Charting Canada's Elites

When I got back from Europe this summer I turned on the CBC and was rather disgusted and shocked to see that Avi Lewis now has his own television show.

You know who Avi Lewis is, right? He's the son of Stephen Lewis, who was the leader of the New Democratic Party of Ontario from 1970 to 1978, and then Canada's UN ambassador for much of the 1980s. His mother, Michele Landsberg, is a high-profile columnist in the Toronto Star while his grandfather, David Lewis, was the former leader of the federal NDP. Oh yeah, and he's married to Naomi Klein, the best-selling author and columnist.

Clearly family ties have done good things for that family. Or maybe they haven't, who knows. Maybe the whole family is just incredibly successful, completely independent of each other. What is irritating, however, is just how common stories like these are in Canada. It always seems like anyone who's anyone in politics, businesses, or the media is always just a connection or two away from some other bigshot.

Seeing Avi on TV inspired me to make a web of Canada's elites, showing who has connections to who. My thesis was that if I started with a single individual, like say, Paul Demarais, I could probably map out the majority of the major figures of 20th Century Canada just from him. His daughter was married to Jean Chretien, who was a cabinet minister under Trudeau, who appointed Robert Rae's father ambassador to Europe, and so on and so on.

So anyway, here's what I came up with. But let me be perfectly clear, to borrow a phrase from our former prime minister, in making this chart I am not trying to postulate any wild conspiracy theory about the sinister intentions of our nation's ruling class. I'm simply trying to highlight the fact that for at least the last five decades or so Canada has been a remarkably elitist country, in which a very small group of inter-connected families, business associates, and political allies, have controlled most institutions of relevance.

I could make this chart even larger if I expanded it to include friendships, which although often more intimate and meaningful than family ties, are still ultimately too amorphous for inclusion in a formal diagram like this.

Red means political ties, yellow means family ties, green means business ties, and purple means media ties.

I lack some of the dates for the business terms, because those are hard to track down. If a "p" appears, that means "present."

If you have any additions, I'd be delighted to recieve them. jjmccullough@gmail.com