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Munk�s dubious mining morality

by John McKay, Liberal MP, OttawaThe CANADIAN PRESS

Re: Lack of support for mining bill, Letter Oct. 31

Barrick Gold Corp.�s Peter Munk raises three very dubious moral arguments in his triumphalist celebration of the defeat of C-300. The first is that mining is important to our economy. True. Apparently as long as it is generating wealth for Canada, abuse of basic human rights, degradation of the host country�s environment, and criminal code offences are okay. Interesting moral equation.

His second argument is that Canadian companies would flee Canada if C-300 was passed. To go where? The U.S. has far more rigorous corporate social responsibility (CSR) laws than does Canada. Not likely would Mr. Munk expose his company to the Alien Torts Act. The Parliament of Great Britain is considering a bill that would go further than C-300. The EU has a very low tolerance for CSR abuses. That leaves Switzerland or some Caribbean nation, in which case Canadian companies really do have something to hide.

His third argument is that if Canadian companies withdraw, other companies with lower CSR standards will fill the void. Again, it�s a dubious moral proposition to argue that if I am doing something bad it�s okay because some other company will do something worse. Talisman faced that argument in Sudan and ultimately decided to sell a very valuable asset for a discounted price to a foreign company. Ten years later Talisman�s reward for doing the right thing is a strong balance sheet, a good price earnings ratio and respect for its leadership in CSR.

It�s a pity other companies are not prepared to assert such leadership. Moreover, PDAC�s own report says that Canadian companies are by far and away the worst abusers.

At the end of the day, C-300 was a modest attempt to bring accountability and transparency to the activities of Canadian mining companies. A significant sum of money was spent on lobbyists to put forward these kinds of dubious arguments and it worked. It was not Parliament�s finest hour.

In the spirit of William Wilberforce and the Abolition Movement, those who care about Corporate Social Responsibility will continue to push for change.


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