House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. There is time for a one minute response.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know my friend could have gone on a lot longer. It was an excellent inspired question.

A model that can be looked at now is the changes that have occurred in the mining industry in South Africa where they have actually made investments into social businesses, but they could also easily make investments into health care, primary health care as well as into education, capacity building and governance structures. Those are absolutely essential.

I would say that our government has a role to play in terms of leaning heavily and putting conditionality on the recipient country. If that recipient country's leadership is corrupt, then pressure must be applied to that country and conditionality must be applied to it in terms of our ability to work with it. Also we can get into the removal of trade barriers which--

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the House to discuss this end of session motion concerning an extremely important debate. I would like to reread the motion to keep it at the forefront of our minds:

That the government provide its response in a reasonable time—

This is a reasonable motion. This report has been around for so long, the motion could well have said “immediately”. It continues:

—to the advisory group report: National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries.

Why did I say that the motion could have been even tougher? Because the report it refers to was tabled on March 29, 2007. I would like to clarify, for the benefit of members seated to my right, that this report followed up on another that was tabled on June 20, 2005, the result of work done by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The committee unanimously adopted the 14th report, entitled “Mining in Developing Countries - Corporate Social Responsibility”.

We were proud of what we accomplished. The report contained provisions that put constraints on companies. It called on the Government of Canada to adopt a series of specific measures to:

ensure that Canadian companies have the necessary knowledge, support and incentives to conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally responsible manner and in conformity with international human rights standards.

All I want to way about the report is that none of the unanimously adopted recommendations were implemented, except for the one urging the government to meet with companies and stakeholders in the sector. None of the other recommendations were acted upon by the Liberal government under Paul Martin—pardon me, Mr. Speaker, I forgot—

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The member should say, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard. And I know that I am not allowed to say that we do not often see him, so I will apologize for that right now.

Nevertheless, it is fortunate that the work carried out by the round tables, which initially had no follow up because the government had not entered into an agreement with the two other parties, in the end produced fantastic results. In fact, members of the consultative group, Canadian and Quebec NGOs and the experts were able to come to an agreement with a good part of the Canadian extractive industry. Everyone can be proud of the outcome. Some of the recommendations are found in a report to which the government is asked to respond in a reasonable period of time.

I will say once again that the report was tabled on March 29, 2007, and therefore, the government should respond as quickly as possible to this report which, I believe, is extremely important.

First, before discussing the report's main recommendations, I would like to outline the context for this issue. The social and environmental responsibilities of Canadian companies abroad, particularly Canadian extractive companies, has been a concern for some time, not only for my party and, I suppose, for the other parties, but also for all citizens. That is an extremely important factor.

Second, Canada is a world leader in the mining industry. Per capita, Canada has more mining companies working abroad than any other country. They are found—and we heard groups complain about this—in Africa, South America, and Asia, where Myanmar is one specific example.

These companies are corporations and, in most cases, are listed on Canadian stock exchanges. Finally and unfortunately—and this is the reason for the complaints and the call to action—these companies are associated with forced population displacements, significant environmental damage, support for repressive regimes, serious human rights violations and sometimes even assassinations. There are many examples.

One case I want to mention was very closely followed by Parliament, and that was the Talisman affair. Someone mentioned earlier that Talisman had atoned for its sins, if I may put it that way, and today recognizes its social responsibility in the west. But when we in this Parliament heard of Talisman in late 1999 and 2000, the company held shares, along with other countries, in southern Sudan. When Talisman went into Sudan and started working with these other entities, we became aware that by adhering to a contract with the Government of Sudan, these companies had caused a resurgence of the war between north and south, which had been going on for 45 years, since the country gained independence.

Why did war flare up again when this oil company was bought and revived? Simply because, until then, the two sides in the war were exhausted, both financially and otherwise. With royalties from companies, including Talisman, the Sudanese government armed itself better and resumed waging war on the south.

