Alberta Politics
Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper (Photo: Number 10/Flickr, Creative Commons).

Former Conservative PM Stephen Harper reported planning ‘activist fund’ with protégé of ‘Evil Captain Kirk’

Posted on November 17, 2021, 12:58 am
6 mins

Stephen Harper, the former Canadian Conservative Prime Minister, plans to team up with a protégé of Carl Icahn, the notorious vulture capitalist and destroyer of American jobs. 

Mr. Harper and Courtney Mather will launch an “activist fund,” Bloomberg News reported, based on information from an unidentified person said to have knowledge of the matter.

“Activist investor” Courtney Mather (Photo: Newell Brands).

Bloomberg said, however, that the twosome will be “constructive” activists – activism in this context being a business-press euphemism for corporate raiding. 

Of course, Mr. Mather isn’t Mr. Icahn, who has been famously described as an “Evil Captain Kirk,” after a Star Trek episode in which two Captain Kirks emerge from a broken transporter, one of them not nearly as nice as the other. Still, he is frequently called Mr. Icahn’s protégé, which is cause for concern. 

And when Mr. Harper gets involved in stuff like this, it’s an ill wind that blows no good. 

After all, while most Canadians may not know much about Mr. Icahn or Mr. Mather, they do know about Mr. Harper. 

The fund will be called Vision One, Bloomberg’s super-secret source revealed.

“Vision One plans to bet on undervalued mid-sized public companies and to try to create value through governance improvements and other changes,” Bloomberg explained, citing the anonymous source. “The firm will focus on companies with market values of $2 billion to $10 billion, especially in the industrial and consumer sectors.”

Activist investors, according to Investopedia.com, are individuals or groups that buy a significant stake in a public company “in order to influence how the company is run, such as by obtaining seats on its board of directors. Companies that are mismanaged, have excessive costs, could be run more profitably if taken private, or have other problems the activist investor believes they can fix are often targets for activist investors.”

Corporate Raider Carl Icahn (Photo: Twitter).

When you see this kind of drivel in the business press, where your humble blogger churned out such stuff for many years, it usually means something more like this: Corporate raiders buy up shares of publicly traded companies that still make stuff but are undervalued by the stock market, take them over if they can, bust them up and sell off their assets, destroying hundreds of jobs and often looting workers’ pensions in the process.

Corporate raiders have played a key role in the de-industrialization of North America and ongoing destruction of the middle class in Canada and the United States, which remains a work in progress. 

Where corporate raiders go, look for jobs to disappear, pensions to be eliminated, wages to be cut, and bankruptcies to blossom. Indeed, bankruptcy law in most Western jurisdictions is a key part of this process, as it makes it easier to loot pension funds, break contracts, and lay off workers without paying the benefits they are owed.

Mr. Icahn, once tapped by former U.S. president Donald Trump to be his “Special Advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform,” is said to be the model for the character Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. 

Evil Captain Kirk – played by Canadian icon William Shatner, who also played Good Captain Kirk, of course (Photo: villains.fandom.com).

As for Mr. Mather, he keeps a lower profile. He is the former portfolio manager of Icahn Capital LP, and nowadays is a board member for Caesars Entertainment Inc. (nothing to do with the Roman Empire, the name notwithstanding), Newell Brands Inc., and other corporations. 

According to Bloomberg, Mr. Mather will be the chief executive officer and chief investment officer of Vision One. 

Mr. Harper – who nowadays does double duty as chairperson of the Munich-based International Democrat Union, the neoliberal internationale – will be the fund’s chairperson. 

Since he blindsided the Trudeau Government with his mysterious visit to the Trump White House in July 2018 as Canada tried to negotiate a revised free-trade deal with the United States, Mr. Harper has been travelling the world, hobnobbing with leaders in places like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. 

He has joined the very short parade of former world leaders, including former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, currently free on bail as he appeals a jail sentence for corruption, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, to visit Saudi Arabia since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

Mr. Harper is also regarded by many to be the éminence grise of Alberta’s United Conservative Government, and may therefore be the person who has to break it to Premier Jason Kenney that it’s time to take a walk in the snow, of which there is a plentiful supply in Edmonton today. 

22 Comments to: Former Conservative PM Stephen Harper reported planning ‘activist fund’ with protégé of ‘Evil Captain Kirk’

  1. tom

    November 17th, 2021

    By coincidence, John Robson has published a column in today’s National Post on what it is to be a conservative. The gist, as I understand it, is that a conservative is someone who quotes from G.K. Chesterton while he screws you over.

