Bill C-300 (the "Bill"), titled An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, was defeated in the House of Commons on October 27, 2010. The Bill, tabled by Liberal MP John McKay in February 2009, raised significant concerns from Canadian mining companies relating to the authority it purported to grant the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Trade (the "Ministers") to investigate environmental and human rights complaints against Canadian companies engaged in mining, oil or gas activities outside of Canada.
The purpose of the Bill was to promote corporate social responsibility ("CSR") among Canadian companies operating in jurisdictions outside Canada. To do so, the Ministers were to receive complaints regarding such companies from any Canadian citizen or any resident or citizen of a developing country in which such activities had occurred or were occurring. Under this proposed regime, the Ministers could only decline to examine the complaint if it were frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith. The main criticism of the Bill was that the complaint and review mechanism described was overly protective and would expose mining, oil and gas companies to unnecessary investigations from the Ministers. Opponents to the Bill argued that Mining and Oil & Gas companies already operate in a highly robust CSR context. Moreover, there are other factors that contribute to strong CSR policies among such companies. For instance, most international banks, which operate as significant sources of capital for companies operating in such industries, have subscribed to the Equator Principles, which promote equitable environmental and human rights policies in global project finance.
The failure of the Bill is certainly a relief for Canadian companies operating abroad in the Mining and Oil & Gas industries. While environmental and human rights NGOs have pointed to recent shortcomings and disasters to promote the Bill, opponents argue that the proposed complaint and review mechanism is inefficient and would put Canadian companies operating abroad at a competitive disadvantage.