As a result, peace, which otherwise would have been reached sooner, was slower in coming. There was considerable pressure here. A UN report condemned the abuses perpetrated by the company and especially the fact that Talisman was colluding with the army. The report was raised in Parliament, and the minister at the time, Mr. Axworthy, whom I can name because he is no longer here, was questioned. He was very embarrassed by what the UN report said about Talisman, so he sent his own investigator, Mr. Harker, who came back saying the same things. As we understood it, Mr. Axworthy was required to do something. He resigned shortly thereafter.

The next Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Manley, was also questioned. I also questioned him in committee. Mr. Manley agreed and asked who would be better off if Talisman were forced to leave the country. That is an important question, because the Government of Canada was afraid at the time—and it may still be afraid—that if it tried to do something with one or more of the companies, they would leave.

Why do I say this? The committee proposed a framework for all Canadian businesses operating abroad because action needs to be taken for more than just a single business on just one occasion. Instead, what is needed is a code for all businesses, rules that can be used to monitor those businesses, rules that, if violated, could result in complaints and rules that will be strictly enforced. All businesses must know that they are being monitored—not just one business.

I must point out, if I may, that various kinds of businesses exist—and I worked in labour relations for a long time. Some will say that a specific business respects workers and the public, and that it does everything by the book. I do not dispute that; it is quite possible. However, given the increasing importance of shareholders these days, even that business could, at some point, be forced to change its activities. Other businesses do not conform to what is expected of them in terms of their corporate social and economic responsibilities and still others do whatever it takes to shirk them.

Under such circumstances, we should be quite pleased that the NGOs, the members of the advisory group—which included the government—that was created to look into the situation, and the experts were able to reach an agreement with what was called a large portion of the Canadian mining industry. On March 29, 2007, they urged the Government of Canada, to adopt a set of corporate social responsibility standards that Canadian extractive-sector companies operating abroad are expected to meet.

Some observers will say that this report is very restrained. And, since it is the result of a consensus, it may also appear to be effective because it also includes some coercive measures.

First, it asks that a clear social responsibility standard or code be established that Canadian mining companies would have to abide by abroad. I want to say from the outset that this request comes with financial incentives. The report also asks that companies file an annual report of their activities in order to be listed on the stock exchange. It recommends that an ombudsman be put in place to review complaints and ensure follow-up. The report recommends that offenders no longer be entitled to tax benefits, loan guarantees and other forms of government assistance.

Armed with the moral authority attached to these measures, Canada could then convince other countries to follow suit in mining and other industries. The committee also wanted Canada and its parliamentarians to propose these same measures in various international fora and parliamentary assemblies. For the first time, the Canadian extractive industry is stepping up to the plate. One might say we are on the eve of a major breakthrough. Let us not forget that there are a great many Canadian industries abroad.

It is extremely important that the government take this issue seriously. This affects Canada's reputation. It is serious. It affects people's ability to earn a living. How many Africans, South Americans and Asians are struggling right now with Canadian companies that are not demonstrating one bit of the social responsibility that is expected of them?

I mentioned population displacements. We have all heard members here give a number of examples of such displacements that occur quite simply because that is what the local government wants. I could also mention the collusion between these companies and the governments that profit from the wealth passing through, as the mining companies pay lucrative royalties in order to do as they like, completely undisturbed and often with the support of the army or the local police.

Although the motion indicates that this needs to be done in a reasonable time, the government must make its position known quickly. To me, a reasonable time means quickly. I hope the government will support what the experts and those who represent the public have agreed on.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Professor Bonnie Campbell, who played a major role in all this and the mining companies that—

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I regret that I must interrupt the hon. member.

We shall now proceed to questions and comments. The hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île for her involvement on this issue. I should note that when her committee's 14th report was tabled in March 2005, she was the vice-chair.

I would like to ask her a question and make one or two comments.

