Good morning. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and the members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to share some of the research we've been doing at McGill with the committee this morning.
The statement I am going to present is based on the collective work of a research group that I coordinate at McGill. It's called MICLA. It examines the different projects across Latin America that are organized by Canadian mining companies. The testimony I'm giving is also based on my personal experience in the particular case of Cerro de San Pedro, which is a mining town on the outskirts of San Luis Potosi, in Mexico.
The issue of proof and documentation has come up a number of times in this committee, so I should say here that our research is based on a broad range of sources. These are documents released by the mining companies, technical reports from engineering firms, press files, legal documents, as well as reports filed by NGOs, international organizations, and national governments. These documents have been supplemented by field interviews with people living near a Canadian mining project, and interviews with community delegations that have come to Canada over the years, and with mining executives, NGOs, and scientists.
My comments today focus on Mexico. Mexico is the host of the largest number of Canadian mining projects in Latin America, and it's the country where the data is the most complete.
I'd like to focus on three points. The first is that Canadian mining in Mexico is a high-risk form of economic activity. The second is that while conflicts have arisen between Mexican communities and Canadian mining companies, these are surprisingly few. And third, the Canadian government, especially as represented by its consular staff, appears ill-equipped to address the growing public backlash against our companies in that country.
I believe it is important to get a better understanding of the context in which our companies currently operate. If you consolidate project data with data on the environments and communities around them, you quickly get a profile of a high-risk industry. It combines a form of operation that has a high impact on its surroundings with the presence from one end of Mexico to the other of a densely populated area characterized by multiple uses, complex land tenure and significant social strife.
Canadian mining companies first entered the Mexican mining sector in the 1990s. They brought with them billions of dollars in equity. Because our companies dominated the sector, they currently own approximately three-quarters of the projects. They have arguably been the main driving force for the recovery of the mining industry in Mexico. Investment aside, they cleared the way for significant modernization of mining techniques. The biggest change is probably “large tonnage, low grade” mines, which are usually open pit.
Most of the projects carried out by our companies are gold, silver and copper mines. The majority of those mines are open pit. I do not want to praise nor do I want to criticize this type of mining, but first off, it is new; second, it has significant long-term impact on the land and water around it; third, there are contamination risks; and fourth, it requires huge investments. We are talking an average of a hundred million dollars for every project. These rural communities, many of which are very poor, are literally awash with money.
There are currently 519 mining projects developed by companies registered in Canada. They hold large concessions of many hundreds to thousands of hectares each--the average is about 15,000 hectares--and when you put this together we get a significant portion of Mexico's national territory.
I put this out because I want to talk about the actual social geography in which these companies operate. It's a social geography that's very different from that of mining in Canada. Mining projects are situated in areas where the average population density is about 49 inhabitants per square kilometre. To give you a reference for that, it's about equivalent to the area around Chelsea, so fairly densely populated but quite rural. The people who live there are predominantly small-hold farmers, which means that they depend on land and water for their livelihoods. In areas like Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, many of these farmers are indigenous, which means that they have special rights to consultation under ILO 169, to which Mexico is a signatory. But it also means that they have special liabilities, which means that those rights are often ignored. The majority of the projects that we've surveyed, close to three-quarters, overlap with what are known as ejido lands. This is a collective form of land tenure accorded to rural communities after the Mexican revolution, and the laws regulating ejido lands are very strict. They make ceding land, changing land use, or even renting land very difficult, and this can trigger conflicts within as well as between communities.
Finally, in a general way, the Mexican countryside is currently facing its most serious crisis in generations. The violence surrounding the drug trade is on the rise. There's been an upswing in guerrilla activity and in the militarization of the hinterland. The number of cases of alleged corruption at the local and state level is also growing. So this is the context: a large number of projects that will impact heavily on the resources needed by local communities, competing claims on land use that are legally complex but which must be resolved in the context of deepening violence and recourse to extra-legal means of “getting things done”. And this is what I mean by high-risk enterprise.
