MONTEBELLO, Quebec – For a meeting about a secretive partnership among the heads of state of the United States, Canada and Mexico who have been reluctant to share with the public the details of the plan, the seclusion of Montebello, Quebec, is ideally situated.

The Fairmont Le Chateau resort, where U.S. President George W. Bush, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon, and Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper are meeting to discuss the Security and Prosperity Partnership, is literally in the middle of the rural Quebec woods.

At 4:30 a.m. today, SPP security workers began shuttling journalists by bus from Ottawa on the hour-long trek in the dark through the Canadian countryside.

The resort itself has been surrounded by a double security fence – chain link on the outside perimeter and what appears to be a thick-mesh wire barrier dotted with live security cameras.

Within the compound, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are clearly in command, and busloads of heavily armed S?ret? du Qu?bec, the provincial police, have been dispatched throughout the compound.

Military presence, both U.S. and Canadian, also is evident, although low-key.

When Bush arrived yesterday, Harper greeted him by commenting on his Secret Service detail, noting in the live feed over an open mike, that, “You really travel with a small army, don’t you.”

Bush, looking strained, laughed and responded that the setting for the meeting was beautiful.

Even within the compound, the press is limited to a specified area, with no apparent access to the SPP working group meetings, except for an occasional photo op with the three national leaders.

Today’s agenda began with a closed-door meeting the three leaders held with the North American Competitiveness Council, the 30 multi-national North American companies selected by the Chambers of Commerce in each respective state to advise the SPP working groups how to follow their business agenda.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has set up the NACC to serve as the chief policy adviser to the 20 SPP trilateral working groups that have been “integrating” and “harmonizing” North American administrative laws and regulations across a wide spectrum of public policy issues.

Press photographers were allowed in the room as the session began, to take the customary photos for worldwide distribution.

Bush, Calderon, and Harper appeared awkward wearing their suit coats and blue button-down shirts buttoned fully to the last button before the neck, all without ties.

In contrast, the NACC business leaders either did not get the message or could not bring themselves to part with their ties, even though the closest boardroom is an hour or more from Montebello.

Once the three leaders sat down to get to business, the photo op ended and the press were returned to the press pool, left to watch live satellite news feeds or play computer golf on their laptops.

Every now and then, the CBC, Canada’s national broadcasting network, would wheel out an official, such as U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, who on cue answered the interviewer’s probes with calming reassurances that what was going on was fairly boring bureaucratic work, all designed to make the trio of nations more secure and more prosperous.

Gone from this year’s Montebello summit is the comfortable familiarity Bush seemed to enjoy with his “amigo” President Vicente Fox, evident when Bush entertained at the first SPP summit in Waco, Texas, in 2005, or when Fox was the host last year in Cancun.

When the word circulated that Calderon was leaving early because of Hurricane Dean, seasoned members of the press speculated that Calderon had found a ready excuse to get away early.

Perhaps, some callous media speculated, Calderon did feel bitter that Bush had not delivered on his promise to Fox that he would push some form of “comprehensive immigration reform” through Congress that would have, among other goals, created a path for an estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens in the United States to legal residency.

Harper’s predecessor, former prime minister Paul Martin, in Waco seemed out of step with the desolation, uncertain what footwear would work if cowboy boots were just not comfortable.

In the few public appearances Harper has made since the Montebello summit began, he also appears uncertain, perhaps of his own standing as the leader of a minority government in a Canada that is increasingly suspect of the SPP’s ambitious integration agenda.

Truly, all three leaders are here in a weakened position.

Bush, after the second defeat of his Kennedy-McCain “sham-nesty” bill and the departure of Karl Rove, is a lame duck with less influence, even within an increasingly contentious Republican Party.

Within Mexico, Calderon is still fighting off charges that he stole the election from his leftist opponent Lopez Obrador.

The public highlight of the morning session was when the three leaders strode confidently from the resort’s main lodge along a footpath past news photographers to a late morning meeting in a tent at the end of the path.

The press members then were herded by security back to the press area to await being summoned for the next SPP photo shoot.

Being inside Montebello with the press, no one has any idea if there are protesters or not. The only hint of an outside world was when a Fairmont worker drove by in a heavy-duty backhoe, evidently on the way to some construction job.

Police try to control protesters at SPP summit in Montebello, Quebec

But a last-minute court decision had forced the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the S?ret? du Qu?bec, the provincial police, to allow protesters to be close enough to the Montebello resort to be seen from some points.

And protesters at several different perimeter security lines advanced yesterday toward police lines before being driven back by provincial police in riot gear, including batons and shields, using pepper gas and pellet bullets.

WND estimates put the protesters at several thousand, mixing radical anarchists with protesters whose message appeared more partisan, aimed at the Harper government’s efforts to use the meetings to advance a North American integration message they opposed.

In Ottawa, hundreds of more subdued political protesters carried banners and chanted slogans in peaceful protest marches around the city’s distinctive parliament buildings.

As WND previously reported, the NACC is expected to dominate the SPP agenda.

“The SPP is pursuing an agenda to integrate Mexico and Canada in closed doors sessions that are getting under way today in Montebello,” Howard Phillips, the chairman of the Coalition to Block the North American Union, told an earlier press conference in Ottawa.

“We are here to register our protest,” Phillips added, “along with the protests of thousands of Americans who agree with us that the SPP is a globalist agenda driven by the multi-national corporate interests and intellectual elite who together have launched an attack upon the national sovereignty of the United States, Canada and Mexico.”

Connie Fogel, head of the Canadian Action Party, agreed with Phillips.

“Canadians are complaining that the SPP process lacks transparency,” Fogel told the press conference. “Transparency is a major issue, but even if the SPP working groups were open to the public, we would still object to their goal to advance the North American integration agenda at the expense of Canadian sovereignty.”


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