We know that 60% of the mining companies in the world are Canadian. Something rather strange is that in June 2007, the Prime Minister of Canada said the following at the G-8 summit in Germany:

Canada has recently completed a nation-wide consultation process involving stakeholders with the Canadian extractive sector (mining, oil and gas) in developing countries. Implementation of the recommendations from this process will place Canada among the most active G8 countries in advancing international guidelines and principles on corporate social responsibility in this sector.

That was three months after the release of the report by the advisory group, which had been created in October 2005. This report contained several recommendations. But it is rather strange that the Prime Minister used the advisory group's report to say that everything was fantastic and that Canada would become very proactive and the best country in the world in terms of corporate social responsibility, but, 15 months later, nothing has been done.

The primary recommendation in the report was to create an independent ombudsman's office, which would be responsible for receiving complaints from Canadians and non-Canadians about the operations in developing countries of Canadian extractive companies. It also recommended that a tripartite compliance review committee be created. Furthermore, the report recommended that provisions be developed for withdrawing government assistance in the case of serious failure by a company to meet the corporate social responsibility standards.

Does my colleague support the recommendations of the advisory group?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, having worked with my colleague for a long time, I would say yes as much as he would.

I said earlier that it seems extremely important to me that the government respond to and follow up on this report. If the companies and the groups representing those who want Canadian companies to show social and economic responsibility could come to an agreement, it would seem illogical to me that the government is not following up on these recommendations. My colleague has given me a chance to reiterate this very important point.

I now also have an opportunity to point out that these two parties, by meeting and coming to an agreement, have adopted a concrete approach. The ombudsman will receive complaints. He can launch an investigation, visit the companies, advise them to change their habits. If they do not, he can write a report and recommend sanctions. These sanctions are essential. Some companies do not need the threat of sanctions, others do.

I do not think that anyone can oppose setting up a framework. So, I am wondering what the government is waiting for. I would like to thank those who made it possible for us to ask these questions today.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in this House and add my support to our government's efforts to promote and encourage effective corporate social responsibility to Canada's extractive sector. I commend all members of all parties for the way they have commended Canada's extractive sector.

I recognize the complexity of the task at hand and I fully support the government's careful, considered approach to the advisory group's recommendations.

This issue is far too complex and involves too many different players to feel like we are pressured into moving too quickly and certainly the considered, careful approach is one that we would expect from any responsible government, which is why I am encouraged that our government is taking the time to get it right.

I am also very encouraged by the enormous progress that Canada has made on this issue over the many years. I was encouraged today when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs pointed out in his speech some very effective, voluntary, corporate social responsible practices that have been put in place by Canadian companies over a number of years.

We see those responsibilities playing out in many different countries around the world. Many of these companies and industry associations are recognized for the great work they are doing in communities in Canada and abroad in support of education, health and social well-being and diversified economic development. Each one of those is a speech in itself.

Many corporations and many of our responsible oil companies are helping to enhance the education system, the health care system and the way of life for many people around the world. The government certainly encourages this.

We encourage and expect all Canadian companies in all sectors to respect all applicable laws and international standards and to work in close collaboration with host governments. We applaud their ongoing efforts to make a positive impact in the communities in which they are operating. However, there is a shared responsibility among all actors, including governments, to ensure the right conditions are in place to facilitate good corporate conduct. We have heard that here in this place today. We have heard different members from other parties talk about the government putting in place good practices and we see that is happening.

I would like to take a few moments today to recognize some of the great work the government is doing in support of corporate social responsible, or CSR, principles.

In addition to organizing the round tables under discussion today, Canada is also a strong supporter of the international extractive industries transparency initiative, or EITI. This was one of the advisory group's central recommendations. We can see that the government is living up to that. It has been recommended and we endorse that type of recommendation.

The initiative supports and promotes improved governance in resource rich developing nations by publishing and verifying all company payments and government revenues stemming from the extractive sector. It is proving to be an effective way of publishing what companies pay and what governments receive in an open, transparent and accountable manner.

I do not think it is a surprise to anyone that around the world these principles are not universal. These principles are not something that every governing body around the world would sign onto. Therefore, Canada plays a major role in working government to government to encourage these types of socially responsible principles.