Public debates over mining have tended to turn around conflicts that emerge between mining companies and local communities. An important line of our research has therefore been to better understand the factors and dynamics that lead to these conflicts. Surprisingly, in recent years only 13 projects operated by 11 Canadian mining companies have been embroiled in open conflict. We need to compare this with the over 500 projects in development across Mexico. The Mexican pattern generally holds across Latin America as a whole. For some 1,300 Canadian mining projects ongoing across the region, we count around 50 with attendant conflicts.
These 13 cases in Mexico depict a range of trajectories. We have seen communities put up blockades to stop mining operations and force the company to negotiate. In some cases, negotiations was successful in resolving the dispute. In others, the company called in the police to take down the blockades and arrest the organizers, often with excessive violence.
The violence has sometimes taken the form of attacks. These attacks have been perpetrated by people linked to the company against people opposed to the mine. We are talking about assault and, in two cases, murder. The latest one just happened. Last Saturday, November 27, Mariano Abarca Roblero, a manager from the community of Chicomuselo in the state of Chiapas, was gunned down in front of his house by two assailants.
A few days before he died, he requested state protection because he had been publicly threatened. The threats were allegedly made by two representatives of Blackfire, a company registered here in Canada. Before he was murdered, Mr. Abarca organized several public consultations in communities near the Blackfire project. After the communities rejected the mine, Mr. Abarca coordinated a number of blockades. That was in June and July past. He died because he wanted to protect his community.
What is the significance of these findings? I find three.
First of all, while Canadian mining in Mexico is a high-risk enterprise, the numbers show that the Canadian companies are so far capable of managing this risk. I've personally met with people from Mexican communities who recognize the good faith in negotiations of Canadian mining managers and are happy to work with the company. In this respect, the government's existing CSR strategy can only help our companies improve their track record on community relations and environmental impacts. This is the kind of preventive work that absolutely needs to be done if companies and communities are to interact in a healthy and peaceful way.
I find that there's been a false dichotomy that's crept into the debates in this committee, one that pits Bill against the government's existing CSR strategy. We obviously need both of these things, and they need to work together.
Second, this committee has heard concerns that Bill would expose the Canadian mining industry as a whole to hounding by communities and their allies seeking redress, that the number of complaints would overwhelm DFAIT's capacity to address them in a satisfactory manner, that the CPPIB would not be able to maximize earnings for pensioners, that the TSX would lose a significant percentage of its equity, that the Canadian industry would lose its reputation and its competitive advantage.
Each of these arguments assumes that Bill will somehow open the floodgates of woe and complaint. With over 500 projects, Mexico represents a major chunk of the Canadian mining industry's overseas activities. Thirteen cases over the last five years is hardly a flood of problems. I think the industry and the TSX can breathe more easily.
More importantly, Mexicans are pragmatic. If they can find satisfaction through successful negotiations with a company or through appeal to the Mexican courts, they will do so and they have done so. So even though there were 13 cases, most of them are resolved locally, without appeal even to government authorities in Mexico.
Third, there are on occasion serious problems that arise from the activities of Canadian mining companies in Mexico. This needs to be made absolutely clear. We have to stop pretending that every single project and company is beyond reproach, that NGOs are making up vexatious and fraudulent claims in order to save their jobs.
Yes, the conflicts that arise are complex in their origins and in their unfolding. Yes, there are many sides to the story. But there are also certain incontestable and documented facts. People have been killed; people have been physically aggressed; people have suffered damage to their property, their lands, and their water without adequate compensation or redress. People have been dispossessed of their rights.
I would like to lay out in more detail one such case.
Thank you, Chairman and standing committee members.
I'm Robert Blackburn, senior vice-president of SNC-Lavalin International, and I'm accompanied by my colleague, Jean-François Gascon, who is the leader of our project sustainability group and environment. We're going to jointly make a very brief presentation.
SNC-Lavalin is one of Canada's largest engineering construction groups. Our key sectors of activity are mines and metallurgy, chemicals and petroleum, power, and infrastructure construction, ownership, and management. In 2008 half of our revenues of $7.1 billion were for work outside Canada, of which, interestingly, only 3% came from the United States, and 13% came from Africa, which has traditionally been our principal geographic market outside Canada. We're currently working on every continent, with approximately 10,000 projects under way in 100 countries. We have an employee workforce of about 22,000 around the world.
