Ethical mining bill defeated after fierce lobbying October 28, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Foreign Policy, Human Rights.
Tags: Canada, canada government, canada parliament, canadian mining, ethcical mining, house of commons, human rights, ignatieff, john mckay, mining, mining industry, roger hollander
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Ottawa— From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010 7:22PM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 12:09PM EDT
The House of Commons has defeated Liberal legislation aimed at encouraging Canadian mining firms to act ethically abroad after a fierce lobbying battle that pitted the industry against its international and domestic critics.
Human rights and environmental advocates had argued that the bill would help prevent corporate abuses abroad and recounted accusations of rape, corruption and violence against the industry during parliamentary hearings.
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Mining firms called the allegations disturbing lies and “hogwash” when they presented their case against the bill. Industry officials said ethical guidelines are already in place and warned the measures would cost jobs and give their critics a forum for frivolous accusations.
The Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act, a private member’s bill, was defeated 140-134 on Wednesday evening because not enough opposition MPs showed up to support it.
The bill was put forward by Liberal MP John McKay in response to persistent stories about conflict between Canadian mining companies abroad and local populations. Even though it was sponsored by a Liberal, 13 of Mr. McKay’s colleagues did not attend the vote. Four NDP MPs, primarily from mining-dependent ridings, were also absent.
The federal registry of lobbyists shows dozens of meetings took place over the past year as the Mining Association of Canada and individual mining firms knocked on doors of cabinet ministers, public servants and opposition MPs to express concern over the bill.
It was a large amount of lobbying for a bill from a backbench opposition MP.
“The lobbying from industry has been massive,” said Mr. McKay, the Scarborough-Guildwood MP. “The amount of money they have been spending on killing this bill is extraordinary.”
The legislation would have forced the government to create guidelines on corporate accountability standards for Canadian mining, oil or gas activities based on human rights, social, health and safety and environmental standards.
It would have also set up a system in which any individual could file a complaint with the Canadian government, which could dismiss it if it found it to be frivolous, or investigate and publish a written report. Mining companies had argued that the complaint process could tie up investment and time unnecessarily. Mr. McKay said he was disappointed by the vote and does not expect the issue will be dealt with again in the current Parliament. The mining and prospectors industry praised the result and stressed that it already has strong rules for the overseas operations of Canadian-based mining companies.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who had said earlier in the day that the bill had problems, was among the 13 Liberals not in the House for the vote. Canadian investment in mining and energy abroad is worth about $80-billion a year and more than 75 per cent of the world’s exploration and mining companies are headquartered in Canada.
Yet powerful forces also lined up to support the legislation.
Six hours before Wednesday’s vote, Mr. McKay e-mailed all MPs in the Commons with a letter of support from U.S. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, who said the bill is similar to new measures included in the Wall Street Financial Reform package approved this year by Congress.
Good looks, nobel lineage, spineless December 16, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
Tags: Bush, Canada, harvard, human rights, ignatieff, Iraq, Iraq war, lebanon, liberal, linda mcquaig, prime minister, qana, roger hollander, torture, war crime
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Toronto Star, December 16, 2008
As a child, Michael Ignatieff probably wouldn’t have sounded unreasonable saying he wanted to be prime minister when he grew up.
The newly crowned Liberal leader has always had some impressive trappings: good looks, noble lineage, verbal dexterity, an air of gravitas and an impressive CV of teaching human rights at Harvard.
His self-imposed, decades-long exile from his native land might pose a problem in some countries. But here, where our elite instills in us a sense of inferiority to great powers like the U.S. and Britain, Ignatieff has been forgiven for finding Canada a little confining.
Still, there are some problems.
I’m not just referring to Ignatieff’s well-publicized support for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and for torture (but only of really bad people).
More broadly, Ignatieff seems to lack convictions, let alone basic human feeling.
In a revealing interview with the Star‘s Linda Diebel during Israel’s 2005 invasion of Lebanon, Ignatieff was asked if his call for a ceasefire had been prompted by the Israeli bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana, which left 28 dead, including numerous children. Ignatieff denied that it was the Qana bombing that had influenced him. “This is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that.”
Now, it’s okay to note that war is hell and innocent people die. But to say “I’m not losing sleep about that” – after media photos displayed the mangled remains of very small children – suggests a degree of detachment that borders on the unfeeling.