The advisory group also recommended enhanced public reporting by the Canada Investment Fund for Africa, yet another step this government has endorsed.

As a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, Canada is a proud signatory to the OECD's guidelines for multinational enterprises. This is a multilateral instrument to promote corporate social responsibility and has been the cornerstone of Canada's approach to this issue.

This means that Canada is obliged to establish and maintain a national contact point, someone who is responsible for promoting OECD guidelines, handling inquiries and helping to resolve issues concerning specific instances of Canadian businesses' conduct abroad, including the business of mining and oil companies or, what we call, the extractive sector. The principle is being endorsed.

There has been talk about an ombudsman. We have a contact person responsible for some of that who is a director general within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This is an effective way to engage stakeholders and to promote a positive, open and constructive dialogue between multinational companies and those that are affected by their operations in those countries.

As members know, Canada is also a member of the International Labour Organization, or the ILO. We fully support the ILO's tripartite declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy. This is considered to be the universal basic reference point for social responsibility in the context of work or labour.

Export Development Canada, EDC, announced last year its support for the Ecuador principles. These principles are an international financing benchmark for assessing and managing social and environmental risks in project financing.

Canada has also provided financial support for a number of domestic and international initiatives aimed at promoting corporate social responsibility. For example, we provided financial support to the UN special representative to the secretary-general on business and human rights.

We have supported efforts to identify best practices for companies that are operating in combat zones. When Canadian corporations are in countries where conflict and war has broken out, there is a list of best practices for those companies.

What do Canadians expect? Canadians expect that in those types of situations our Canadian companies remain responsible. Therefore, a clear line of operating principles has been laid out.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is undertaking a comprehensive initiative to ensure that its trade and diplomatic officers in Canada and abroad have the information and tools they need to provide effective corporate social responsible advice to Canadian clients around the world. This includes informational sessions and targeted training modules to ensure our embassies abroad and the regional DFAIT offices have individuals who, when they need training on how to understand the corporate social responsibilities in that given country, are given that training to ensure they have the ability not only to understand the principles laid out, but that they can then pass it on to the companies operating within that jurisdiction.

We also recognize the importance of fostering close partnerships with host governments in helping developing countries build the capacity they need to establish strong, effective, corporate social responsible regimes in their own countries.

We do recognize that not all governments, especially those governments in developing countries, have the tools, the knowledge or the capacity to ensure that corporate social responsible principles are being applied in their own countries. If their own home governments are not going to put these polices in place, Canadians can be assured that Canada will.

That is why, for example, we are providing financial assistance to help Peru join the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. Peru's adherence to the declaration would be a huge step forward for that country in terms of corporate social responsibility practices and adherence to the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. Our involvement in Peru also contributes to strengthening economic partnerships in Latin America, a region that is of utmost priority for this government. It is an initiative that we are very proud to support.

In fact, resource governance is an issue in which Canada can play a big role. Our vast experience in developing our own resources over the decades has given us a wide scope of expertise to share with partners in developing nations. This would be an excellent area of further cooperation as developing countries build up their own expertise and create the foundations for successful, open and responsible extraction sectors that can benefit their citizens.

The Government of Canada, in partnership with mining associations and aboriginal organizations, has also developed a mining kit to help aboriginal people evaluate and participate in the opportunities offered by the mining sector. This kit is now used and adapted in many countries, including the Philippines, Australia, Norway and Peru. They recognize Canada's initiative and they are following up on our practice. Indeed, Canada's voice on this issue is an influential one that is being heard around the world.

We are also working closely with our partners through APEC, OAS, La Francophonie and G-8 to communicate the importance of corporate social responsibility principles to the business community. Indeed, at last year's G-8 summit in Germany, leaders agreed to promote a consolidated set of internationally recognized corporate social responsibility guidelines for the extractive sector. This is yet another good example of how we are working with our global partners on this important issue.

