Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act

An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

John McKay  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

In committee (House), as of April 22, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

The purpose of this enactment is to promote environmental best practices and to ensure the protection and promotion of international human rights standards in respect of the mining, oil or gas activities of Canadian corporations in developing countries. It also gives the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Trade the responsibility to issue guidelines that articulate corporate accountability standards for mining, oil or gas activities and it requires the Ministers to submit an annual report to both Houses of Parliament on the provisions and operation of this Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, be concurred in at report stage.
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300 be amended by deleting Clause 10.
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 9, be amended by replacing line 17 on page 6 with the following: “functions under subsection (2)”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing line 36 on page 5 with the following: “enter into or renew a transaction”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 5, be amended by replacing lines 18 to 23 on page 4 with the following: “( a) the IFC's(i) Policy on Social and Environmental Sustainability,(ii) Performance Standards on Social and Environmental Sustainability and Guidance Notes to those standards, (iii) applicable Industry Sector Guidelines, and(iv) General Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines;”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 5, be amended by replacing line 17 on page 4 with the following: “(2) The guidelines shall be substantially consistent with:”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by adding after line 12 on page 4 the following: “(11) Every investment manager who invests the assets of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board pursuant to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act shall take into account the results of examinations and reviews undertaken pursuant to this section.”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 39 to 44 on page 3 with the following: “(8) If a corporation is found by a Minister to have contravened a guideline referred to in section 5, the corporation shall have six months, from the date of publication of the Minister’s finding, to bring itself into compliance. During that period, no adverse steps resulting from that breach of compliance shall be taken against the corporation by Export Development Canada pursuant to section 10.2 of the Export Development Act or by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade pursuant to section 10 of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act.(8.1) The Ministers shall publish in the Canada Gazette their findings regarding compliance with the guidelines within a period of 30 days after the conclusion of the grace period provided for in subsection (8).(8.2) If, at the end of that grace period, the corporation remains in contravention of a guideline, as determined by the Ministers, the Ministers shall, within a period of 30 days, notify the President of Export Development Canada and the Chairperson of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board that the corporation’s mining, oil or gas activities are inconsistent with the guidelines referred to in section 5. (8.3) If a corporation found to be in contravention of a guideline at the end of the grace period provided for in subsection (8) subsequently undertakes corrective actions, the corporation may request the Ministers to review the results of those actions and make a determination regarding compliance with the guidelines. The request shall be made in writing and shall include such information as is required to determine compliance with the guidelines. (8.4) Subsections (3), (4), (6) and (7) apply to a request for review provided under subsection (8.3) as if it were a complaint. (8.5) If the Ministers determine through a review that the corporation remains in contravention of a guideline, the Ministers shall notify the President of Export Development Canada and the Chairperson of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board that the corporation’s mining, oil or gas activities are inconsistent with the guidelines referred to in section 5.”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 32 on page 3 with the following: “undertaken pursuant to this section, which shall include a determination regarding the corporation’s compliance with the guidelines set out in section 5 and the Ministers' basis for any finding, within eight”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 22 and 23 on page 3 with the following: “ister who receives the complaint shall consider any relevant information provided by the corporation or the”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the English version, lines 3 and 4 on page 3 with the following: “receive complaints regarding Canadian corporations engaged in mining, oil or gas activities”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 34 on page 2 with the following: “3. La présente loi vise à faire en sorte que les”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 12 to 16 on page 1 with the following: ““developing countries” means countries classified as low income, lower middle income or upper middle income in the World Bank list of economies, as amended from time to time.”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing, in the French version, lines 10 to 13 on page 1 with the following: “Opérations de recherche, notamment par forage, de production, de rationalisation de l'exploitation, de transformation et de transport de ressources minérales, de pétrole ou de gaz, réalisées dans le territoire d'un”
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Failed That Bill C-300, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 9 to 11 on page 1 with the following: ““corporation” means any company or legal person incorporated by or under an Act of Parliament or of any province, and includes holding or subsidiary companies of the corporation.”
  • April 22, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2010 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak in strong opposition to Bill C-300.

Bill C-300 is entitled “An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries”. Without actually looking at the content and implications of the bill, in other words, just looking at the substance of the bill, it sounds good. It has good optics. It is laudable. We all support corporate social responsibility. Every Canadian wants to see our companies follow the highest standards when it comes to the environment and human rights, especially if the company is representing Canada abroad.

My past is rooted in the mining culture in Cape Breton, and I believe this country's future truly depends upon prosperity in the great resources we have, especially in the north. I strongly support CSR, or corporate social responsibility, but the substance of the bill will not help the issue of corporate social responsibility.

Bill C-300 is more than just a nice title, and as parliamentarians, we are called to carefully consider the implication of legislation. So I implore parliamentarians that we cannot vote in favour of the bill simply because we agree with the title of the bill. We need to look at the text. We need to look at the implications of the bill. We need to consider the substance of the bill and we need to listen to experts if they warn us about the shortcomings in the legislation.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood is attempting to create an international political circus around his bill. His witnesses are well meaning and they all speak in favour of the optics of corporate social responsibility in general, but he refuses to address the specific concerns that have been raised on the substance of the legislation.

Also heard as witnesses in opposition to the substance of the bill are Canadians with expertise in the area: Export Development Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canadian Bar Association and the entire mining industry.

All these people, all these groups, believe in corporate social responsibility, but the bill is a clear example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It is imperative to give context to the mining, the oil and the gas sectors in Canada, because it is so important. Canada's extractive industries have been, continue to be, and will be a hugely important factor in Canada's economic growth and its recovery.

Domestically, we have the vast resources of the north and we have responsible people there who will develop it. Internationally, we are a world leader in exploration and mining. In fact, Canada is home to over three-quarters of the world's exploration and mining companies. We lead the world. We are respected. Indeed, we are revered, and this is a crucial sector of the Canadian economy. In substance, Bill C-300 guts our competitiveness for this crucial sector and it is done all for optics.

I will speak to two reasons that Bill C-300 should be defeated here in this chamber. One, essentially and fundamentally it is a badly drafted piece of legislation and it has extremely poor implementation mechanisms. Two, it has a very politicized complaints process, and that is the one I will focus on right now.

One witness testified before the committee that all it takes is one person writing a single letter to initiate a ministerial investigation, which puts a political official as the police in charge of the investigation, as the judge weighing the evidence, as the jury making the decision and maybe even the executioner in meting out the punishment.

When the National Roundtable on Corporate Social Responsibility came forward with recommendations on this issue of implementation and on the issue of a complaints process, it was adamant that the complaints mechanism must be independent. So the government responded by establishing the independent Canadian corporate social responsibility counsellor, who was appointed in October of last year and whose mandate is to review corporate social responsibility practices of Canadian companies that are operating outside of Canada.

Dr. Marketa Evans is available to receive complaints regarding the conduct of Canadian companies, and in contrast to what Bill C-300 proposes, Dr. Evans is at arm's length from political interference.

While the author of Bill C-300 claims that his bill would increase accountability for corporate social responsibility, the complaints process that he is actually proposing is a partisan political mechanism that is fraught with difficulties associated with ministerial investigation in a foreign jurisdiction, when Canada already has in place an independent process.

The fact that it is a political complaint process is a major red flag, but the problems with Bill C-300 continue.

The complaints process itself in the bill is irresponsible because it would offer no protection for responsible Canadian companies that are faced with false allegations. I will say it is completely disingenuous to suggest that there is no risk of false claims and I will tell members why.

CIBC has indicated that it believes that Canadian mining companies deal with thousands of stakeholders on an ongoing basis across almost 10,000 different projects in 100 countries. It is more likely that several thousand complaints would happen per year.

Throughout the world, there are offices that investigate allegations of corporate abuse. The World Bank's investigator throws out countless false allegations every year.

However, Bill C-300 has no filter for false allegations. As soon as an allegation is received, the bill would require that the allegation be made public and for a Canadian minister of the Crown to investigate the allegation in a foreign jurisdiction. During the investigation, until the cabinet minister concludes that the claim was actually false, the claim would have undeserved credibility and could damage the international reputation of our responsible companies.

However, under international complaint mechanisms and in the current Canadian system, false claims are filtered and the reputations of responsible companies are not attacked.

In Bill C-300, this issue is so obvious that even several prominent Liberals have put partisan politics aside to voice concern about this bill, stating that foreign governments could end up withholding or actually taking away permits from Canadian firms, citing the minister's ongoing investigations of allegations, investigations that ultimately conclude that the allegation was completely false but still render the permit being taken away.

