Halifax International Security Forum: Making the World Safe for Peter MacKay


The idea for this past weekend’s fourth annual Halifax International Security Forum, Peter MacKay told the Globe and Mail, was born because our defence minister “got a little tired” of traveling to other global security conferences in places like Munich where the discussions were all “Europe-America, Europe-America.”

Voila the Halifax Forum.

MacKay’s “brainchild”—as another media report described it—is a chance for more than 300 of the world’s most self-important politicians, generals, security experts and assorted media celebrity hangers-on (CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, Global’s Tom Clark, CTV’s Kevin Newman, CNN’s Jeanne Meserve) to get together for “two days without distraction to focus on pressing security issues, conduct bilateral meetings, and network.”

To talk, in other words, about Europe-America, Europe-America—but in Halifax.

And thus make the world more safe and secure…

Four years in, we can see how well that’s working out.

But let us pass, for the moment, on the relevant discussion of the real value of these echo-chamber discussions—with subjects like “Mischief or Miscalculation? China and the Rise of Confusion-ism,” “The Good Guys? The Special Burden of Democratic Nations” and “Learning from Israel,” all featuring speakers and listeners of similar hues from a narrow ideological spectrum— and focus instead on the economic optics of the gathering.

Consider first that the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (Peter MacKay, real proprietor), has gifted organizers $3 million a year for the last four years—making it one of the agency’s largest individual funding recipients—so they can stage MacKay’s two-day annual gabfest.

That’s $10,000 per participant, or $125,000 per hour of face time.

And then consider that ACOA’s overall grants—which are supposed to “create opportunities for economic growth in Atlantic Canada by helping businesses become more competitive, innovative and productive”—fell by more than 25 per cent last year. With more Harper-mandated cuts to come.

While the 20 local restaurants where delegates dined at our expense Saturday night—and the downtown bars where they probably “networked” after—are no doubt delighted by their one-day business boost, it is difficult to understand how any of this makes us “more competitive, innovative and productive.”

But then—like making the world more safe and secure—that was never the point.

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