Paul Desmarais Sr. heads powerful web of influence

Interim StaffIn November, National Post columnist Andrew Coyne said “change in the Liberal party means going from one elderly millionnaire lawyer from Quebec with close ties to the Desmarais family to an elderly millionnaire lawyer from Quebec with close ties to the Desmarais family. Before that, we had PM Brian Mulroney, a youthful millionnaire lawyer from Quebec with close ties to the Desmarais family.”

Who is the Desmarais family and, more important, Paul Desmarais Sr., and why does he matter?

A wealthy Canadian businessman and founder of Power Corporation, Desmarais is at the centre of an unusually powerful web of influence in politics. As LifeSite News noted last year, “The number of prime ministers and other elected and influential Canadians financially beholden to the Quebec-based Canadian nationalist is astonishing.” The influence has been noticed before and was apparent to Ottawa Citizen writer Paul Gessell, who wondered in May 2, 1995: “Why does Desmarais have a direct pipeline into every prime minister’s office, regardless of who occupies that post or what party is in power?”

LifeSite noted the intricate web of power in its article last year. Former prime minister Jean Chretien sat on the board of Power Corp. subsidiary Consolidated Bathurst Inc., before becoming leader of the Liberals in 1990. Chretien’s daughter France is married to Paul Desmarais’s son Andre. (Andre Desmarais was involved in Canadian power station projects in China. Later, Chretien personally withdrew Canadian support of a UN condemnation of China’s human rights abuses after Chinese officials threatened to take power station projects away from Canadian firms.) The late Pierre Trudeau used to sit on Power Corporation’s international advisory board, as did former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Paul Volcker, former head of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board.

Michael Pitfield, a top bureaucrat during the Trudeau government, was once vice-chairman of Power Corp and is currently listed as a director emeritus. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney and Desmarais go back to the early 1970s. Desmarais has been described as Mulroney’s mentor. Former Mulroney cabinet minister Don Mazankowski is currently Power’s company director, former Ontario Conservative premiers William Davis and John Robarts have sat on Power’s national advisory board and John Rae, brother of former NDP premier Bob Rae, a former key adviser to Chretien, is now listed as “Power’s executive vice-president, office of the chairman of the executive committee (Paul Desmarais).”