Both Jim Peterson and Raymond Chrétien provided expert testimony against this bill.

One of the facts about Canadian mining companies that I am very proud of and that I have been witness to is their track record on cleaning up mines they have bought from other companies. I am talking about mines that were owned by people who did not respect the environment, abused local populations, did not hold to the same high standards as Canadian companies and were dangerous.

Currently, Canadian companies are able to purchase these mines, and in the process they bring Canadian principles of labour safety, environment protection and human rights to the local community. There are countless examples of Canadian companies doing that around the world. I was very lucky to be able to witness this first-hand in South America, travelling and speaking with both local officials and union groups who assured me that Canadian investment and Canadian leadership is hugely important.

If Bill C-300 passes, many of these Canadian companies would have to think twice about investing in countries like this. We cannot jeopardize our Canadian extractive sector and allow them to shy away from investing in a particular region because of the potential for false allegations.

This bill ignores Canada's current system on corporate social responsibility and our great work on labour co-operation agreements.

In conclusion, there is a big difference between supporting the optics of the bill and supporting the substance of the bill. The optics of the bill try to make things look good and the author claims it would force Canadian companies to follow acceptable rules and standards.

I would say that respecting our mining sector and the work it does in the world and support for the sector as we come out of this economic recession means that we vote against Bill C-300, because I can tell members that, as was said by the CIBC, I believe the only remedy that responds to the passage of Bill C-300 is for companies in mining and oil and gas to relocate to any other jurisdiction in the world so that they can remain competitive.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, in principle.

The issue of social and environmental responsibility for Canadian companies abroad, particularly Canadian mining companies, has long been a concern for the Bloc Québécois. Canada is a world leader in the mining industry. It has a huge presence in Africa, where most companies are Canadian or American and are incorporated in Canada or listed on Canadian stock exchanges.

For some years now, a number of Canadian mining companies have been directly or indirectly associated with forced population displacements, significant environmental damage, support to repressive regimes, serious human rights violations and sometimes even assassinations.

That is why the Bloc Québécois has always defended the need to impose social responsibility standards on companies operating abroad. But the federal government has always defended the laissez-faire principle, preferring a voluntary approach.

We have always supported the recommendations in the report of the advisory group to the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries. These recommendations were unanimously supported by civil society and the extractive industry.

While Bill C-300 is a step in the right direction, we believe it has flaws in terms of what the national roundtables advisory group recommended. For example, Bill C-300 does not provide any clear, independent and transparent mechanisms to ensure accountability or to monitor Canadian companies' compliance with accountability standards.

In Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, a book about Canada's involvement in plundering, corruption and crime in Africa published by Les Éditions Écosociété in 2008, Delphine Abadie, Alain Deneault and William Sacher provided the following analysis of Bill C-300.

First, the bill does not take the Canadian International Development Agency's policies and activities into account.

Second, it does not take Export Development Canada's lack of transparency into account.

Third, it does not take into account instances of political interference attributed, in some cases, to Canadian diplomacy in southern countries on behalf of Canadian mining interests.

Fourth, it does not take into account the harmful role of the Toronto Stock Exchange in the appreciation of mining claims often obtained under suspicious circumstances in southern countries.

Fifth, it does not say whether and under what conditions Canadian companies can or could be prosecuted civilly or criminally in Canada for injurious actions attributed to them abroad.

Sixth, it does not provide for an independent body to receive complaints from foreign nationals, leaving it rather to the minister.

Seventh, it does not provide a process to evaluate the damages to populations outside Canada and consider implementing redress programs.

Eighth, it totally ignores the numerous cases of abuse by Canadian companies already recorded in many credible documents. I am thinking of expert reports from the United Nations, parliamentary reports, conferences held in parliamentary precincts, reports from independent organizations like Amnesty International and Global Witness, comprehensive investigative reporting, compelling documentaries and assessments by recognized experts.

Here are some representative cases cited in Noir Canada with respect to Canadian mining companies' detrimental activities in Africa. The first example is from Bulyanhulu, Tanzania. In the summer of 1996, bulldozers and the national police force were used to expropriate several hundred small-scale miners and clear the way for Canada's Sutton Mining to exploit the area.

Fifty-two people were buried alive in that operation. Sutton Mining was then bought by another Canadian company, Barrick Gold. Canada's diplomatic service was actively involved in the affair; allegations of interference are well founded. The Government of Norway, the Lawyer's Environmental Action Team, Friends of the Earth, Rights & Democracy, Mining Watch and master's student Dennis Tessier have all stated publicly that these allegations are credible and alarming.

The second example is Banro, a company that helped kindle the bloody conflict in the African Great Lakes region in eastern Congo between 1997 and 2002. Millions died in that conflict, and untold distress was inflicted on the people in the form of systematic rape, recruitment of child soldiers and destruction of villages.

The third example has to do with Diama-Manantali and Sadiola. CIDA steadfastly supported dam construction projects that profited Canadian engineering firms. These dams, which have had a catastrophic impact on the people—think of floods, loss of arable land, ecosystem destruction, disease, social tension and so on—allowed IamGold to turn a 38% profit on operating an open pit mine in Sadiola, another project with a disastrous impact on the people.

The fourth example is the Talisman corporation, which had to leave Sudan after, according to several sources, it apparently ordered the Sudanese army to violently remove any civilian presence in the vicinity of its development site. This passage from Noir Canada shows that Talisman was pressured to leave Sudan because it was listed on the New York stock exchange, not just the Toronto exchange.

Another book that has been written on this topic is Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast, published by Hyperion in 2007. On page 62 is a paragraph that reads:

The Sudanese regime, supported by Canadian, Malaysian and Chinese oil companies, was able to wipe out whole populations in south-central Sudan, leaving the way clear for the oil companies to start pumping the oil.

This information is supported by a memo from the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The book I quoted from has an introduction written by none other than Barack Obama, who was then a U.S. senator, and a preface by Elie Wiesel.

Bill C-300 is a step in the right direction. But to put an end to injustices by Canadian and foreign mining, gas and oil companies, we must make sure that they fully respect human rights and environmental rights, without exception.

This bill seeks to ensure that Canadian extractive corporations act responsibly and comply with international human rights and environmental standards.

How can anyone be opposed to that?

The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for preparing guidelines on best practices. These standards are based on recognized documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is in this spirit that the Bloc Québécois is supporting Bill C-300, and I sincerely hope that all of the members in the House will support it. It is definitely humanistic and targets real issues concerning crooked mining companies that do not respect human rights.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2010 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak once again to Bill C-300 and to lay out some of my concerns with respect to this legislation. I note that the Minister of Labour also put down markers on her concerns.

It is important for people to understand that Bill C-300 would do no more and no less than provide fair play for Canadian companies functioning abroad. It would not undermine the opportunities for mining companies abroad. Witnesses at committee have told us time and again that this was exactly the way to go to ensure that not only Canadian companies have opportunities abroad but that Canadians in general can be proud of the business those companies are doing abroad.

More than a majority of Canadian companies already employ the criteria set out in this legislation. Representatives from Canadian companies told us at committee that they were already onboard with these practices.

If the equator principles on corporate social responsibility, which are well known around the world, are being practised by Canadian companies and are already in play with the EDC, why is there opposition to this fairly straightforward proposition? I believe some of it has to do with misinformation but perhaps some people do not want the government to oversee regulation in the game.

It is important to understand how we arrived here. My predecessor for Ottawa Centre, Ed Broadbent, went through a process to ensure that all voices would be heard on this important file and pushed for the round table on extractive industries, a process, by the way, that has not been repeated but should be.

Members on that round table heard from industry and civil society and they came up with recommendations that were agreed to by both sides. One of the recommendations was that an independent ombudsperson would be appointed by government to oversee Canadian extractive mining industries abroad. The ombudsperson would have the ability to investigate and oversee mining operations and, if need be, to not only follow the criteria that I mentioned in terms of the equator principles, but to ensure that if there were any concerns some sort of remedy would be available. For example, if we had a Canadian mining company that was abusing environmental or human rights standards, the ombudsman would be able to do something. That was agreed to.

The sad part of this is that the government took more than a year and a half to respond to the recommendations. It came up with a counsellor but her hands are tied should any complaint come forward. She can only investigate a complaint if both parties agree to an investigation and, of course we know what that means. If one party decides it does not want an investigation to go forward then it will not.

