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House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was privacy.

Topics

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #105

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division at second reading of Bill C-42.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I believe you would find unanimous consent to apply the vote from the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

The Liberal members will be voting yes.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

The members of the Bloc Québécois will be voting yes, except for the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is voting no to this motion.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Independent

Helena Guergis Independent Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will vote in support of this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #106

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

It being 6:25 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from September 20 consideration of Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, as reported without amendment from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

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

6:25 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeMinister 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, order. It being 7:25 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, the question is on Motion No. 2.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.