I want to make six main points, after which Jean-François will brief you on his experience and observations in dealing with project sustainability issues in Africa and elsewhere.
First, we're sympathetic to the objectives of Bill . However, we have serious reservations about the need for and proposed approach of the bill. Contrary to what seems to be an underlying assumption of the bill, Canadian mining and oil and gas companies generally have a very positive record and reputation internationally. The uncertainties created by the proposed bill would place their activities in jeopardy, and they would be at a severe disadvantage with their competitors in global markets.
Next, Bill C-300 would affect SNC-Lavalin, because although we're not a mining or oil and gas company, we provide services to Canadian and foreign clients in these sectors in developing countries. In addition, we sometimes take small equity stakes in clients' projects, thus aligning our interests with theirs. Our investment in Ambatovy in Madagascar is an example where we're following industry-leading Canadian Mining Association voluntary guidelines—very strict guidelines.
In his testimony, Jim McArdle of EDC—Export Development Canada, that is—referred to 139,000 Canadian jobs sustained in 2008 alone by EDC export support and investments in the extractive industries. Several thousand of these are SNC-Lavalin employees in Canada and around the world.
Thirdly, it is important that the rules affecting Canadian companies be comparable with those observed by competitors based in other countries. Any project that benefits from export credit financing, as well as any project financed by most large banks following the Equator Principles, must meet stringent rules for environmental and social assessment of projects, as set out in the OECD recommendation on common approaches to the environment. They must also observe ongoing requirements during implementation and operations phases as set out by the same OECD and World Bank guidelines. Not only does the project proponent have to meet these criteria, but the financing agency requires that the proponent issue regular progress reports explaining how the commitments are being met. The EDC typically conducts audits for performance as well.
Finally, the EDC and World Bank regimes require the disclosure of a considerable amount of information in the form of environmental and social impact assessment reports, and often ongoing progress reports. The way in which a Canadian mining or oil and gas company develops and implements a project receiving such financial backing is thus very transparent. The same cannot be said for companies from countries that do not adhere to the OECD common approaches to environmental and social policies, and we can think of some, in Sudan and elsewhere.
My fourth point is that complaints and sanctions proposed in the bill would pose significant threats to companies' reputations, since with or without substance, each complaint calls for some level of ministerial investigation. There seem to be no sanctions against frivolous or vexatious complaints that could conceivably be launched not only by individuals but even by disgruntled competitors. Many of the complaints that you may have heard in this committee or elsewhere in print are not only inherently unprovable but cannot reasonably be defended against. The launching of a ministerial investigation would harm a reputation, whatever the outcome. Furthermore, it is not clear what resources and host government cooperation would be necessary for such investigations. These countries do have their own laws, as has just been stated, which are usually very effective.
In any case, the process would seem to be a duplication of the recently announced federal CSR strategy, with a CSR counsellor and the national contact point for the OECD and MNE guidelines .
My fifth point is a comment: that in the past twenty or so years, considerable progress has been made in Canada to bring industry and NGOs closer together and away from the adversarial zero-sum game of old. Examples include the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, an EDC consultative process regarding its environmental review directive.
Ultimately, Bill may well do little good for the environment and local communities where projects are implemented in the third world. It will certainly not boost Canada's competitiveness.
Finally, I think that the burdens and uncertainty of the bill's approach to standards and international enforcement would militate against Canada's hope of expanding into new and fast-growing markets around the world. Our bottom line was well stated by Jim McArdle of EDC, when he said:
||If this bill becomes law, we believe that our opportunities to be on the field would be severely limited. Instead, we as Canadian companies and EDC would be on the sidelines hoping that the other companies who remain in the market do the right thing from a CSR perspective.
Thanks for your attention. I'll now ask Jean-François Gascon to share his experience with you.