If members look at Bill C-300, they will see that it supports the round table. Many people are concerned that there will not be sufficient time for companies to respond. I will go over the amendments that we will be voting on tomorrow.

We will ensure that vexatious or frivolous complaints will be tossed out. A company will have time to put its concerns forward and there will be a lengthy time period for the investigation. If there is cause for concern under the equator principles and other principles agreed to by the company, then the company, by way of engagement with the minister, as it is written in the bill, would have time to respond to ensure there is no wrongdoing.

Having those safety valves, throwing out frivolous vexatious claims, making sure that there is a thorough investigation, making sure that Canadian companies have an opportunity to respond is fair play. That is what we will be voting on tomorrow night. The question is, do we want to raise the standard of Canadian companies, yes or no?

I should also note that a recent report by the industry itself has pointed to the problem. The mining companies are the ones who commissioned the report. It says that Canada, among countries like Australia, India, U.K., South Africa, the U.S. and Indonesia, has the most claims against the industry. We are by far the leader in terms of claims of incidents that have been filed.

That says that the industry itself, having commissioned this report and having the data, understands the importance of dealing with corporate social responsibility. The report lays out the type of infractions by Canadian companies. It clearly underlines the need for action.

The mining companies say that they wish the government had come forward with the ombudsperson, with independence and having more ambit around investigation and remedy.

What is important to note in this report is what is said in terms of CSR as an idea. The report says very clearly that mining and exploration firms operating in Canada thrive while working under arguably more rigorous CSR and regulation paradigms when compared to other sister operations in the developing world. The success of mining companies in Canada happens even as companies are faced with a divergent cultural context while working alongside indigenous communities that are often marginalized.

Our companies can do this. They are up to the job. Our job is to make sure we support them by having a level playing field. That is exactly what Bill C-300 would do.

Those who say it would inhibit investment obviously have not read the bill and considered the amendments. The Export Development Corporation supports Canadian industries abroad. It is very active abroad and it is not true to say that it would not be able to do its work if Bill C-300 is passed. In the past it has involved itself with the voluntary principles and the equator principles. It is the one that is saying it is involved in this.

We need to say to EDC that not only should it have this in its own portfolio, but Parliament and government have a role to make sure it regulates. Why? EDC is a crown corporation. It is not up to someone else to regulate it. It is our job here.

If Canadian companies are not able to follow the principles that other Canadian companies are following and after the rigorous oversight that I mentioned they are found to be in violation, then EDC would not be able to support them. No companies have an absolute right to EDC money. It is something that companies have to apply for and standards need to be enforced. That is exactly what Bill C-300 would do.

That is why we will be supporting the bill, as amended, tomorrow night.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2010 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries.

We in the Liberal Party completely agree with the intentions behind Bill C-300. We are 100% behind improving the corporate social responsibility of Canadian mining companies in developing countries. In this regard, all members of the Liberal Party agree completely. Indeed, I commend my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood for being so concerned when the Conservative government has done so little.

In 2005, a decision was made under a Liberal government to move forward on the issue of CSR among Canadian mining companies. Throughout 2006, extensive all-stakeholder round tables were conducted. These included non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, mining and oil companies, labour, governments and individuals. It was an extraordinary process and very unusual in the progress achieved with so many different participants.

There were 156 oral presentations and 104 written submissions. Of these, 61 were from civil society organizations, 33 were from industry, 15 were from labour organizations, 31 were from academics and research institutes, and 16 were from members of the public without a stated affiliation.

This extraordinary process resulted in a 2007 report which was roundly approved and supported. It was the product of many people who might have had opposing views, but who came together exhibiting a will to compromise and to find constructive consensus. The 2007 report included several strong and very positive recommendations for the improvement of CSR among Canadian mining companies working in developing countries.

However, the Conservative government did nothing for two years. Only recently did the Conservatives come up with a much watered down plan, a plan with no teeth. They are pretending to do something when not doing anything at all.

Bill C-300 tries to address these concerns. We Liberals all agree completely on the end goal even though we may have some disagreements on how best to reach that goal. In that regard, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in this House to do exactly what we are supposed to do, engage in debate.

All too often we let party lines dictate what any one of us now says in the House. It has become entirely predictable. Not everyone agrees on everything all the time, not even everyone in the same party. The ability to disagree or to have different opinions is, and should be, a fundamental part of democracy. I am proud to be a member of a party, the Liberal Party, that not only allows debate but recognizes its importance.

Bill C-300 creates some challenges. The bill's proponent himself has acknowledged that it is flawed due to the limitations on what a private member's bill can do. As a result, there is legitimate debate about whether Bill C-300, if passed, would in fact accomplish what it is intended to accomplish, or whether there may be unintended, perhaps even negative, consequences.

Indeed, one of the concerns is whether passage of Bill C-300 might make it more difficult for a Liberal government to implement an even tougher regime further to the 2007 report to ensure greater CSR, but it is important that people be able to engage in this kind of debate with respect and civility. It is one of the reasons why I am a Liberal. We are able to debate and indeed sometimes disagree.

The 2007 report sets out some very tough recommendations, including strict and clear guidelines on the level of CSR expected of Canadian mining companies operating in developing countries, a robust complaint and review mechanism, the creation of an ombudsperson with tough responsibilities, and significant funding to help developing countries build their own capacity to create and enforce locally CSR standards and regulations.

We are all frustrated that the Conservative government ignored the 2007 report for two years and then only just recently implemented a much watered down approach.

The Liberals are united in strongly supporting implementation of a regime based on the full 2007 report as the best way to achieve the highest levels of CSR among Canadian mining companies operating in developing countries, something the Conservative government has failed to do.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries.

First, I would like to say that we in the Liberal Party completely agree with the intentions behind Bill C-300. We are 100% behind improving the corporate social responsibility of Canadian mining companies in developing countries. In this regard, all members of the Liberal Party agree completely. Indeed, I commend my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood for being so concerned when the Conservative government has done so little.

In 2005, a decision was made under a Liberal government to move forward on the issue of CSR among Canadian mining companies. Throughout 2006, extensive, all-stakeholder round tables were conducted. These included non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, mining and oil companies, labour unions, governments and individuals.

This process is an excellent example of a situation in which all of the stakeholders came together to find a solution to a fundamental problem. The 2007 report that came out of these consultations was roundly approved and supported. It included several strong and very positive recommendations for the improvement of CSR among Canadian mining companies working in developing countries.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government did absolutely nothing. Two years after the report was released, the Conservatives chickened out and in the end implemented a watered-down solution.

Even though Bill C-300 is not perfect, it aims to improve the situation. We in the Liberal Party fully support the end goal, although we may have some disagreements on how best to reach that goal.

As I already said, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise here in the House to do exactly what we are supposed to do: debate the issue. Having the opportunity to express disagreement and different opinions is, and should be, a fundamental part of democracy. Once again, I am proud to be a member of a party, the Liberal Party, that not only allows debate but recognizes its importance.

Bill C-300 does create some challenges, I admit. Even the bill's sponsor has acknowledged that it is flawed because of the limitations on what a private member's bill can do. As a result, there is legitimate debate about whether Bill C-300, if passed, will in fact accomplish what it is intended to accomplish or whether there may be unintended, perhaps even negative, consequences. As I said, there are fears about whether passage of Bill C-300 might make it more difficult for a Liberal government to implement an even tougher regime to make corporations even more accountable. It is important to be able to engage in this kind of debate with respect and civility.

The 2007 report sets out some very tough recommendations. We are all frustrated that the Conservative government ignored the report for two years and only recently implemented a much watered-down version.

Once again, the Liberal Party is united in strongly supporting the implementation of a regime based on the full 2007 report as the best way to achieve the highest levels of CSR among Canadian mining companies operating in developing countries, something the Conservative government refuses to do.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2010 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to discuss Liberal Bill C-300 and address the risks it poses to Canadian jobs: jobs for Canadians in mining companies, jobs for Canadians in related equipment and other manufacturing sectors, jobs for Canadians in our financial markets that serve the mining industry and, of course, the surrounding legal community.

Canada has proven itself to be a global leader in encouraging and supporting its companies to operate abroad in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. This bill, however, threatens that traditional leadership by Canadian companies and in the process threatens jobs.

This bill, in effect, would create additional regulatory burdens, additional hurdles, additional red tape. It would tie up good Canadian corporate citizens who conduct themselves well with time, money and efforts defending themselves against frivolous and vexatious claims with little basis. In the process it would put Canadian mining companies on a very uneven playing field against mining companies elsewhere.

