World’s rich and powerful gather for Bilderberg meeting

·National Affairs Contributor

The G7 is wrapping up and now, according to some, the real gathering of world influencers will get underway.

The three-day Bilderberg Conference, a favourite of conspiracy theorists around the world, begins Thursday in Telfs-Buchen, Austria, just a few miles from where the G7 meetings took place earlier this week.

The annual conference is an A-list of the western world’s business elite, banking barons, academics and other luminaries. And politicians, lots of politicians.

This year’s Canadian contingent will be comprised of W. Edmund Clark, retired executive of TD Bank Group, National Post columnist Andrew Coyne, Royal Bank President David I. McKay, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board chairwoman Heather Munroe-Blum, and Indigo Books CEO Heather Reisman.

It’s not the first conference for either Reisman or Clark, who are both on the steering committee that organizes the Bilderberg.

There will be 140 participants from 22 countries this year, discussing artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, chemical weapons threats, current economic issues, European strategy, globalization, Greece, Iran, Middle East, NATO, Russia, terrorism, the United Kingdom, the United States and the upcoming elections, according to the group’s website.

“The conference is a forum for informal discussions about major issues facing the world,” it says.

Under the rules, the identity and affiliation of the speakers cannot be revealed.

“Thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights,” the website says.

“There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written. Furthermore, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.”

The furtive nature of the meeting and roll call of rich and powerful makes the Bilderberg a favourite among conspiracy theorists, who believe it a global government that surreptitiously rules the world.

Even the invite list was at one time secret but was inevitably leaked to the press, so the group began publishing the list several years ago.

It is a who’s who of the corporate, finance and political world. Pepsi Co. and newspaper barons have made way for Google and high-tech movers and shakers.

Canada will have six participants at the table; Google will have three – executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Regina Dugan, head of advanced technology and projects and Demis Hassabis, vice-president of engineering for the company’s forbiddingly named DeepMind project.

They will be breaking bread with, among others, John Allen, special U.S. presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL; Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell; Mary Erdoes, CEO of JP Morgan Asset Management; Rona Fairhead, chair of BBC Trust; Harvard economics professor Martin Feldstein; Douglas Flint, group chairman of HSBC Holdings; Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn; former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger; and secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg.

There will be just 27 women among the 133 luminaries lighting the room.

Past Canadian participants purportedly include: prime ministers Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper, as well as former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, Loblaw’s CEO Galen Weston, former premiers Frank McKenna, Brad Wall, Alison Redford and Gordon Campbell, Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright, and media titans Izzy Asper and Conrad Black.

Named for the hotel in the Netherland where the first meeting was held in 1954, the Bilderberg is a closed meeting once described in the press as the “world series of schmoozing.”

Participation is by invitation only.

As for the cost, the group says annual contributions by steering committee members pays for the conference. There is no attendance fee.

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