Earlier, we reported on Montana public service commissioner Ken Toole's concern about the "undue influence" of "big corporations" who sponsor the Pacific Northwest Economic Region - a council that brings together private and public sector leaders to promote "the economic well-being and quality of life for all citizens of the region." But this isn't the first time private sector involvement in such get-togethers has come under criticism.
The premiers's annual meetings have become controversial for similar reasons. As early as 1996, The Toronto Star's late lamented Dalton Camp wrote, "The premiers of Canada's provinces have been invited to meet in Jasper as guests of the Telus Corporation of Edmonton, Ralph's Bake Shoppe & Dry Cleaners, and Canadian National Railways. Underwriting the itinerant habits of provincial premiers has become the latest corporate cachet; if your company hasn't recently fed, watered and bedded down a premier or two, it's only because they're currently overbooked or perhaps suffering from post-Olympic Freeloaders' Fatigue Syndrome."
"Certainly the premiers' conference at Jasper will be the first of these recurring megabore events to be sponsored by private and semi-private corporations," Mr. Camp continued. "The host premier, Alberta's Ralph Klein, sold the advertisers on the deal, wringing some $150,000 out of such indulgent spendthrifts as Canadian Airlines and Calgary's NOVA Corp."
And while such donations "will please some observers who always are impressed by bargains and inclined to believe premiers are overpriced to start with" Mr. Camp wasn't among then. Nor was the Edmonton Journal's Linda Goyette who wrote, in a similar editorial, that such "corporate sponsorship not only creates an impression of conflict of interest, and undue influence, it is a de facto conflict. It suggests the premiers, and their legislatures, endorse Canadian Airlines over Air Canada, CNR over CPR, Nova Corp. over every other energy company, and TELUS over every other communications company."
But, to this day, the premiers continue to partially fund their annual meetings with corporate sponsorships. Because, after all, this is the "future of governance."