The Toronto Star
BUSINESS, Friday, May 31, 1996, p. E1
Vast array of international VIPs talk things over at secretive Bilderberg '96 in King City
By John Deverell Toronto Star
There are networks, and then there are networks.
Conrad Black's version of the Bilderberg Conference, now playing at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's luxury resort in King City, north of Toronto, has assembled an impressive array of 120 business and political leaders and thinkers from Europe and North America for off-the-record encounters.
Many of the participants share an appreciation of fine food and wine, and all see the need to help governments manage change in the North Atlantic Alliance, now known as the North Atlantic Relationship, as smoothly as possible.
Security was barely visible at the ranch yesterday as a parade of dark blue limousines arrived, but there was one York Region police officer and a security officer in a suit at the front gates.
"This is very low-key. In Switzerland, where they had this last year, they brought the Swiss army out," said James Tucker, a journalist for a small Washington, D.C., paper, who said he has been Bilderberg-watching for 15 years.
Little is known about the conference, which was founded in 1954 at the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland.
This year's topics include the enlargement of the European Union, the problem of former Yugoslavia, relations with China and Russia and obstacles to economic growth.
The chief organizer for the Canadian hosts, former diplomat Allan Gotlieb, has covered many bases with the invitation list. An important one was to get sufficient representation from influential members of the U.S. Democratic party. The administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton is represented by Defence Secretary William Perry; George Stephanopoulos, senior adviser to the president; and Senator Sam Nunn.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien was to attend to greet international dignitaries today but won't hold private talks with Black, the Prime Minister's office said yesterday.
"The prime minister is welcoming them (conference participants) to Canada. The head of government of the country they are visiting always welcomes them," said a Chretien spokesperson.
Black, media baron and chairman of Hollinger Inc., and other permanent members of the group are unhappy at suggestions by extremists of the left and right that the private annual event is part of a system of secret government.
The privacy of the annual meetings, said a release authorized by Black, is essential to allow the participants to engage in free discussion of the forces and trends affecting Western nations.
The secrecy has "no purpose other than to allow leading citizens to speak their minds openly and freely," Black's statement says.
"No resolutions are proposed, no votes taken and no policy statements issued . . . Bilderberg is a flexible and informal international leadership forum in which different viewpoints can be expressed and mutual understanding enhanced."
The invitation list ensures full discussion by including "individuals representing a wide range of political and economic points of view." About two-thirds of the participants come from Europe and the remainder from the United States and Canada. About one-third are from the government sector and two-thirds from finance, industry, labor, education and the media.
"All participants attend Bilderberg in a private and not in an official capacity," Black's statement says.
It adds that all participants agreed in advance not to give interviews during the conference and not to attribute any particular remarks to any person afterward.
In King City, many residents were unaware of the meeting.
"Bilder-what?" asked Jane Combs, shopping at the King City IGA. "Is it the guys who wear the fez caps and drive around in little cars?"
The resort location for the conference was formerly the King Ranch beauty and fitness spa.
King City resident Arnold Sheppard, 18, said outside a local doughnut shop that he had never heard of the Bilderberg Conference.
"Are they all here for facials or what?" he said.
With files from Tony Wong and Canadian Press.
10 Color Photos: George Stephanopolous; Henry Kissinger; Queen Sofia; Fredrik Eaton; DAvid Rockefeller; Jean Chretien; George Soros; Queen Beatrix; James Wolfensohn; Peter Sutherland
Subject(s) - The Toronto Star : Bilderberg Conference
Length: Medium, 553 words
Copyright © 1996 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.
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