I am going to give my presentation in French. I will leave 15 seconds for those who need simultaneous translation.
My name is Jean-François Gascon. I work for SNC-Lavalin Environment as a Project Sustainability Leader. Through our division, SNC-Lavalin puts sustainable development programs in place during the implementation phases of projects, particularly in mining and other resource sectors.
As my colleague told you, the ultimate goal of Bill is very commendable. We share that objective, as do many of our clients and partners in Canada. However, I think that the means being used is probably the worst way of meeting that goal.
The biggest problem with the bill is that there is a sense that it is based on three premises which make me rather uncomfortable. The first is that Canadian companies are not good corporate citizens, particularly in developing countries. My experience in more than three dozen countries, especially developing countries—because I lived in developing countries for many years—tells me that the opposite is in fact true. Canadian companies, particularly in the resources sector, actually have a good reputation, especially in comparison to competitors from foreign countries. I am therefore bothered a bit when I see that that is a premise underlying the bill.
The second premise is that the current legal environment is unable to address the problems and meet the objective, which is to encourage companies to be better corporate citizens in developing countries. I do not think there is a need for a protracted debate on that point. The legal environment is more than sufficient today, whether it is banks or export credit agencies like EDC, which are subject to a set of rules, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which has to be applied to projects outside Canada, especially when there is Canadian funding. I think the current legal environment is more than capable of permitting Canadian companies to manage mining projects in developing countries quite effectively.
The third premise is the one I find the most upsetting, especially for those who have travelled in developing countries. The premise is that developing countries do not have sufficient legal capacity or are not mature enough to solve problems, in particular, problems related to human rights or failure to respect the environment. I think this premise is very harmful. A lobby group or an NGO can say things like that publicly, but when the idea forms the basis for legislation tabled by the Government of Canada, I, as a Canadian citizen, am deeply concerned.
Why is this bill aimed only at projects in developing countries? The answer to that question is obvious. People think developed countries are able to solve these problems and developing countries are not. This is a major issue. Developing countries do not want to be treated like children. I think that paternalism is probably the last approach we as Canadians want to use when it comes to addressing these very significant concerns.
I would like to end with a rather telling example that also indicates a change in the way Canadian companies approach foreign projects, particularly in developing countries. Companies talk a lot about community relations. They talk about the celebrated “social licence to operate”, an approach that on the whole is rather passive. They try to solve problems as they arise. However, Canadian companies are increasingly proactive in their approach. For example, there is a very big mining project, one of the biggest in the world, in Madagascar, the Ambatovy project, in which SNC-Lavalin has invested as part of a consortium that includes a Japanese company, a Korean company and another Canadian company. For the implementation and construction phases of the project, three training centres were set up to train more than 6,000 local workers, which helped maximize local employment for the project. Today, the project employs 10,000 people, 85% of them local workers, which is almost unheard of in the mining industry.
A strategy has also been put in place to maximize local procurement, and to date, companies have bought more than $750 million worth of goods and services produced locally or through a local intermediary. Some of the strategies that have been put in place are designed specifically to not only ensure that project implementation, but also to maximize the local benefits of that type of project. I believe this approach should be promoted ahead of the approach where minimum standards are set and companies that behave badly are punished. We welcomed the Canadian government's announcement of the creation of a corporate social responsibility counsellor position, and I think we have to move toward promoting best practices instead of punishing the worst offenders. Thank you.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, it's truly an honour to be here today, at the heart of one of our country's most important deliberations. Before introducing myself, I'd like to make one point crystal clear: the fact that you might be for Bill doesn't mean you're against Canadian mining and oil companies; in fact, I think it can mean quite the contrary.
I have a company called Corporate Knights. I'm the president and editor of Corporate Knights. It was co-founded in 2002, and we're founded on the premise that in today's global landscape, companies must be at the heart of our big solutions or there are no big solutions. We also believe there's a strong self-interest for companies to engage in commerce in a way that strengthens social and political stability, because no company can succeed in a society that fails.
