Allow me to respond to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's letter to the editor - "Clarification from Oliver" - August 29: With all due respect, this is the same minister who said that it would be safe to drink from the Alberta oil sands' highly toxic tailing ponds in a few years. And I'm sure that Minister Oliver does not want to get into a debate about the ethical practices of Canadian mining companies in Latin America. The highly suspect record of those companies speaks for itself. More to the point, all this talk about "corporate social responsibility" is just talk and little more than PR spin and a sham. This, too, has been well documented.
What I was really getting at in my op-ed piece, though, was the Harper government campaign to torpedo the private member's bill (C-300) by Liberal MP John McKay on holding Canadian extractive companies to account. It wasn't perfect, but it did mark an improvement over the current voluntary code for Canadian firms. Bill C-300, had it passed, would have established a set of binding standards that companies would have had to meet if they hoped to receive any support from government agencies and institutions (like the Canada Pension Plan and Export Development Canada). It would have also created a complaints mechanism to investigate, without the consent of the companies themselves, corporate compliance with these same standards.
But because Minister Oliver's party opposed this initiative, it clearly exposed where his government stood on making Canadian mining companies more accountable for their actions abroad.
Professor and Chair
Department of Political Science,
University of Prince Edward Island,