I am happy to say that we are even extending this principled approached to our trade negotiations. The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca brought up the importance of trade negotiations and the removal of trade barriers.

As members know, we recently signed a free trade agreement with Peru. While this is a very significant victory for Canadian exporters and investors who will now enjoy unprecedented access to this important market, the agreement is good and important for another reason also. This treaty is Canada's first free trade agreement to include language that encourages the parties to support positive corporate socially responsible practices and reminds enterprises of the importance of incorporating those corporate social responsibility standards in their internal policies. We also signed parallel agreements on labour and the environment.

Canada is a leader in this. The opposition has asked when the government will come forward with a reply. It is a considered reply. It is a reply that will be coming in due course and we look forward to that.

We are grateful for the opportunity to share the good things that Canada is doing in--

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings on the motion at this time.

Accordingly, debate on the motion is deferred until a future sitting.

We will now move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock has the floor.

Agricultural Fairs
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, as summer gets into full swing, many towns across my riding of Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock are again preparing for their annual fairs and agricultural exhibitions.

In most cases, it is the local agricultural society that runs these multi-day events. While fairs have always been one of their major functions, agricultural societies also pursue the advancement of agriculture with other activities, such as the buying and selling of seed and the keeping of breeding stock.

My riding boasts a variety of traditional summer and fall fairs, many with well over 100 years of history, as well as numerous other fall festivals.

This weekend the 159th annual Millbrook Fair kicks off fair season in my riding. I am pleased to say my family and I will be there to take part in the opening ceremonies. Next weekend it is the 160th annual Oakwood Fair.

I recognize that many of these events continue today because of the hard work and dedication of many volunteers. For most of the year, fair and exhibition volunteers give freely of their time, skills, creativity and energy for the benefit of people and communities, helping to make Canada one of the best places to live.

Child Labour
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize World Day Against Child Labour. The International Labour Organization estimates that about 165 million children between the ages of five and fourteen are involved in child labour around the world.

Many of these children work long hours, often in dangerous conditions. In addition, child labour being directly linked to poverty, numerous families depend on a working child to contribute to the family income. That leaves little room for education.

Today more than ever, each child deserves quality education and training to succeed.

In the millennium development goals, the United Nations set targets ensuring that by 2015 all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education and that there be gender parity in education. These targets cannot be met unless the factors that generate child labour and prevent poor families from sending children to school are addressed.

I call on all my colleagues to raise awareness that education is the right response to child labour.

Berthierville Music Festival
Statements by Members

June 12th, 2008 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight a significant event scheduled for the week of July 31 to August 3 in my riding, Berthier—Maskinongé.

This is the 14th edition of the Berthierville “Tout pour la musique” festival. This event will be better than ever in 2008. It has been gaining momentum every year with its varied program showcasing local talent.

The festival's vitality and creativity, together with the warm welcome extended by the people of Berthierville, reflect who we are. The festival makes an invaluable contribution to the economy and shows off our magnificent region.

I would like to thank and congratulate the organizing committee, the many volunteers, the sponsors, and the municipal authorities who have worked together to ensure the success of the Tout pour la musique festival. I would also like to salute the exceptional contribution of the president, Bernard Grégoire, who has overseen this event for many years now.

Liberal Party of Canada
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, today people are asking a very good question. Where did the Liberals go? Not once, not twice, but 28 times, the Liberals have either supported, abstained or simply not shown up to vote on key government legislation. On every occasion, the Liberals spouted out empty rhetoric and told Canadians that they were vehemently opposed to the government agenda and threatened to force an election, and every time the Liberals backed down.

The Liberal record is clear. They supported our Speech from the Throne. The Liberals endorsed our environmental plans, the toughest in Canadian history. The Liberals supported our tough on crime legislation. Most recently, on the budget bill and immigration reforms, the Liberals tried to fearmonger and feign contempt, but when it came time to vote, again they backed down.

With a deeply divided caucus and his carbon tax trick to defend, it is no surprise the Liberal leader is backing down.

Canadians will not be tricked.