In short, we are big supporters of Canadian companies, their leadership and innovation, and their potential to drive Canada's prosperity in ways that can make us all proud. Over the past eight years, we have tracked corporate Canada's performance on social and environmental matters through our annual surveys, such as the best 50 corporate citizens in Canada, the global 100 most sustainable corporations in the world, which is announced each year in Davos during the World Economic Forum, as well as investigative reports assessing Canadian companies' performance against the International code of ethics for Canadian business and other international responsible business standards. Our work has taken me to the bottom of giant open-pit mines in the Congo, to the vast plains of the Gobi Desert, right to the middle of oil pipelines in Ecuador.
Companies by and large respect and give credibility to our trademark, which is fairness. This credibility is something we've earned that provides us access to company executives and company sites. It's also why mining and oil and gas companies have purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of products from our company.
I would like to use this opportunity to cover two main points. The first point I'd like to cover deals with some of the global currents that define the context of the marketplace in which our Canadian companies operate today. The second point I would like to make concerns the difference that Bill could make.
On the first point, today the size and power of companies paints a whole new swath of grey between states and enterprises: 29 of the world's 100 leading economic entities are companies, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
The majority of the world's untapped resources lie in unstable states. The quest for resources is increasingly becoming a foreign pursuit for Canadian companies and companies everywhere. As Canada's resource levels recede, our firms have a choice: go where the resources are or go out of business. According to the United States Energy Information Administration's International Energy Outlook, roughly 80% of the world's oil supply will come from non-OECD countries by the year 2025. Many of those countries rest in weak governance zones.
Today, as we're all familiarly aware at this committee, 75% of the world's exploration and mining companies are headquartered right here in Canada. We also have a revolution in information and communications technology, which has put companies under the microscope—or YouTube, as the case may be—and what happens on the other side of the world in a remote jungle in the morning can be beamed onto your computer screen or TV that afternoon.
The fifth thing that defines the global context in which we operate is that the corporate accountability mandate has achieved an increasing traction. Over the past decade there has been a raft of international corporate performance standards and guidances, ranging from the IFC performance standards to the voluntary principles on security and human rights, to the calls for corporate accountability laws by Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie, to the meticulous work by John Ruggie, special representative of the Secretary General on human rights and transnational corporations.
If you look at these things, you see a consistent pattern of an increasing articulation of what is expected from companies these days, and nowhere is this truer than in Canada. Bill lands smack dab in the middle of all this.
These are the four differences I think Bill can make, and these differences are all positive differences for companies, in my view. First, I think it could help clear the air for our most honourable companies. The fusion of NGOs and the ICT revolution produces many allegations. A credible mechanism that would make informed decisions would help to stop false accusations in their tracks, helping to protect the reputations of Canadian companies.
Second, right now it is assumed that if you buy a junior mining company or oil company, you're buying the assets as well as the liabilities, meaning the social and environmental liabilities. These liabilities have a big price tag. The presence of a credible accountability mechanism and administering body would offer tremendous incentive for Canadian junior companies to more closely adhere to international human rights and environmental standards, which would mean less value being destroyed and less time lost. It is a win-win for the juniors, who could sell their assets for higher prices, and for the majors, who would not have to deal with the headaches often embedded in their acquisitions of junior properties.
Third, this bill could offer a maple leaf quality assurance premium to investors. Let me explain. After the recent financial meltdown in which up to $50 trillion of wealth vaporized, investors have become increasingly risk averse. The downside of this risk aversion is that there's less capital flowing to emerging markets, as presently most investors just paint all companies with the exact same risk discount based on sovereign risk no matter what their practices are, but the major liability issues at most sites are related to the way the company operates, not the context in which it operates. This is something that checked out in my experiences and those of other experts I've talked to, who examined hundreds of sites around the world.
The current investment practice, aside from unfairly tarring leading responsible companies that happen to be operating in a difficult environment, leads to suboptimal risk-adjusted rates of return for investors. With a credible accountability standard for companies listed on the TSX, investors could be willing to pay more than, say, for a comparable company listed in the London exchange, because they would have more confidence that they were not buying a poisoned bag of goods.