    Reply
  2. ronmac

    November 17th, 2021

    In a perfect world, this red alert warning alarm from the flight deck of Star Trek Enterprise will go off every time Stephen Harper walks into a room. https://youtu.be/KleKxnqM23o

    While we’re on the subject, Harper also recently boasted of his his $15 billion armoured car sale to Saudi Arabia when he was PM which is hilarious. Alberta nationalists and fossil fuel advocates are always boasting about the “democratic values” of Canadian oil and gas as if the rest of the world is supposed to stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia because of human rights abuses while we are busy arming the Saudis to the teeth.

    Harper also said he was proud of the deal because it helped counter the threat being posed by Iran in the region. Which is also hilarious since a lot of these armoured cars ended up in the hands of Iran backed Yemeni rebels after being abandoned on the battlefield without firing a shot.

    Reply
  3. Just Me

    November 17th, 2021

    When you work with shady company, like Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair, you have really made it into the big time. No doubt Harpo has moved on to bigger things, but I still suspect he’s still inclined to pull the strings in Canada, especially in Alberta, just to remind everyone he still has influence.

    I’m wondering what Erin O’Toole’s future looks like, given all the opposition to his leadership of the CPC nearly boiled over. Twitter posts in favor of his leadership revealed that the CPC caucus, especially Alberta, are not good places for O’Toole right now. Despite Kenney’s early endorsement of O’Toole’s leadership, there can be no doubt that the two are not on speaking terms. Since Kenney does Harpo’s bidding (Even if it kills him and everyone else) I have a suspicion something maybe in the works to shuffle Kenney into the CPC leadership somehow. Now that the UCP constituency associations are determined to save their own skins by throwing Kenney overboard, it’s beginning to look more and more like Kenney’s return to Ottawa could be imminent.

    Harpo’s psychotic hatred of Red Tories, like O’Toole, and his undying devotion to the global cabal that is determined to perpetuate endless wars and socio-economic chaos, is showing again.

    Reply
  4. Just Me

    November 17th, 2021

    Regarding “Good Kirk, Bad Kirk”, this was drawn from the Star Trek Original Series episode “The Enemy Within”. While William Shatner has been parodied aplenty over the many years, this episode, as well as pretty much every episode of season one, established Shatner’s brilliance as an actor, and the adventurousness of Star Trek’s writing in the early days of the series. Since we’re on the subject of Star Trek and Canada’s current state of political intrigue, there are a few more STOS episodes that may provide some outstanding descriptive examples of the things to come.

    “The Alternative Factor”. Where one man comes into conflict with his own dark side in two alternative realities. Does Jason Kenney have a heart after all? We’ll see.

    “This Side of Paradise”. When everything all around is coming crashing down and bears a clear and present danger, you can go about your life blissfully unaware of the chaos to come. Can Alberta go on being Alberta while B.C. is drowning and, alternatively, on fire? We’ll see.

    “The City on the Edge of Forever”. Can one person accidentally go back in time and make a complete mess of everything, but do so with the best of intentions? PMJT and Jagmeet Singh, I’m watching you two.

    Reply
  5. Bruce

    November 17th, 2021

    Stephen Harper makes Erin Otoole look like a choir boy.
    I believe Harper and Kenny have one thing very large thing in common ….
    “neither one of them has a heart”
    just a jagged chunk of ice where it should be.
    What does the word “democracy” mean to these guys anyway?

    Imagine being either one of them?

    The song starts like this: “I could while away the hours, just contemplating flowers, but I’d rather make some dough…..”

    Reply
  6. tom in ontario

    November 17th, 2021

    If I had a spare 50 cents it might be tempting to invest with Stevie Boy.

    Reply
  7. Albertan

    November 17th, 2021

    Who, might ’eminence grise’ Harper have in mind for the next leader/savior of the UCP?

    Reply
  8. Bruce Turton

    November 17th, 2021

    “Corporate raiders have played a key role in the de-industrialization of North America and ongoing destruction of the middle class in Canada and the United States, which remains a work in progress.” Maybe the last word of this sentence is, at the least, inappropriate, given the desolation meted out by this “special” group of neoliberal meatheads.

    Reply
  9. Abs

    November 17th, 2021

    The best part of today’s episode of “As Alberta Turns” is the last paragraph.

    I cherish my photo taken during what would be the last election campaign by the éminence grise. Someone had added “Harper” to all the stop signs in the shopping complex where he had his Calgary office: “Stop Harper”. Everything was back to normal the next day, sadly. I went back to check. That is my best memory of the Harper years. I was not impressed by other encounters with the man. His motorcade had shut down the entire freeway during a Calgary visit, as he headed south of the city to meet the Blood Tribe. Then there was the time his speeding motorcade nearly ran my family down in Kelowna, as we were crossing a street with the light. My young offspring commented about being so close he could count the hairs on Harper’s head.