In understanding the mining sector it is important to appreciate this one thing. For most mining companies there is really no reason to be headquartered in Canada other than the considerable expertise that has grown up around our markets that finance and support that industry. They are highly portable. Very few of those mines are still located in Canada. These mining companies are engaged in efforts all around the world and, therefore, could just as easily shift those jobs, shift their headquarters, shift all the associated economic activity with literally billions and billions of dollars to other countries, to other markets.

This would cost us jobs here in Canada. It would cause the lawyers, articling students and staff that support them to lose their jobs, which are considerable numbers in the mining sector. It would cost those in the financial sectors that provide the investment and capital for them to undertake their projects, the Toronto Stock Exchange of course being a focus of the efforts to raise finance to support investment activity, as well as the entire Toronto area that has grown up around it in the financial sector. Of course, it would cost the mining companies and equipment sectors themselves. That is the risk of this bill.

It is a bill that stands to kill jobs, kill economic activity and, in fact, kill the revenues that go to government through taxes as a result of all that economic activity. Not only would that leave us in a position where we would be less able to provide social services and the other things government must do with the tax revenue we receive but also it would increase needs as Canadians would be facing a more challenging environment with fewer jobs and fewer economic opportunities.

The fact is that Canadian mining companies are overwhelmingly good corporate citizens, model leaders that we can be very proud of. We can be proud of the fact that Canadian mining companies have moved into a position of global leadership. They are regarded as a focus of talent and also a focus of good corporate citizenship.

It is easy to look for recent examples. I was in Chile on day 17, following the mining accident in which the miners were trapped underground. On day 17 when the sun rose, there was not very much hope left for those miners. For two and a half weeks, efforts to try to reach them had been without success.

It was not a Canadian mine that was involved, but Canadian mining and equipment companies were already there as good corporate citizens doing their bit to help. They were providing airlift for the families of trapped miners. They were generating support. They were providing satellite communications equipment that was necessary in that remote area, and of course, they were providing some of the critical drilling equipment that was necessary in the effort to try to reach the miners.

On the day I was there, halfway through the day the news broke that a note had been brought to the surface that indicated they were there, all 33 alive. It was an exciting time to be there. Everyone I talked to was exuberant. The nation rallied around, and hope sprung that a miraculous rescue could occur, which ultimately did, a miraculous rescue that occurred with the help of Canadian companies that were good corporate citizens, that did so because it was the right thing to do and showed the kind of leadership Canadian companies always have. They were the same kind of Canadian companies that are targeted by this legislation with the suggestion that somehow they are bad corporate citizens.

We know that story ended well. It was a triumph of the human spirit, a triumph of technology and something I think all Canadians can be proud of, that our mining companies played a part in delivering a successful ultimate outcome.

That is the kind of story that we might not have if a bill like Bill C-300 became law, because those would not be Canadian mining companies anymore. They would be Australian mining companies or Chilean mining companies or Brazilian mining companies. They would not be here anymore, the jobs would not be here anymore, the prosperity would not be here anymore and we would not be able to be proud of having played a role.

As I travel this world, I can tell members I get the same stories again and again. I do not get complaints about the bad conduct of Canadian mining companies. I hear the stories about what good corporate citizens they have been, in terms of providing for the communities they are in, not just in jobs, not just in good respect for the environment, but also in providing critical social services that remote communities would never have in some of these developing countries, schools, clinics for health care, doctors and high-quality housing, things that otherwise simply would not be there. They do it because it is the right thing to do. It makes sense and, if they want to have successful mining operations, it is just the right thing for them to do and a logical thing for them to do.

I would like to draw members' attention to the fact that Canada already has a number of existing mechanisms that serve to help our companies function as good corporate citizens. These mechanisms enhance the positive reputation and global competitiveness of Canadian companies, including those that are in the extractive sectors. They also provide a means to address any issues that may arise.

Our Conservative government has initiated a four-point corporate social responsibility strategy, something that I might point out did not exist at the time when the hon. Liberal member who is sponsoring the bill was in government. There was no such policy in place. We now have one in place.

I will now outline the four points of it and elaborate on each one of them.

First, we appointed Dr. Marketa Evans as a corporate social responsibility counsellor.

Second, we established a new independent centre of excellence.

Third, we provide assistance to foreign governments to develop their capacity to manage natural resource development in a sustainable and responsible manner.

Fourth, we continue to promote internationally recognized corporate social responsibility performance and reporting guidelines.

I would like to remind the members of this House that the Government of Canada has further reinforced its commitment to good corporate citizenship through building the Canadian advantage.

This strategy, based on broad consultations, was developed to promote best practices among Canadian companies operating abroad and to build capacity in developing countries.

Working through the Canadian International Development Agency, the first pillar of the strategy is the continued support of initiatives to enhance the capacities of developing countries to manage the development of minerals and oil and gas, and to use those resources to the benefit of those countries to help reduce poverty. Countries like Libya and Peru, for example, have benefited from such policies.

The second pillar under our government's strategy is our continued commitment to internationally recognized standards and performance guidelines, standards of good corporate citizenship, standards we can all be proud of.

Building on Canada's adherence to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines for multinational enterprises, the Canadian government promotes the following important frameworks: the International Finance Corporation performance standards on social and environmental sustainability; the voluntary principles on security and human rights, a set of guidelines for projects that involve private and public security forces, and Canada is a full member of the voluntary principles with a seat on the steering committee; and, finally, the global reporting initiative, which is a mechanism to enhance transparency and encourage market-based incentives. Of course, there are the additional pillars I spoke of earlier of the corporate social responsibility counsellor and the centre of excellence.

The bottom line is that Canadian companies have been performing well. We have the mechanisms in place to ensure they perform well, whether it be the Export Development Corporation applying corporate social responsibility standards when it makes decisions on loans, or the voluntary principles that the sector itself has been practising.

The key is that if the bill were to pass, we would not have an opportunity to see those things develop. We would likely see the evaporation of one of the areas in which Canada has been leading the world economically, in which we create jobs and prosperity for literally thousands of Canadians. That is too great a risk to consider at this time. It is too great a risk to consider at any time, for the sake of Canadian workers.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2010 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are talking about Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, which is supposed to ensure that Canadian mining companies behave responsibly in terms of human rights and the environment.

Social and environmental responsibility is very important to Quebeckers. Unfortunately, it seems that Canadian mining companies operating abroad often fail to respect these principles. In 2009, the mining industry itself produced a study for internal use only. The study contained plenty of evidence. Leaks revealed that Canadian companies were responsible for two-thirds of the 171 environmental and human rights violations recorded. Naturally, these companies do not want the bill to pass. They say that it is not necessary and would make them less competitive.

The Bloc Québécois has long been concerned about the fate of populations and ecosystems affected by these companies' abusive activities. In 2001, my colleague, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, introduced Bill C-332 to enable the Government of Canada to take action against companies engaging in abusive practices. The private member's bill did not make it past first reading.

Despite our concerns, the government continued to espouse the laissez-faire principle. This attitude is irresponsible. In fact, the Conservatives say that mining activity in underdeveloped countries is a means of fighting poverty. However, that assumes that developing countries have the means to establish long-term development strategies. But such is not the case.

In reality, foreign investment can benefit certain disadvantaged countries if they have the institutional capacity to properly manage the new capital. Given their economic situation, such regions obviously lack the political and administrative means and are unable to benefit from the presence of the mining companies. That is the case for a number of developing countries that are being shamelessly exploited by the industry because of their inability to negotiate acceptable terms for their resource operations. This results in irreparable damage to the environment, the displacement of people from mining sites and the destruction of historical sites, not to mention the industry's use of armed groups that violate human rights.

There are a large number of Canadian mining companies operating abroad. More than 60% of the world's mining companies are registered in Canada. Thus, the phenomenon is very widespread. We must ask ourselves whether such registered companies are taking advantage of Canada's legislative shortcomings and generous tax incentives to further exploit developing countries. At the end of the day, the benefits for countries that host these companies are very few, even non-existent. In fact, these countries often pay dearly for the industry's presence on their land.

In Peru, 97 conflicts between communities and mining companies were reported in 2004. The Honduran mining act does not take residential, environmental or tourist areas into consideration and only gives communities 15 days to appeal the granting of permits.

At present, Canada is a legal paradise for these companies. They benefit from investment conditions that are not well regulated abroad and they are accountable to no one. These Canadian companies continue to post huge profits. The cumulative value of their direct investment totals more than $50 billion annually. Therefore, we wonder why the government refuses to regulate this industry and puts the onus for monitoring them on disadvantaged governments.