Ignatieff compensated by calling the Qana bombing a “war crime” during a French-language TV interview.
That turned out to be a far greater misstep politically, and Ignatieff struggled to distance himself from his own words. Two years later he was still backtracking, describing his “war crimes” comment as “the most painful experience of my short political career, and it was an error.”
Some observers chalked all this up to inexperience.
But does it really take experience – beyond being alive – to feel something when children are bombed to death? To then go full circle and denounce the bombing as a war crime, and then go full circle again and try to retract an arguably appropriate term, suggests the behaviour of someone who flaps wildly in the wind, who cuts and runs in the political heat, who lacks a basic moral compass.
Ignatieff showed the same moral evasiveness in his attempt to distance himself from his support for the Iraq invasion.
Given the scope of the Iraqi tragedy that has unfolded, anyone who played a role in facilitating the invasion has a great deal to account for. And Ignatieff did play a role. From his prestigious human rights perch at Harvard, Ignatieff’s eloquent defence of Bush’s war plans in the New York Times Magazine in the run-up to the invasion helped sell a preposterous war to the American people.
Rather than taking some responsibility and expressing genuine remorse in a follow-up New York Times Magazine article in 2007, Ignatieff artfully dodged and ducked any blame, absolving academics like himself of any responsibility for promoting the war. As a mea culpa, Ignatieff’s piece was long on mea and short on culpa.
Media commentators here have been quick to hail Ignatieff as a natural leader, strong and resolute.
He does have good curb appeal. But beyond the measured phrases and chiseled features, the royal stuff inside may be more Jell-O than jelly.
Murky past could haunt Ignatieff December 11, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: Add new tag, Afghanistan, american exceptionalism, Bush, Canada, chretien, coercive interrogation, conservative, deception, haroon siddiqui, harper, harvard, hooding, human rights, ignatieff, International law, Iraq, liberal, Mackay, martin, neo-conservative, pre-emptive war, roger hollander, saddam, secrecy, sleep deprvation, Taliban, targeted assassination, torture, trudeau
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Toronto Star, December 11, 2008
Set aside the debate over whether the Liberal party has been as cynical and undemocratic in the pursuit of power as King Stephen (Harper) or just agile enough to respond well to the extraordinary developments of the last 10 days.
Ignore that Michael Ignatieff’s coronation was engineered with the same ruthless methodology used by Paul Martin – elbowing out a leader by taking control of the party machinery. Time will tell if Ignatieff’s manoeuvre works any better in the long run than Martin’s.
Rather, consider this:
While Americans have turned to Barack Obama to thoroughly repudiate George W. Bush’s agenda, Canadians are saddled with a Prime Minister and now his potential replacement as well who have both been Bush cheerleaders.
Arguably, the Liberal leader has been even more so than his Conservative counterpart.
As is well-known, Ignatieff supported the war in Iraq, a position he only semi-retreated from last year, in Year 4 of the botched occupation. Even then, he argued that he had been wrong for the right reasons (saving the Kurds from Saddam Hussein), while opponents of the war may have been right for the wrong reasons (ideological opposition to Bush).
He also supported the use of such harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects as sleep deprivation and hooding, even while saying he opposed torture.
He was also an advocate for American exceptionalism in defiance of international law.
Ignatieff’s supporters argue that he was merely thinking aloud as a public intellectual.
That won’t wash. He was an active participant in the American public debate both preceding and following the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was among those liberals – a professor of human rights at Harvard, no less – who provided intellectual cover for Bush’s neo-conservative policies.
Ignatieff’s positions were the exact opposite of where a majority of Canadians stood on issues that are a point of differentiation between Canada and the U.S.
Canadians may no longer feel as strongly, preoccupied as they are with the economy. But we can be certain that the Tories won’t let him off the hook. They will remind voters of all that he said and wrote.
We got a taste of it early this year in Parliament. On Jan. 28, during a debate on Afghanistan, Defence Minister Peter MacKay noted: “He has said previously … `To defeat evil,’ we must `traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war.’”
Two days later, MacKay added that the Taliban “might also be interested to know that he said, `Defeating terror requires violence. It may also require coercion, secrecy, deception, even violation of rights.’”
