Bill C-300 What’s the Fuss? Links and References
John McKay’s Bill C-300
Update, November 24, 8:50 AM: In spite of the best made plans to arrive in Ottawa early last evening, our flight circled the capital for an hour then came back to Toronto. The problem? Fog. Lots of it (and I am not being metaphorical here). Same for this morning’s flight. My brief is a matter of record, and once it has been officially received I’ll post it here.
The Canadian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee will hear testimony in Ottawa this week for and against John McKay’s private member Bill, C-300. As Editor of Corporate Knights Forum and Chair of the Sierra Club of Ontario, I have been asked to present my views on Mr. McKay’s bill. Here is a preview: My take on it is a simple, but important one. The best businesses today must be both environmentally and socially responsible. If your company is neither of those things, then you are presenting your shareholders with long term market risks that are unacceptable.
In addition, Canada as a nation risks what some might describe as “blowback“ if it is seen to financially promote companies that harm the environment and abuse the human rights of others. The Toronto Star wrote a front page article Sunday stating that in some countries travellers have to replace their Canadian identification (on backpacks and such) with US flags. That is not the Canadian image I know. It is not the one I want to see become the norm rather than the exception.
For those reasons (and others too detailed to go into here), I support the intent of the bill if not its every word. It does have weaknesses. For example, because of the private member’s bill status, it cannot allocate a budget for an Ombudsman. Responsibility belongs to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. That is a problem. It is hard to imagine how that mechanism would work in practice. In spite of its flaws, it is proactive. It does tell the world that we believe in the importance of environmental and human rights, not just at home but internationally as well.
Apparently the mining industry is hitting back—hard—but one wonders why. As far as legal sanctions go the bill is virtually toothless. At worst it stops Canadian taxpayer money going to support companies that are engaged in indefensible overseas activities. It does not stop the free market from investing in these kinds of projects if there is a will to do so. There is no prosecution. No sentencing. There is even a built in clause that allows the minister to arbitrarily dismiss “frivolous or vexatious” claims against companies. Why so much push-back from an industry that was so committed to change just two years ago? Where is the industry’s commitment to the transparency outlined in the EITI initiative?
The following links provide readers with information relating to the Bill.
Government of Canada website: Bill C-300
How did your MP vote? Take a look here.
John McKay’s website: John Mckay, MP Sacarborough-Guildwood
The Halifax Initiative: Corporate Accountability
Mining Watch Canada: Bill C-300
National Roundtables on CSR and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries “Advisory Group Report" illustrates that the sector is thinking about CSR. But what is the next step?
Fasken Martineau has an article by Michael Bourassa in pdf form on why Bill C-300 threatens the extractive sector.
In 2007, political momentum in support of some sort of Canadian government action was making news. The Montreal Gazette ran this story: Canadian accords sets ethical mining norms
Just two years later all talk of an agreement has vapourized.
The Halifax Initiative Press Release, April, 2009: Corporate Social Responsibility Rules for Mining Industry Blasted
The Prospectors and Developers Association weighs in: Press Release, November 17/09 They also have formed an initiative called E3 Plus to advance the cause of environmental and social responsibility.