Canadian lawmakers vote down controversial Bill C-300

28th October 2010 By: Liezel Hill

TORONTO ( - The controversial Bill C-300 was defeated in a vote of 140 to 134 in the Canadian House of Commons on Wednesday.

Bill C-300, a private members bill tabled by Liberal Member of Parliament John McKay, proposed giving the government authority to investigate complaints against resources companies operating abroad, and withholding public money from offenders.

The Bill, which is now dead, aimed to address wide-ranging allegations of human rights abuses and environmental damage by Canadian firms operating abroad.

But the mining industry warned that the Bill, if passed into law, could result in an exodus of mining companies from Canada and argued the complaints process could be used in unintended ways, including by companies against competitors, as well as as an excuse by foreign governments to withhold or withdraw permits.

The members of the ruling Conservative party voted against the legislation in the third reading, and the 'for' votes were all from opposition politicians.

"I'm disappointed," McKay said in an interview on Wednesday after the vote.

"A lot of people did a lot of work over a long time and we had some initial successes but we didn't make it through."

Mining companies and the Canadian government maintained that there are already corporate social responsibility procedures and frameworks in place.

The law would have prevented publicly funded institutions, including Export Development Canada and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, from funding or investing in companies found guilty of environmental or human rights offences.

"Obviously we are very relieved, because this was a bill that was not well crafted and which would not have contributed to any CSR improvements," Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) executive director Tony Andrews said in an interview.

"This Bill was never intended to become law, it was just intended to pressure the government," he said.

Andrews said he would like to see a process set up through which discussions over the mining industry's practices can be considered and debated "outside of political processes and party politics, properly and on a substantive level".

"Bill C-300 would not have enhanced corporate social responsibility," the PDAC and Mining Association of Canada said later in a joint statement.

"Canada's competitors would have used the passage of Bill C-300 as a tool to undermine the competitiveness of Canadian firms in the highly competitive global extraction industry. Frivolous or vexatious claims would have been filed against Canadian firms by competitive interests at no cost or risk to themselves, tying up important projects and putting well paying local jobs and community development projects in developing countries at risk."