The member for Kootenay—Columbia stated that Bill C-300 would put Canadian companies in danger. However, it seems that we should no longer be surprised that the government answers to mining, oil and gas companies.

Bill C-300 is a step in the right direction because it forces the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Trade to establish minimum standards. However, the bill is void of any restrictions that would get at the root of the problem. It does not put appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that the established framework is respected. In fact, the bill does not provide for an advisory committee, made up of industry representatives, dedicated to helping the government create a framework. It is critical that companies be involved; otherwise, the government cannot count on their co-operation.

Similarly, the bill we are discussing today does not propose an ombudsman. It is essential to have an independent procedure for receiving complaints. Finally, Bill C-300 proposes few penalties for offending companies.

In September 2009, my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle introduced a bill that reflects how important we believe respect for human and environmental rights to be. Among other things, it would create a Canadian extraterritorial activities review commission to receive complaints, conduct investigations, issue recommendations to the government and draft a code of Canadian standards for corporate activities.

Although we would rather debate a stricter bill, such as Bill C-438, we support Bill C-300 in principle. Right now, dozens of countries are suffering because of our mining companies. Canadian companies operating abroad simply must respect international standards.

The bill before us today would set minimum standards, which is better than the distressing absence of rules that the government would like to maintain. The Conservatives' dishonest tolerance for the blatant exploitation of people in other countries must end now. I hope that the Conservatives will have learned their lesson following their defeat at the UN Security Council. I hope they will finally honour their international obligations.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2010 / 7:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-300, and I give full support to it.

The mining companies and their Conservative surrogates have been very active in their lobbying efforts to try to convince members of Parliament to vote against the bill.

For people who are watching tonight, the summary of the bill sets out its purpose, which is to promote environmental best practices to ensure the protection and promotion of international human rights standards in respect to the mining, oil and gas activities of Canadian corporations in developing countries. The bill would also give the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Trade the responsibility to issue guidelines and articulate corporate accountability standards for mining oil or gas activities and it would require the minister to submit an annual report to both Houses of Parliament on the provisions and operation of the act.

There is a number of very good reasons why the bill should be supported. Bill C-300 seeks to ensure corporations that receive assistance from Canadian taxpayers operate in a manner that respects basic human rights and the environment. Our national reputation is enhanced when our corporate citizens adhere to these values.

Numerous witnesses before the foreign affairs committee gave testimony regarding the significant violations of basic human rights. We know that to be the case in all kinds of countries, particularly South America, Peru, as an example. These violations take place in various Canadian mine sites around the world. The legislation would help sort out the bad practice from the good and enhance the operations and reputations of good Canadian companies.

There have been numerous accusations of serious and unnecessary environmental degradation by Canadian companies. The bill would encourage companies to ensure their practices were up to international standards. The Conservatives seem to want a situation where this—

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

September 20th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, introduced by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

I submit that the bill contains provisions which would require new spending for purposes not currently authorized in statute and therefore should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Bill C-300 would add new functions to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act by requiring the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to establish a new, quasi-judicial function regarding Canadian companies engaged in mining, oil or gas activities in developing countries. Currently, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act does not authorize spending for that new function.

The government did not raise a point of order on the bill prior to second reading. However, during committee consideration of the bill, the issue of new spending was raised, and I now want to bring that to your attention. On December 1, 2009 officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade stated in committee:

The mechanism itself would require...the set-up of a whole new procedural framework that is not currently in existence within DFAIT and is not foreseen in the DFAIT Act.

Let me explain why this would require new spending. Clause 9 of the bill would amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act to compel the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to ensure that mining, oil and gas activities by Canadian corporations in developing countries are consistent with the guidelines in clause 5 of the bill.

Clause 4 of the bill sets out a formal complaints process to require the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to receive complaints and conduct investigations on whether the guidelines have been contravened.

In a case where the ministers determine that activities contravene the guidelines, the ministers would be required to notify the president of the Export Development Corporation and the chair of the CPP Investment Board that a Canadian corporation's mining, oil or gas activities are inconsistent with the guidelines.

In such a case, the EDC would not be able to enter into, continue or renew a transaction with a Canadian corporation found to have contravened the guidelines and the CPP Investment Board would have to ensure that assets are not invested in any corporations that have been found to be in contravention of the guidelines.

Bill C-300 would alter the terms and conditions in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act by adding a new quasi-judicial function. The need for a royal recommendation for a new function is explained on page 834 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. It states:

A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered.

On June 13, 2005 the Speaker ruled on Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence, stating:

Second, clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose--

On February 11, 2008, with respect to a new role or function for an existing organization or program, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-474, the National Sustainable Development Act, stating:

Bill C-474 also proposes a new mandate for the commissioner.

However, clause 13 of Bill C-474 would modify the mandate of this new independent commissioner to require, namely, the development of “a national sustainability monitoring system...The clause 13 requirements would impose additional functions on the commissioner that are substantially different from those foreseen in the current mandate. In the Chair's view, clause 13 thus alters the conditions set out in the original bill to which a royal recommendation was attached.

I have explained how the new function proposed in Bill C-300 would alter the terms and conditions of the original royal recommendation for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act.

In keeping with the precedents I have mentioned, I therefore submit that Bill C-300 requires a royal recommendation.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

September 20th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have been at this bill now for some 13-14 months and here we are literally at the last minute raising issues of royal recommendation, which have already been, in my judgment, ruled on. This bill was carefully crafted in order to avoid the issue of royal recommendation because that is a limitation on private members' bills.

I take note, Mr. Speaker, that it requires no creation of any new agency. It does not create any new ombudsman. It does not create any new department. It does not create any agency which would require further appropriation of any moneys or any expenditures on the part of the government. This bill was intentionally crafted that way so as to avoid the very objections that my hon. friend has raised. There will be required, within the government itself, a reorganization of its resources, but there are no new resources contemplated by the creation of this function in the ministry.

I say to my hon. friend and I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that this bill does not require a royal recommendation as it does not require any fresh resources. The fresh resources are literally the prerogative of the government. There is no intention and, in fact, there is no requirement on the part of Bill C-300 to create any new agency, any new organization, or any new expenditure of funds.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

September 20th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue here that is raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons refers to the creation of a new quasi-judicial function. A function is not a new agency or a board.

The procedures with regard to assessing the requirements for a royal recommendation on private members' bills begin with a notice by the Speaker after consultation with the Clerk of the House. The Clerk's officials do a rigorous examination of each of those bills and they report to the Speaker who in turn reports to the House on the possibility of a royal recommendation being required. No such report was provided to the Speaker, and the Speaker has not in fact given such an alert to hon. members in this regard. Therefore, I would submit, for all the reasons that the Clerk of the House of Commons did not flag this for the Speaker, that those reasons would stand in the stead of the member who has moved this bill.

The other consideration, and I have seen this with regard to other bills, is that significant alteration of the role of any body does not necessarily rule out the fact that there is a responsibility for that. I think, Mr. Speaker, you would find that there is no other department or agency, whether it be Foreign Affairs or International Trade, to which this particular matter that is raised by Bill C-300 would come under. It must be under their ambit; it must be under the scope of their work.

I submit, Mr. Speaker, that this is the only place that it could go so that it is consistent with the responsibilities as departments, agencies, and boards, and that this bill does not require a royal recommendation.

Speaker's Ruling
Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

September 20th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood, and the hon. member for Mississauga South for their submissions on this point. I will examine the bill in light of their submissions and return to the House in due course with a ruling in respect to this matter.

There are 16 motions and amendments standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-300.

Motions Nos. 1 to 16 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting patterns available at the table.

The Chair does not ordinarily provide reasons for its selection of report stage motions. However, having been made aware of the exceptional circumstances surrounding the committee study of this bill, I would like to convey to the House the reasoning involved in considering these motions.

The note accompanying Standing Order 76(5) reads, in part:

The Speaker...will normally only select motions which were not or could not be presented [in committee].

The Chair takes note that the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood sits on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which was mandated to study Bill C-300. Although I believe that the majority of the amendments in his name could have been proposed during the committee consideration of the bill, they were not.

In a written submission to the Chair, the member outlined his efforts to overcome the committee's inability to deal with the bill in the prescribed timelines, even going so far as to move a motion that the committee begin clause-by-clause study of the bill. These efforts proved fruitless, and although the member had submitted his amendments to the committee, he was not afforded the opportunity to propose them.

