When the House of Commons re-opens on March 3, 2010, Bill C-300 (the Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act) will be back in front of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development for 60 days.
Unlike government bills, which ceased to exist when the government prorogued Parliament on December 30, 2009, Bill C-300 survived because it was introduced by opposition MP John McKay (Liberal, Scarborough-Guildwood). At the time of prorogation, Bill C-300 had passed second reading last April by a vote of 137 to 133, and had been referred to the Standing Committee. The Bill had received the support of the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, and all but one Liberal MP. The Standing Committee met 12 times between May and December last year to hear submissions on the Bill. While the normal parliamentary rules would require Bill C- 300 return to the beginning of its current stage (i.e., the Standing Committee stage), members of the Committee do have the option of retaining the testimony and evidence provided over the 12 sitting Committee days in 2009.
Few bills have received as much publicity in recent sessions as Bill C-300, which would require the Foreign Affairs and International Trade ministers to issue guidelines establishing corporate accountability standards for mining, oil and gas activities carried out by Canadian companies abroad. These guidelines will incorporate certain existing international Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) policies, such as the International Financial Corporation’s Performance Standards on Social and Environmental Sustainability and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights developed in 2000 by a multistakeholder group of governments, corporations and certain non-governmental organizations.
Bill C-300 would also create a complaint process, which would enable Canadian citizens or citizens of developing countries to lodge complaints about Canadian companies engaged in mining, oil and gas activities abroad. If accepted, the complaint would be investigated to determine whether the Canadian company had violated any of the established guidelines. If so, the Canadian company could have any political or financial support provided by Export Development Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Canada Pension Plan terminated.
Standing alongside Bill C-300 is the Harper government’s CSR Strategy for the International Extractive Sector released in March 2009 after a series of consultations with industry, the public and other stakeholders held in 2006 (the National Roundtables). Through its CSR Strategy, the government committed to:
- support initiatives to enhance the capacities of developing countries to manage the development of minerals and oil and gas;
- promote Canadian companies following a number of CSR standards when operating abroad (including the IFC’s Performance Standards on Social and Environmental Sustainability and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights noted above);
- establish the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor to assist stakeholders in the resolution of CSR issues pertaining to their activities abroad; and
- support the development of a CSR Centre of Excellence to assist in the development and dissemination of CSR information, training and tools.