Left, right unite to protest SPP summit in Quebec

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Left, right unite to protest Quebec summit
By Julie Smyth
National Post
Friday, August 17, 2007

OTTAWA — The far right and far left will find common ground next week as representatives from both political spectrums protest the summit between Canadian, American and Mexican leaders in Montebello, Que.

An ultra-conservative U.S. group calling itself the Coalition to Block the North American Union, made up of politicians and activists, as well as singer Pat Boone, will hold a news conference in Ottawa on Monday to oppose the two-day Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting of U.S. President George Bush, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico.

Members of the group also plan on going to the meeting to voice their concerns about what they deem secretive talks. They tried, unsuccessfully, to book rooms at the high-end resort hotel where the meeting is being held under intense security. They will go along in an attempt to engage anyone in discussion about their opposition to the leaders, all of whom share conservative values. The group is to the political right of Mr. Bush.

The coalition will make strange bedfellows with others protesting the summit, including the Green party and the People’s Global Action Bloc, an activist organization that rejects capitalism and all trade agreements.

Howard Phillips, chairman of the U.S. coalition, said in an interview Friday that he will not engage in any violent protests or street demonstrations but is travelling to Canada to find others interested in his cause. He is upset he will not have access to the meeting or the hotel — all protesters will be kept away from the building and grounds but the demonstrations will be videotaped and shown inside the summit meeting.

Mr. Phillips’ group is opposed to a North American union and was against the North American Free Trade Agreement. It is concerned these meetings and agreements detract from each of the country’s ability to achieve national independence and self-determination, he said yesterday. Mr. Phillips, who runs a public policy action group called Conservative Caucus and once worked for government agencies during the Nixon administration, said his other complaint is the “secrecy” of the talks.

He said protesters with opposite political views to his own share his concerns about the loss of independence for countries — and have for years — and he welcomes them all to the battle against next week’s discussions.

“We share many of the concerns that people on the liberal side have on NAFTA, WTO, etc.,” he said in a telephone interview.

In a press release to be released on Monday, he states: “Our message is, ‘President Bush, President Calderon, Prime Minister Harper, tear down the wall of silence and let the people see what you are scheming to do.’ Behind closed doors, step by step, the leaders of Mexico, Canada, and the United States are setting the stage for, first, a North American Community and, ultimately, a North American Union [NAU], in which new transnational bodies would gain authority over our economy, our judiciary, and our lawmaking institutions … Our message is similar to the one which Ronald Reagan delivered to Mikhail Gorbachev when he said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.’ ”

On Monday and Tuesday, the three leaders will be discussing issues around security and the economy, as well as timely matters such as the mass import of products from China following the recent toy recalls. This is an annual summit that began two years ago in Texas. The impetus was to expand NAFTA but that has become less of a focus following public opposition and protests.

Mr. Phillips’ coalition is made up of about 100 U.S. politicians and conservative public policy advocates. Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center and John McManus, president of the John Birch Society, will be at the Ottawa press conference and Congressman Virgil Goode, Jr., the chief sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 40, which opposes the North American union and “NAFTA Superhighway,” will participate through video conference.

Crooner Pat Boone, as well as U.S. Congressmen Ron Paul and Walter Jones will be issuing statements of protest.