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.