Fourth, I think this bill could offer a maple leaf quality assurance premium to host countries and their stakeholders. We are the world's miners. Mining is not about technological advantage. Any company can do it. In the scramble for resources, what distinguishes a Canadian company from a Chinese company is that a Canadian company has a competitive advantage when it comes to safety, social issues, respect for human rights, community engagement, contribution to local employment, and environmental protections.
Bill is not perfect, nor is it enough, but by making a move to a credible accountability mechanism, it sends a strong signal that Canadian companies will be on the winning side of the seismic shifts shaping our global economy.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Blackburn, all companies want to do better and the intent of this bill, although well-meaning, is problematic. The Canadian mining business has an excellent reputation, nationally and internationally. This has been confirmed by some of the witnesses.
There was a comment that sounded outrageous--namely, that there might be up to a billion complaints that have to be responded to. The language of this bill is instructive: the minister “shall receive complaints” from “any Canadian citizen or permanent resident or any resident or citizen of a developing country”. This implies investigating as well, not merely receiving the information.
Around here, we all know that from time to time we get thousands of pieces of information, inquiries, complaints, and instructions. So it is conceivable that there would be a billion responses to be made. This affects not only DFAIT and EDC, but also your own firms. If there are mass mailings, computer-generated mailings or whatever, they have to be deciphered to see what information there is behind them.
So it's not just the legal system of EDC and DFAIT that would be expanded. This would also affect your own firm. You mentioned that you have 10,000 projects internationally—$7 billion in Canadian business. It was mentioned earlier that the TSX will breathe easier because of Bill . I'd like to know your response. Would you concur that the TSX would breathe easier? What happens to these large numbers of Canadian businesses? Will there be a departure from Canada? The alternative is to insulate yourself from this type of legislation, and the best way to do that is to relocate.
Sure. It stands for the International Finance Corporation Compliance Auditor/Ombudsman.
Of those 110 complaints, 80 have been perfunctorily dismissed. If you go to their homepage, it's right there: “How to file a complaint”. Anybody can complain. Anybody in the whole entire world can complain. You or I can complain right now, and there have been 110 in 10 years. It does have some weight when they come down with it. Its teeth are not quite as sharp as those of Bill , but it has weight. So it's not credible at all that we're going to have billions of allegations.
Further, perhaps our colleague from SNC-Lavalin did not mean what he said, because if I heard correctly, he said that if there were allegations of wrongdoing in a project they were involved in, they would divest. I don't think that's true, because of those 110 allegations that were levelled with the International Finance Corporation CAO, I'm almost certain that SNC would have been involved in some way with a couple of those projects. I don't think allegations are enough to make companies run away, because if anyone can make an allegation and you're willing to run away from a billion-dollar investment, that just doesn't pass the smell test.
In terms of the other remarks, I think it's natural for companies to sometimes say that the sky is falling. When we had labour, safety, and environmental regulations, those claims were all made, and they all proved to be blatantly false. In the end, companies were a lot more profitable because of them. I don't think this sort of notion of Chicken Little crying the sky is falling holds a lot of water. I don't understand when people ask why they need this if their companies are leaders in the world. Why do we have labour laws and environmental laws and other standards that are backed up by legal remedies in our country? You need an accountability mechanism. Why do we have referees at the hockey game? We need somebody who can put people in the penalty box when it's needed and help to hold order.
I hope the committee doesn't take these statements that are being made too seriously. In terms of your question of how we can brand Canada as a leader, how do we differentiate ourselves as Canadians when we're operating a mining company abroad? We do have a good reputation, but it's running on fumes to some extent. I remember being in Colombia, talking to the U.S. ambassador. She told me that there was a Canadian company operating in the heartland of FARC, that a U.S. company could never operate there, and that doing so was a privilege our country's companies enjoyed. If we want to continue to enjoy that privilege, we can't just rest on our laurels. We have to have something that gives real quality assurance, and this bill would offer a good starting point of a semblance of quality assurance.
