By Jack Caldwell - Mining Engineer - Robertson GeoConsultants

The news is that the private member Bill C-300 failed to pass in the Canadian parliament yesterday. This bill would have allowed any agitator anywhere to accuse a Canadian mining company of anything that irritated the accuser; the bureaucrats in Ottawawould have judged; the mining company would have had no way to defend themselves; and a new era of non-legal proceedings would have come into place.I my opinion, the law the bill wouldhave established was fatally flawed and would have taken us back to the days ofthe old English Star Chamber–accusationand conviction withoutthe right of self defence. As for the idea that the accuser had to have what is called in law “standing,” why that ancient, yet simple legal principle too would have been tossed out the window.Let us face it: this was a lousy bill cooked up by folk who so hate the mining industry that they were prepared to abandon centuries of civil law and procedure to pursuetheir venom. No amount of white-washing about poor folk in badly run and corrupt countries could cover the twisted ideology of the bill’s proponents.

The vote was close, however: 140 to 13. It would have passed if perfidious members of parliament fromthe opposition parties had not chosen to stay away in droves. Most so-called Liberal and Democratic party member from mining communities choose to stay away rather than be counted. I suppose that is as good as a vote against the bill. The bloggers are having a field day with the stay-away opposition, calling them cowards, unfit to be politicians, failing to lead, and calling for them to be thrown out. Sounds like a furious Sarah Palin hunting party.

The mining industry is understandable happy. Here is what the Mining Journal reports:

The Canadian House of Commons has rejected a undefined undefinedcontroversial Bill which proposed giving the government authority to investigate complaints of human rights and environmental abuses against resources companies operating abroad. Bill C-300 had been widely condemned by the mining industry, which said it could affect the competitiveness of Canadian resource companies. The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) and Mining Association of Canada (MAC) said they were “pleased that the parliament of Canada saw the importance of defeating Bill C-300, a fundamentally flawed private members bill”. They added that if made into law the bill “would have damaged Canada’s exploration and mining industry and jeopardized jobs in Canada and the local jobs in the communities in which [mining companies] work”.

The Stabroek News provides perhaps the most sober and neutral analysis:

The bill’s proponents believed the legislation would have ended injustices by Canadian and foreign mining, gas and oil companies. “Despite the defeat of C-300, the Liberal Party remains committed to the important principle of corporate social responsibility for Canadian industries at home and abroad,” Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieffsaid in a statement. Those opposed to the bill contended that it could have jeopardized project funding to any Canadian miner that was hit with a complaint. They contended that agencies such as Export Development Canada and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board would have been forced to revoke funding from any company in such cases. CIBCanalyst Alec Kodatskywrote in a recent note to clients that while the principles of the bill were noble, its mechanism for administration was flawed. Kodatsky wrote that passage of the bill could have prompted many Canadian mining companies to relocate to other parts of the world. Critics also said the bill could have encouraged frivolous complaints against companies, with no penalties against anyone making a false claim.

A rather emotional and flowery blog called Of Gods & Other Monsters writes the following–supposedly intended to move you to tears:

We have come to expect the Harper government to place corporate interests above the environment, human rights, developing nations, and people near or below the poverty line. They believe governments should not regulate industry and they continue to perpetuate the ridiculous myth that corporations, given the freedom to do as they please, will display a social conscience. To watch the Liberals defeat their own private member’s Bill by abstaining in numbers large enough to make sure it dies is frightening. That means that the only two parties that currently have enough support to win even a minority are not seriously concerned about regulating greed-driven organizations that abuse human rights, have no regard for the environmental damage they cause unless bad publicity affects their profits, and let as little money as possible filter down to taxpayers. In this case, it was more than failure to show concern on the part of the Libs and CONs. Both made sure the Bill would not pass, telling us beyond any doubt that both parties would rather please the money-men who already control so much they are far from vulnerable than protect not only those who cannot protect themselves, but average people as well.

There are and undoubtedly will be more of the same. It will get dreary. What will be interesting though is to see how those who proposed and supported the bill move next. They must surely feel somewhat empowered, for they almost won. If now they have the common sense and decency to propose a bill that respects the principles of western justice, why they may just prevail next time. Of course the best thing for the mining industry to do, is to act to prove that such a bill is simply not needed.