Having carefully reviewed the sequence of events and the submission made by the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood, I am satisfied that these motions could not be presented during the committee consideration of the bill and, accordingly, I have selected them for debate at report stage.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 16 to the House.

Motions in Amendment
Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

September 20th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-300 be amended by replacing, in the English version, the long title on page 1 with the following:

An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-300, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 9 to 11 on page 1 with the following:

““corporation” means any company or legal person incorporated by or under an Act of Parliament or of any province, and includes holding or subsidiary companies of the corporation.”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-300, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing, in the French version, lines 10 to 13 on page 1 with the following:

“Opérations de recherche, notamment par forage, de production, de rationalisation de l'exploitation, de transformation et de transport de ressources minérales, de pétrole ou de gaz, réalisées dans le territoire d'un”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-300, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 12 to 16 on page 1 with the following:

““developing countries” means countries classified as low income, lower middle income or upper middle income in the World Bank list of economies, as amended from time to time.”

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-300, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 34 on page 2 with the following:

“3. La présente loi vise à faire en sorte que les”

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the English version, lines 3 and 4 on page 3 with the following:

“receive complaints regarding Canadian corporations engaged in mining, oil or gas activities”

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 22 and 23 on page 3 with the following:

“ister who receives the complaint shall consider any relevant information provided by the corporation or the”

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 27 on page 3 with the following:

“that a corporation has contravened a guideline set”

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 32 on page 3 with the following:

“undertaken pursuant to this section, which shall include a determination regarding the corporation’s compliance with the guidelines set out in section 5 and the Ministers' basis for any finding, within eight”

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 39 to 44 on page 3 with the following:

“(8) If a corporation is found by a Minister to have contravened a guideline referred to in section 5, the corporation shall have six months, from the date of publication of the Minister’s finding, to bring itself into compliance. During that period, no adverse steps resulting from that breach of compliance shall be taken against the corporation by Export Development Canada pursuant to section 10.2 of the Export Development Act or by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade pursuant to section 10 of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act.

(8.1) The Ministers shall publish in the Canada Gazette their findings regarding compliance with the guidelines within a period of 30 days after the conclusion of the grace period provided for in subsection (8).

(8.2) If, at the end of that grace period, the corporation remains in contravention of a guideline, as determined by the Ministers, the Ministers shall, within a period of 30 days, notify the President of Export Development Canada and the Chairperson of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board that the corporation’s mining, oil or gas activities are inconsistent with the guidelines referred to in section 5.

(8.3) If a corporation found to be in contravention of a guideline at the end of the grace period provided for in subsection (8) subsequently undertakes corrective actions, the corporation may request the Ministers to review the results of those actions and make a determination regarding compliance with the guidelines. The request shall be made in writing and shall include such information as is required to determine compliance with the guidelines.

(8.4) Subsections (3), (4), (6) and (7) apply to a request for review provided under subsection (8.3) as if it were a complaint.

(8.5) If the Ministers determine through a review that the corporation remains in contravention of a guideline, the Ministers shall notify the President of Export Development Canada and the Chairperson of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board that the corporation’s mining, oil or gas activities are inconsistent with the guidelines referred to in section 5.”

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by adding after line 12 on page 4 the following:

“(11) Every investment manager who invests the assets of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board pursuant to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act shall take into account the results of examinations and reviews undertaken pursuant to this section.”

Motion No. 12

That Bill C-300, in Clause 5, be amended by replacing line 17 on page 4 with the following:

“(2) The guidelines shall be substantially consistent with:”

Motion No. 13

That Bill C-300, in Clause 5, be amended by replacing lines 18 to 23 on page 4 with the following:

“(a) the IFC's

(i) Policy on Social and Environmental Sustainability,

(ii) Performance Standards on Social and Environmental Sustainability and Guidance Notes to those standards,

(iii) applicable Industry Sector Guidelines, and

(iv) General Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines;”

Motion No.14

That Bill C-300, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing line 36 on page 5 with the following:

“enter into or renew a transaction”

Motion No. 15

That Bill C-300, in Clause 9, be amended by replacing line 17 on page 6 with the following:

“functions under subsection (2)”

Motion No.16

That Bill C-300 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Mr. Speaker, I welcome you back to the House. I am sorry to see you had to be put to so much work so quickly. I also welcome back my hon. colleagues on their return from summer recess.

It is an honour to be the lead speaker on Bill C-300 in the opening of this parliamentary session. Ironically, this bill has spent some 13 months in committee and over that time the arguments in favour of the bill have actually become stronger.

I would never, in my wildest imagination, have thought that this bill would attract so much attention. Certainly, I had not anticipated it would attract so much international intention. People are literally flying in from around the world to support Bill C-300 and are encouraging my colleagues to get behind this bill and do something for the world's poor, the world's indigenous and the world's people who cannot speak for themselves. They are literally taking their own time and spending their own resources to lobby colleagues and encourage them to support this bill.

Why would people spend their time and resources and have all of the international attention and domestic attention on what is quite a modest bill? My view is that it is due to Canada's reputation as a fair-minded democracy that adheres to the rules of law and where aggrieved persons can actually come and expect to receive redress. That may or may not be true in some of the countries from which these folks are coming.

I also believe that this bill has received so much attention because of the increasingly negative reputation of Canadian mining companies operating abroad that do things to people and communities which would never be tolerated in this country. I could literally take members on a world tour. Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and the Congo have enormous conflicts with Canadian mining companies. The allegations that have been put forward against these Canadian mining companies are very serious as witness after witness came before our committee and made these allegations.

It is never a good day for Canada when our own Governor General is surrounded by 200 Mexicans chanting “Canada, go home” because of the activities of the Canadian mining company operating in that country. It is not a good day when, as a witness described, he was chased out of a village because the villagers thought he was a Canadian supporting a Canadian mining company. He deemed it appropriate to take the flag that was on his backpack and black it out. It is not a good day for our reputation. It is not a good day when one of the people who was moderating a debate in which I was involved said that she had recently been in Guatemala where people would naturally ask her where she was from. When she would say that she was from Canada, they would say that in Guatemala it was better that she described herself as being from America.

Ironically, one of the great objections that the industry puts forward to the bill is that it would cause reputational damage. Reputational damage to whom? Is it reputational damage to Canada or is it reputational damage to the country?

We already know that a lot of activities of Canadian mining companies destabilize governments, put other Canadian companies at risk and put Canadians travelling abroad at risk. Why the objection to reputational risk? Why the fear of a quasi-judicial process where the impartial laws of natural justice actually prevail in a hearing? Why indeed?

It is hugely ironic to me that at the same they are complaining about the process, they are saying that they adhere to the IFC standards that are set out in the bill itself. They do not want to have a process to find out whether they actually adhere to the IFC standards because they say that they are already adhering to them. It seems a bit of an ironic argument.

Possibly, though, the real reason that the objection is so vociferous on the part of the companies and the government is that there possibly is something to be hidden.The allegations in the aforementioned countries are possibly true.

Sometimes where there is smoke there is just smoke but sometimes where there is smoke there is an actual fire. Did witness after witness really tell the truth about murder, rape, environmental degradation, officials being bought and paid for and paramilitaries enforcing the so-called companies? With all of those witnesses, was that just smoke and mirrors?

Possibly there is some truth and the companies do not want anyone, let alone a government official, a minister of the crown or the people of Canada, actually taking evidence, having a look, listening to arguments and making a finding one way or another, good or bad. Not only do the companies not want anything resembling a fair and impartial inquiry, they do not want any sanctions. They want to exist in a sanction-free environment. They say that the sanctions are too draconian.

What are the sanctions? The sanctions are that they will not get support from the Export Development Corporation of Canada. They will not get support from the Canada pension plan. The Canada pension plan will not be allowed to buy shares on the stock exchange. They will not get consular support. They will not get the promotional activities that our consuls general provide right around the world to Canadians operating abroad. In other words, no taxpayers' money, no pensioners' money and no parties.

That is three rather modest teeth and I am proposing pulling half a tooth on one of these amendments because we took the view of the Canada pension plan that there would be a requirement to amend the Canada pension plan, which would require provincial consent. My thought was that if the Minister of Finance could not get his own provincial counterparts to make much needed amendments to the Canada pension plan, what hope would I have of getting amendments? Therefore, we have modified that objection somewhat.