If I'm in Africa, living in a community in the Congo and something is going wrong--and maybe nothing's going wrong--at least I know that if something is going wrong, there is real due process through which someone will listen to my complaint and hear it out if it is valid. That says a lot to countries, and that sort of thing would differentiate us so people could say when you deal with Canadians--
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Blackburn, I suppose it's not what's not in this bill that is the concern; it's what's in this bill and the fact that it's instructing the ministers to investigate all issues.
The suggestion in the bill is very clear that the companies subscribe and adhere to human rights provisions that are international. It also has other standards, which would imply other laws. There might be indigenous understandings. It might be sharia law in other parts of the world and how that applies to not only your own mining business but maybe the communities. I understand some mines have their own mining towns, so it brings you into the social requirements of conforming to all forms of international law, all forms of understanding, even in those communities, too. We all know that Canada itself does not subscribe to many of those, so you're really asking the corporations to adhere to laws that Canada doesn't even subscribe to.
Then we have the situation of the minister trying to receive these complaints, investigating these complaints, and maybe taking legal steps to deal with the complaints. What do they do? Do they bring it to a court of Canada, do they bring it to the court of Mexico, or do they bring it to some other international body and court?
In other words, those are the complexities and the uncertainties that are in this bill, which are instructive, and you can't really get around that. So I'm saying again that it's not what's not in this bill that's of concern, it's what's in this bill. We're hearing it over and over again, whether it's from EDC, DFAIT, or business after business after business.
You have a very substantial amount of business worldwide yourself, some $7 billion from your firm alone. You can extrapolate that across the other companies, I don't know how many there are, maybe hundreds of businesses.
My understanding, after meeting with the Mexican ambassador yesterday, is that in Mexico alone the largest level of Canadian investment in that country is in the mining sector.
The Canadian mining sector really is leading the world in showing this. There are many other industries in Canada that can take a lot of lessons from the mining industry, because many are not nearly as well organized worldwide. So hats off to the Canadian mining industry for showing to the world that Canada can be a leader, but we're risking this entire worldwide number-one business that Canada has internationally.
I go back to the Toronto Stock Exchange once again and the strong concern here that it's going to have a diametrical and very negative impact. Coming from a business background myself, I know full well that if I had a choice of which way to go, I have read and written thousands of specifications on construction projects, and when it says “You shall do”, you pay attention. There are many projects I would not bid on because they were too restrictive. So you find another way to do it.
Can you expand a little bit more on that, on the potential risk to the largest component of Canadian international business that we have?
I don't want to get into an argument, but what is extraterritorial when you look at what the actual bill says? The bill says the minister will develop guidelines. We all agree that there will have to be a process that respects natural justice inside the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. That's absolutely a given. That's our legal obligation as a country to do that.
The guidelines are discussed with the industry and negotiated with the industry--and with everybody else--over a period of a year. As a result, eventually, if this bill were ever to become law, the process would then be that there would be a complaint, the minister finds it's frivolous, it doesn't happen, or the minister says it's actually something serious and we're going to look at it.
The consequence of all of that is essentially two things: one, if there's a finding of a breach of a guideline that's irreparable, the EDC has to take that into account in its decisions. Second, the Canada Pension Plan—again, Mr. McKay's open secret is going to be producing some amendments next week—has to take that into account, as well.
How is that extraterritorial? It's simply saying your conduct as a corporation is something that we, as a government, will take into account. It's actually no different from what EDC does now with respect to environmental law. We already accept the fact that environmental standards will be built into the corporate social responsibility conduct. The only additional thing is the question about human rights because of the implications it has for our corporate reputation, and frankly, for our country's reputation.
I've done it for your company as a premier. I've proudly represented SNC-Lavalin in countries around the world--in Malaysia, in China, everywhere--with great pride because your company has a sterling reputation. Companies are asking premiers and politicians and prime ministers to do this all the time, which we should do. It's our obligation to do it. The essence of this, and what's happening with corporate social responsibility, is we're saying we have to look at the whole picture of what the corporation's conduct is before you can draw on the resources of the Government of Canada. To me, this is hardly revolutionary behaviour.