvey Kalef. The China Travel Agency (owned by the Chinese government) had offered Kalef exclusive rights to distribute products made by China’s state industries. After touring China, he’d decided to purchase such goods and then resell them abroad. An accountant he knew suggested he go and see Maurice Strong, who had both access to capital and a sentimental attachment to China because an aunt of his “had walked with Chairman Mao.” Stronat put up $2 million as SinaCorp’s working capital. Kalef was to manage the project.
In November 1976, about the time of the election in Quebec and during the dangerous power vacuum in China, Kalef’s chartered Japan Airlines 747 took off from China loaded with jade, antiques, rugs, gold jewellery, and furniture and flew to Los Angeles. There Kalef had rented space to sell goods in the new Pacific Design Center. Those things he did not sell he packed on a plane and sent on to Toronto. That same month, Jian Qing was arrested, and the Gang of Four was crushed.
In January, to his surprise, Kalef was told Stronat was closing down the venture, that he was no longer needed. In Strong’s recollection, he closed the business because Stronat lost money: Kalef had bought too much and paid too much. Strong was particularly rueful about a huge supply of gold chains that no one seemed to want. Strong said he had them melted down into gold bars and sold into a rising commodity market.
I later put it to both Kalef and Strong that it appeared to me their venture had to do with someone trying to move their capital out of China in the lull before the storm. No, no, said Kalef, it had been planned months before Mao’s death. Not the case, said Strong, we dealt with state companies and not individuals.
I should have remembered that as usual with Strong, this China venture had extraordinary flexibility. There was a great deal of room for the satisfaction of many interests. For starters, cash went into China, a low value restricted currency zone, and goods moved out-side where they could again be converted into a strong currency. Strong had said Stronat had lost money. That meant those running the state companies in China must have ended up with an extraordinary gain. It is interesting to note that not so long after these events Power Corporation of Montreal began to negotiate with state corporations in China: these early negotiations paved the way for important developments more than a decade later.