Then there is the full argument about extraterritoriality. This is just plain nonsense. This bill is about accountability for taxpayers' hard-earned money and how it is used, not where it is used. Like foreign aid, Canada has expectations and the absolute right to withdraw its money at any time and in any place. So also does EDC and the Canada pension plan. Canada retains the right to invest abroad based on its own set of laws and guidelines. It has the right to invest and it has the right to divest.

The other proposed amendment of significance is whereby the company would be given a period of time to rectify its non-compliance. Notwithstanding what the companies say and its handmaiden, the government, I would much prefer compliance over non-compliance. I prefer honourable and responsible mining over no mining at all.

These are the objections: the companies are too draconian, they will hurt our reputation and they will leave Canada in droves. To go where? To go to the United States, the most litigious nation on earth? To go where the alien tort claims act is? To go where Senator Lugar's bill is, which now requires that Canadian mining companies wishing to list their shares on the New York Stock Exchange must tell the department how much money they are giving governments and government officials? It is an attempt at accountability and transparency, which speaks well for our American friends but does not speak well for us.

Will they go to Great Britain, which is another great place? It is actually proposing a more robust version of Bill C-300. The European Union has very high standards of corporate social responsibility. I doubt the companies will go to Russia or China. The only place they may possibly go is to Switzerland. When companies go to Switzerland, they generally want to hide something. If they are going to Switzerland, fine, Lord love them, but they are not going to take Canadian taxpayers' money or pensioners' money with them.

This really is a modest bill. It has run into a virtual tsunami of objections from the industry and the government. Government members may face clear and overwhelming testimony from those who have chosen to turn their backs on the poor, the helpless and the aboriginal. By voting against this bill, they embrace the status quo. If this bill does not pass, we will have failed vulnerable people and struggling democracies. We will be diminished in the eyes of the world. We will erode our credibility to speak in international fora. We will be smaller in every way.

Motions in Amendment
Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

September 20th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to stand and rebut the bunch of stuff that just came from the other side. I rise today to speak in strong opposition to Bill C-300. I had the opportunity to be fully engaged in the committee process and discussions. My presentation will lay the expert testimony and facts we heard onto the record for all members of the House.

The debate on Bill C-300 has been constantly muddied by partisan division and a cliché of anti-business rhetoric. I must say that was a great exhibition we just had. The partisan division is along party lines on the frivolous premise that one party is more virtuous in protecting human rights than others. It should be made clear right from the beginning of this debate that all members of Parliament, Canadians, indeed Canadian companies, want to ensure that human rights are protected. We all agree with corporate social responsibility.

It should be noted that we are very fortunate in Canada, in a country where the big bad corporations that the member has tried to make out just do not exist. There is no Avatar planet full of blue people and mysterious trees being destroyed by the big bad mining company. We live in a country where everyone realizes the value of human rights and corporate social responsibility. Canada has an independent corporate social responsibility counsellor who works with NGOs and companies to ensure that Canada is a world leader in respecting human rights abroad. Around the world Canadian companies are noted leaders, practising corporate social responsibility, contrary to what the member just said.

Bill C-300 should be defeated in the chamber for the following reasons. It is badly written legislation and it has extremely poor process in its implementation mechanism.

I want to be clear. The MPs who are voting against the bill are not voting against corporate social responsibility. None of us would vote against corporate social responsibility and human rights. Canada has its own independent CSR program, which involves consultations, public reporting, third party verification. Bill C-300 dismisses the existing collaborative approach and promotes an open-ended punitive one.

Bill C-300 would harm our businesses, which are already world leaders on corporate social responsibility. The bill is often referred to as the product of the national round table on corporate social responsibility. It does not deserve that title. The bill does not represent the round table.

The round table was very successful and it involved representatives from civil society, corporations and the bureaucracy. All participants were happy with the result of the discussions, but not all are happy with the bill.

As previously noted, the government response to the national round table was the establishment of Canada's independent corporate social responsibility counsellor. In contrast to the thoughtful government action, Bill C-300 was hastily drafted with no consultations, as we heard time after time during the committee process. The product we see before us is sloppy. The bill, if ever enacted, would have drastic consequences that were never ever envisioned by the round table.

In the bill the complaints mechanism is placed in the hands of the ministers of the Crown. Bill C-300 converts a process that should be fair and independent into one that is entirely partisan. The complaints mechanism should be run at arm's-length by an independent individual, who reports to the government and that is precisely the existing rule of Marketa Evans, Canada's corporate social responsibility counsellor.

In comparison, the bill would promote soapbox partisan antics on the issue. No minister would be able to deem a claim frivolous without that decision being derided by the opposition's partisan political agenda. However, the same claim could be deemed frivolous by an independent corporate social responsibility counsellor because he or she would be independent from politics.

Unfortunately, the problems with the complaints mechanism go further. Any claim will automatically be perceived as having credibility because of the involvement of ministers of the Crown. Even the most frivolous accusation could be perceived as legitimate. Bill C-300 does not have any mechanism to protect the system from frivolous claims and therefore even the most facetious claim could be given false credibility when the minister so-called investigated.

This issue is so obvious that several prominent Liberal politicians have put partisan politics aside and expressed their concern about the bill, stating that foreign governments could end up withholding or taking away permits from Canadian firms citing the minister's investigations. This could happen in spite of the fact that at the end of the investigation there still might be no evidence of wrongdoing against the company.

When Bill C-300 was in committee, scores of expert witnesses came to testify against the bill. Many of the witnesses had voluntarily participated in the national round table discussions. We heard from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Export Development Canada. These two organizations are representative of the leaders of the Canada's economy and the fact that they are strongly opposed to the bill should not be ignored.

We heard from countless Canadian companies that have outstanding reputations and are examples for the world when it comes to investing in the communities in which they operate. We even heard from the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, who appearing on a different topic, spoke of the immense contributions that Canada's private sector was making in his developing nation.

If we collect the committee witnesses, placing them onto a scale, those opposed to the bill on one side and those in favour of it on the other, the scale will overwhelmingly tilt in opposition to the bill. We cannot ignore the qualifications of the witnesses who spoke out against the bill. They are experts and came with precise concerns about specific details of the bill.

I will not deny there were witnesses in favour of the bill. However, they spoke in favour of corporate social responsibility in general and could not rebut the concerns about specific sections of the bill.

Let me restate that around the world Canadian companies are noted leaders, practising corporate social responsibility. Canada has its own independent CSR program, which involved consultations, public reporting and third party verification.

Bill C-300 dismisses the existing collaborative approach and promotes an open-ended punitive one. The bill would harm our businesses that are already world leaders on corporation social responsibility. In fact, it is important to note that many witnesses stated that the bill would jeopardize the ability of Canadian corporations to purchase mines from less reputable operators.

Frequently Canadian companies will purchase mines that were previously run with little regard for human rights and Canadian companies will correct the problem. Canadian companies invest heavily in local communities and bring mines up to acceptable standards. If Bill C-300 were to be enacted, we have been advised this will no longer be possible because the bill does not protect a company from the allegations of abuse that occurred before it acquired the mine in question.The Canadian corporation could be in jeopardy of liability for prior actions by previous owners.

If Canadian companies are unable to purchase previously poorly run mines, then the local communities will be left at the mercy of the less reputable companies from countries with lower human rights standards than those in Canada. We have also been advised that it will be difficult for Export Development Canada to partner with any mining operation overseas.

Mines are not entirely financed by one organization, but are a collection of international investors. This typically include Canadian companies, Export Development Canada, private investors from around the world and other investment sources. International investment partners would not agree to invest if EDC were at the table and C-300 were to become law. The bill would force EDC to walk away from its investment if any claim were made against the project.

This is highly problematic because Canadian direct investment abroad in the mining sector was $66.7 billion in the last two decades. Putting this at risk would cripple our Canadian companies. If international investors feel that the EDC is default-risk due to the poor complaints mechanism of the bill, they will only invest in EDC if other public organizations are not involved.

Canada's mining sector is a world leader. We have every right to be proud of the work that our companies do. Our companies have an excellent economic track record and have incredible corporate social responsibility programs that operate in communities around the world.

Canada is well positioned throughout the current worldwide economic crisis, but we are not out of the woods yet. The economic recovery is still fragile. Our commodity sector has led the way for our economy and we must not hinder its progress now. We must not cripple our strongest economic sector.

Supporters of the bill will argue that we are saying that if the bill is passed, there will be a mass exodus of companies from Canada. These are the same people who twist the debate into cliché anti-business arguments.