This is not an ideological issue of right or left. Managing the relationship with the U.S. is one of the central duties of the prime minister. We’ve had different models – Harper’s and Jean Chrétien’s, to take two contemporary examples.
But we’ve never had a Liberal leader, let alone a prime minister, who had lived in the U.S. long enough to count himself in among “we Americans,” and worse, had been a noisy apologist for some of the worst foreign and domestic policy disasters of American history.
Ignatieff is a man of formidable intellect, who has spent a lifetime thinking through some of the knottiest issues of our age. He is well suited to articulate a liberal vision for Canada, at home and abroad, the way Pierre Elliot Trudeau did.
But he cannot do so successfully while dodging his murky past.
Haroon Siddiqui writes on Thursday and Sunday. email@example.com
Coalition Deserves a Chance December 3, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canadan Coalition.
Tags: bloc, bloc quebecois, Bob Rae, Canada, canada government, coalition, coalition government, conservatives, Economic Crisis, gilles duceppe, governor general, house of commons, ignatieff, Jack Layton, leblanc, liberals, NDP, new democratic party, new democrats, non-confidence, parliament, roger hollander, Stephane Dion, Stephen Harper, toronto star
The Conservatives’ reaction was fast and furious to news that the opposition parties have signed off on a historic deal to kick them out of office and replace them with a coalition government.
His voice dripping with scorn, Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday accused Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion of playing “the biggest political game in Canadian history” and of relying on “socialists” (New Democrats) and “separatists” (Bloc Québécois) to vault himself into power. Harper’s ministers and MPs used language like “deal with the devil” and “secret cabal” to describe the arrangement.
The suggestion was that the coalition deal was illegitimate and undemocratic, a coup d’etat.
It is nothing of the sort. It is the way our parliamentary system works, especially in the immediate aftermath of the election of a minority Parliament. Furthermore, the Harper government created an opening for the opposition parties last week by tabling a provocative “economic statement” that failed to address the economic crisis but contained poison pills it must have known they could not swallow.
Harper and his government took some steps away from those toxic measures last weekend, but it was too late. The opposition had made up its collective mind that Harper could not be trusted.
With their demise perhaps less than a week away (a non-confidence vote is scheduled for next Monday evening), the Conservatives are arguing that a change of government at this moment would be “very destabilizing” for the economy. As if to underscore that point, the markets plunged yesterday (although most analysts attributed the bulk of the losses to bad economic news from the U.S.).
But consider the alternatives to a change in government: either there would be another election (which would leave the affairs of state suspended for the duration) or Harper would remain in office with the opposition ready to pounce and defeat his government at every opportunity. That is as unstable as it gets.
The coalition, meanwhile, has agreed to hold off elections until at least June 30, 2011 – 2 1/2 years from now. (The Bloc, which would not have a cabinet seat, has signed on until June 30, 2010.) That should provide the stability needed for the government to grapple with the economic challenges facing Canada.
And grapple they promise to do in their accord, which features an economic stimulus package that includes “substantial new investments” in infrastructure and housing, support for the forestry and auto sectors, and enhancements in Employment Insurance. All this should have been included in last week’s economic statement.
To be sure, there are questions to be answered about the coalition. Canadians will want to know whether there are any worrisome side deals with the Bloc. (Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said yesterday there is no agreement on “concrete” measures to enhance Quebec sovereignty.) And what about the coalition’s foreign policy, notably on Afghanistan, where the Liberals and New Democrats have differed sharply in the past?
Also problematic is the fact that, under the deal, Dion, the Liberals’ lame-duck leader, would serve as prime minister, at least until the new party leader is chosen next spring. In the Oct. 14 election, Canadians resoundingly rejected Dion, who finished a poor third behind both Harper and Layton as “best prime minister” in all the opinion polls. A wiser choice for interim prime minister might have been a Liberal stalwart like former finance minister Ralph Goodale.
It is also unclear whether the Liberal leadership candidates – Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc – would be given cabinet posts. Again, it would be wise to keep them out, as they are going to be busy campaigning for the next five months.
Issues like these could still derail the coalition before the crucial vote next Monday.
That being said, a coalition government of Liberals and New Democrats is preferable at this time to a Conservative regime led by Harper, who has demonstrated that ideology and partisanship are more important to him than providing good government.