Harper government appoints mining counsellor after paying $181,600 to run an empty office for a year; Cooperation for violating companies remains voluntary

Ottawa appoints first mining counsellor in more than a year by Kim Mackrael, March 1, 2015, The Globe and Mail
The federal government is appointing a new corporate social responsibility counsellor for the so-called extractive – mining, oil and gas – sector after leaving the post vacant for more than a year. Jeffrey Davidson, a former mining engineer who teaches at Queen’s University, will begin the job later this year, International Trade Minister Ed Fast said on Sunday. He made the announcement during an annual conference put on in Toronto by the Prospectors and Developers Association ‎of Canada.

The appointment comes several months after Ottawa announced a new corporate responsibility policy for the extractive sector that is meant to give the counsellor more clout. The new policy would also allow the government to punish companies that break the rules by withdrawing support from agencies such as Export Development Canada and embassies abroad.

He said the government expects companies working abroad to “do so in a manner that reflects the Canadian brand,” following ethical, environmental and transparency standards. [Companies get away with violating standards and laws in Canada, with blessings from regulators and politicians. What good with the “Canadian Brand” do overseas?]

The office of the counsellor has long been criticized as ineffective, in part because companies were free to walk away from any mediation process without repercussions. The previous counsellor, Marketa Evans, was unable to resolve any of the six cases that were brought to her attention and quit the job abruptly afterwards in October 2013.

The new counsellor will have a role that includes a greater emphasis on preventing and identifying disputes between mining companies and local communities, Mr. Fast said. If formal mediation is needed, the counsellor will refer an issue to a formal dispute resolution system [Complete with gag orders and bullies for mediators like at the AER?] that has been set out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Separating the formal dispute resolution process from the CSR counsellor’s role should allow the CSR counsellor to intervene earlier in a possible dispute, Mr. Fast said, adding, “We’re quite confident that this process will be more effective than the one we had in place in the first five years.” [Like how Alberta Environment separated out their law violations and Encana’s with secret editing emails to the Alberta Research Council to dismiss the drinking water contamination cases?]

In brief comments on Sunday, Mr. Davidson said he is looking forward to using his experience in the mining industry and at the World Bank, where he worked on mining policy, to help extractive companies operate to high standards. He said he would consult with the industry and others to explain his role and hear their concerns and ideas. Mr. Davidson was chosen after a public competition for the job was held, the government said.

Critics have called for an extractive sector ombudsman to have investigative powers and the ability to ensure companies co-operate in any arbitration that takes place. The changes announced last year mean that co-operation with the CSR counsellor will still be voluntary, but any company that chooses not to participate would lose government support as a consequence. [Emphasis added]

BIO Jeffrey Davidson

Jeffrey has travelled extensively in western and southern Africa, parts of Latin America and the southwest Pacific. He is trained in geography, mining engineering and mineral economics and holds degrees from McGill University, Victoria University of Wellington (NZ), Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology and Columbia University.

He has been a long-time and early advocate for social responsibility in mining practice and for constructive company-community engagement.

Feds pay $180K to run mining counsellor’s office, with no counsellor, Liberal MP John McKay posed written House question on cost of running ‘toothless, Potemkin office’ by The Canadian Press, January 29, 2015, CBC News

Liberal MP John McKay says the government was never serious about the counsellor’s role in the first place.

The Harper government spent more than $180,000 last year to run the office of a corporate social responsibility counsellor for the Canadian mining industry — even though there was no counsellor.

The government says it cost $181,600 to operate the office from October 2013 to October 2014. However, the position of counsellor was vacant all that time and remains so to this day. 

… The government created the position of Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor in 2009.

The counsellor was supposed to investigate Canadian mining companies alleged to have abused human rights or inflicted environmental damage while operating abroad.

But McKay says it’s a “toothless, Potemkin office” that can only look into allegations of human rights violations if the company involved agrees to an investigation.

‘Colossal waste of taxpayers’ money’: McKay

More than “$180,000 on an empty, ineffective office is a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money,” McKay said. “Moreover, it demonstrates that they’re not serious when they talk about promoting human rights around the world.”

In the government’s response to McKay’s question, International Trade Minister Ed Fast said a process to choose a new counsellor began last November, more than a year after the first counsellor departed. [Emphasis added]

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.