    Not a man of the people. Never was. At least I’m still here to talk about it.

    Reply
  10. Neil Lore

    November 17th, 2021

    Every time Harper makes the news it makes the office of the PM look worse. I would support legislation preventing former PMs from working in the private sector.

    Reply
  11. Dave

    November 17th, 2021

    Yeah, Harper never really seems to go away, he just keeps popping up in somewhat still menacing but diminishing ways. Perhaps that is his way of eventually riding into the sunset while still making a few bucks, emulating Manning but in a much more international, less provincial way.

    I don’t quite get wording about the focus on improving corporate governance in his latest endeavour. Perhaps it is just cover for what is really going on, which is to take over the board of directors of these companies. I suppose it is a nicer sounding euphemism than corporate take over. Also, while improving can be a subjective term, Harper is probably not so modest as to think his involvement would not improve things.

    As I recall when Harper was in power he talked a lot about supporting Israel. However since then Harper has seemed to have become a more a stalwart ally for Saudi Arabia for some reason. I suspect it is more economically lucrative.

    As for Kenney, I don’t know if Harper really wants to be the one to break the news to him that the party is over. However, if he is selected to do so, he would be a great choice. Perhaps there would even be some empathy, as Harper was one who also overstayed his welcome. It didn’t work out so great for his party either.

    Reply
  12. A.O.

    November 17th, 2021

    Thanks very much David for your excellent article. It has provided clarity.

    I was puzzled by the reason behind the following amendment which will, no doubt, soon quickly pass in the legislature.
    On the 15th of November, the ucp regime announces it will amend Alberta’s Business Corporations Actin order to make it easier for directors of private corporations to be involved with multiple related businesses and investments at the same time.

    With the proposed bill, Alberta would become the “first” jurisdiction in Canada to allow corporations to create “corporate opportunity waivers” which set out the rules for when directors can be involved in multiple related projects – ‘similar legislation exists in some parts of the United States’.

    Alberta minister nate glubish said that when ‘private equity funds make large investments in companies, the often ‘request’ a seat or two on the board and as a government we want to give Alberta companies as many tools as possible to attract as much capital as possible, especially if they are attracting it from outside of Alberta……………

    The legislation would also double the timeframe for dissolved corporations to get back into business to 10 years.

    There were a great many more disturbing details in the original announcement.

    It appears to me that this legislation is being passed to benefit a certain former prime minister.

    Reply
  13. pogo

    November 17th, 2021

    What are their favourite euphemisms? Disaster capitalism? Creative destruction? Who in God’s holy shit, votes for these people? I now lay me to bed and pray my soul to keep!

    Reply
  14. alkyl

    November 17th, 2021

    Everything you need to know in one sentence.

    “Asked if he was licensed for such high-speed activity, Harper famously replied “I think I make the rules,” according to CBC.”

    https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/stephen-harpers-atv-yukon-photos-video_n_1821301

    Or, “We’d like to think that if we met someone who was completely without conscience — someone who was capable of doing anything at all if it served his or her purposes — we would recognize it. In popular culture, the image of the psychopath is of someone like Hannibal Lecter or the BTK Killer. But in reality, many psychopaths just want money, or power, or fame, or simply a nice car. Where do these psychopaths go? Often, it’s to the corporate world.”

    “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work” by Dr. Paul Babiak & Dr. Robert D. Hare

    Reply
  15. brett

    November 17th, 2021

    Do not care. Harper is a private citizen. His business pursuits are of no interest to me.

    Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      November 20th, 2021

      Ah, the trained economist is just a simple private citizen now? His chumming about with Oban as well as his continued influence in fascist-adjacent circles in Canada, are of no possible interest to any Canadian. Tell, me what specific skills does he bring to this new operation where he stands to make scores of millions, I’ll be bound? `Skills that do not involve trading on his political connections?

      If you are determined to defend your master in all circumstances, you should try being a little more clever about it.

      Reply
  16. Anonymous

    November 17th, 2021

    I’d be suspicious of anything that a Reformer does. I’m definitely suspicious of this matter with Steven Harper.

    Reply
  17. Vic Tory

    December 2nd, 2021

    Can’t handle legitimate criticism eh? How shocking.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 3rd, 2021

      Mr. Tory: Comments are moderated on this blog. Strong disagreement with the author’s commentary is allowed, even encouraged. However, readers are reminded that unsubstantiated allegations of criminality or corruption, which are on their face potentially defamatory, profanity, abuse, and intentional misspelling of individuals’ and organization’s names, as well as misuse of the term, “communist,” are normally quickly consigned to the trash. DJC

      Reply

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