For every reason, the bill is sloppily written, does not reflect the national round table, does not create an arm's-length independent process, creates a partisan political process, has an inadequate complaints mechanism, hinders reputable—

Motions in Amendment
Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

September 20th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all, I want to say welcome back to all of my colleagues, to you, and to the House staff.

I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-300 on this first day back. The Bloc Québécois will support this bill, because it is a first step in the right direction. Unfortunately, there are not currently any mechanisms to adequately regulate the activities of Canadian mining, oil and gas companies abroad. This is a senseless situation that must be changed. We know full well that Canada is a world leader in the mining industry, and Canadian companies must set an example.

The vast majority of Canadian mining companies that operate abroad are respectful of the local populations and the environment. However, it is clear that for several years, Canadian mining companies have been directly or indirectly associated with forced relocations of communities, major environmental disasters, support for repressive regimes and serious human rights violations. Some companies even hire armed groups, such as militias or security agencies, to protect them.

Far too many conflicts still exist between communities and mining companies, and far too many human rights advocates are still being abused psychologically, kidnapped and sometimes even murdered.

Extraction practices need to be regulated so that they pose no threat to the sustainable development of local populations or their health and safety.

Those are several reasons why Canadian companies should be held accountable for the impact of their overseas activities. The Bloc Québécois is recommending a clear, independent and transparent process to ensure accountability and to monitor Canadian companies' compliance with accountability standards.

We are debating Bill C-300 and its amendments today because we need to act quickly. There are far too many people affected by the negligence of some Canadian companies to ignore such a serious issue. Yes, there are currently some serious gaps. And we did not make them up: numerous people spoke to this on a number of occasions before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Like many of my colleagues, I repeatedly met with many individuals and with members of civil society organizations working in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and Africa, where the people have been affected by the questionable behaviour of some Canadian mining companies. Their testimonies were all marked by deep distress, great suffering and injustice.

Bill C-300 is a rudimentary legislative tool, and while it is debatable, it is still high time that Canadian parliamentarians pass legislation to regulate the activities of Canadian mining, oil and gas companies working overseas. The Canadian government has its head in the sand if it believes that the voluntary measures it has proposed are effective deterrents. This government is refusing any form of legal regulation of Canadian companies, saying that monitoring is the host countries' responsibility, even though they do not possess the resources needed to manage the situation.

These countries and the mining industry need to make sure that natural resources help reduce poverty and promote economic and social development. The government should exert more control over these companies' practices and give Canadian investments abroad the tools they need to ensure that these companies' activities truly benefit the people of these countries.

The government should recognize that this situation is serious and adopt measures that require mining companies to operate responsibly. The government appears to be downplaying the social, environmental and human rights impacts that these companies' practices and activities have.

This debate has been going on for too long. In 2005, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development released a report entitled “Mining in Developing Countries - Corporate Social Responsibility”. Three of the recommendations in the standing committee's report proposed specific objectives relating to the Canadian government's responsibility to monitor and exert greater control over the activities of Canadian mining companies abroad.

Two recommendations concerned the importance of establishing clear legal standards for accountability and developing mechanisms to monitor the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries.

At the time, a number of Canadian NGOs called the committee's recommendations “a real breakthrough”.

As we all know, the then government's response was deeply disappointing because it was interested only in voluntary measures.

In its response, the government agreed to organize a series of round tables to study in greater depth the issues that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development raised in its report. Four round tables were held from June to November of 2006 in four different cities: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. Participation levels were high: 104 briefs were submitted, 156 oral presentations were given and 57 experts were invited to participate. Members of the public and experts spoke for a total of 101 hours.

Following this extensive consultation, the members of the advisory group, the Canadian and Quebec NGOs, and the experts managed to come to an agreement with a good part of the Canadian mining industry. They published a report on March 29, 2007, in which they asked the Canadian government to immediately adopt a set of standards establishing a corporate social responsibility framework for Canadian mining, oil and gas companies operating abroad. These recommendations are the result of a consensus between civil society and the extractive sector.

The report recommends the establishment of a corporate social responsibility framework for the extractive sector.

In addition, it recommends the appointment of an independent ombudsman to handle complaints about the activities of Canadian extractive companies abroad, the establishment of a tripartite committee—consisting of members of government, civil society and the extractive industry—to monitor compliance with standards, and the establishment of an advisory group to provide advice to government on improving corporate social responsibility.

The report recommends that offending companies no longer be entitled to tax benefits, loan guarantees and other forms of government assistance.

It took the Conservative government two years to respond to the round table report. The Conservative government chose to ignore the recommendations made by the parliamentarians and advisory group members who took part in the round tables and instead set up a bogus agency that will not impose any rules or consequences on companies that pollute or infringe on human rights. The government's decision to rely on voluntary measures and its refusal to adopt effective sanctions make the communities affected by mining projects even more vulnerable.

The Bloc Québécois has always defended the need for social responsibility standards for corporations working abroad and for that reason we are in favour of the principle of Bill C-300. We have frequently denounced the overseas activities of Canadian extractive companies that violate human rights and compromise the sustainable development of local populations.

In closing, Bill C-300 makes it possible to continue the debate about the social responsibility of Canadian mining, oil and gas companies abroad. A number of groups have mobilized to voice their support for Bill C-300. Civil society has taken this opportunity to inform parliamentarians and the public of the need to monitor the overseas activities of mining companies.

Motions in Amendment
Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business

September 20th, 2010 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

I welcome you back to this session, Madam Speaker.

I would like to thank the member for Scarborough—Guildwood for introducing this legislation and for his general concern for citizens in developing countries. I would also like to thank him for seeing it through committee and for working with other MPs to improve it. I thank the member, while noting that corporate accountability for Canadian resource extraction companies operating abroad is long overdue. I also thank other members and groups who have worked so hard to put this issue on the public agenda, including the member for Ottawa Centre.

Many players in the extractive industries have taken advantage of political cultures in developing countries that cannot or do not accept or respect our domestic principles of democratic accountability and transparency. We also know that such companies will continue to act unethically so long as there is no requirement, penalty, or incentive to encourage them to act in a different, more responsible manner.

Nearly every witness who testified at committee in regard to this bill acknowledged that there is a problem in the extractive resource sector in developing countries, and many agreed that our federal government has the right, the responsibility, and the power to right this wrong.

I am sure that all members, past and present, would agree that legislation that enforces international rights standards and environmental best practices among Canadian companies operating abroad is long overdue. I do, however, have a significant problem with the conduct of some members of the foreign affairs committee that examined this bill.

I stated that I assume that all members, past and present, feel a need to protect human rights, labour rights, and the environment and to stop reckless and unfettered business practices, no matter where they occur. Why did these members deliberately and forcefully stall progress and prevent amendments from being introduced and debated and put forward? I will let their actions speak for themselves, but I hope that they will come on board and make a constructive contribution to the debate and legislative process at this time so that the bill can pass in some form in this Parliament.

Support from the New Democrat caucus for legislation that would enforce ethical behaviour by Canadian companies, including those operating abroad, has never been difficult to attain. This bill, however, like most that enter this place, is an imperfect piece of legislation.

I will repeat my concerns from this past March about this bill. I believe that it is too narrow in scope and application and too weak in its enforcement for my liking. As such, and given that this bill would merely encourage such ethical and morally responsible behaviour in the extractive resource industry sector rather than enforce it, I can only offer my qualified support. Along with my New Democrat colleagues, I remain hopeful that it can still be amended to resolve some of these difficulties and problems.

Obviously, an amendment to the bill that would see it apply to all corporations in Canada with operations abroad, not just to those receiving government assistance that are operating in the extractive industries, such as mining and oil and gas, would be most welcome.

In addition, it would be helpful if there were a clause in the legislation that would ensure that the principles contained in it related to environmental best practices and international human rights standards could be enforced rather than merely encouraged.

Equally helpful would be the creation of an independent ombudsman's office to help ensure that the principles in the bill are respected and to investigate any claims that may be brought against companies with respect to the provisions in the bill.

I am pleased to see an amendment put forth that would put an incentive in place to encourage companies with poor corporate accountability histories or that violate standards to change their practices to re-earn the support of the government. I thank the member for that amendment.

I thank the member for Scarborough—Guildwood for taking such a bold step and for tabling amendments, if that is still possible at this late stage, and for tabling them regardless of what the outcome will be, beyond the reach of the destructive and corrosive behaviour of some MPs who sit on the foreign affairs committee.

This bill, for all its imperfections, is progress on the issue. I thank the member again for using his private member's spot to table a substantive legislative measure that can make a real difference in this world.