Federal Bill C-300 will soon undergo its third reading in the House of Commons. While it may sound reasonable at first glance, if this bill were passed into law, the practical result would be destructive for Canadian miners and their suppliers. Although I touched upon this topic in my article in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of CIM Magazine, I feel it should be discussed further.
This private member’s initiative gives the government 12 months to define what corporate social responsibility (CSR) is and start applying sanctions to Canadian companies in the extractive industries working in developing countries. CSR has never before been defined this way. While many CSR codes exist, they are largely designed to cover actions of states and involve voluntary compliance. It will not be easy to come up with a legislated code in this complicated, contentious field that is fair to companies and individuals working in complex situations around the world.
The bill’s fundamental injustice, in addition to many procedural and legal flaws, is that it will allow our own government’s role as investigator to be used against us by the media, anti-mining groups, foreign governments and competitors. Sanctions such as the withdrawal of government support through Export Development Canada, investments by the Canada Pension Plan, and the services of our diplomatic and trade officials around the world would heavily hit mining companies and their suppliers. Instead of punishing mining companies, effort should be put into developing Canadian aid programs.
Many countries where Canadians have mining interests will not take kindly to Canadian law interfering in their affairs. Recently, in condemning Bill C-300, Peru’s Ambassador to Canada said: “We have our own rules; we are capable of managing our own environment without foreign direction.”
Anti-mining groups will submit their allegations. They will have nothing to lose and will suffer no consequences, whatever the reason for their accusation. They may subject your company to negative publicity campaigns that will be very detrimental to your operations. These groups are only accountable to their donors, who may mean well but who do not understand complex issues.
Mining companies and their suppliers, on the other hand, have everything to lose: time and money to defend themselves; their standing with shareholders; their relations with people in their local communities; their reputation, and much more. In my view, if Bill C-300 becomes law, Canada will start losing mining company head offices.
It is not as if Canadian miners run uncontrollably all over the world. Our industry is already highly accountable through international standards, financial controls, laws and regulations. Indeed, Bill C-300 is unnecessary.
Led by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), the industry is calling on MPs to vote against Bill C-300. MPs need to hear from you that they must vote against the bill and be given the reasons why.
PDAC has set up a website, www.pdac.ca/c300, where you will find:
- A template letter
- Possible points for your letter(s)
- PDAC’s position
- How to reach your own MP
- A list of key MPs who should also receive your letter
- The bill itself
- Transcripts of committee hearings on the bill
Remember: A personal letter to an MP signed by you is worth 100 signatures on a petition or 100 postcards. Do it today!
Jon Baird, managing director of CAMESE and the immediate past president of PDAC, is interested in collective approaches to enhancing the Canadian brand in the world of mining.