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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff speaks to reporters in Ottawa on Oct. 19, 2010. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff speaks to reporters in Ottawa on Oct. 19, 2010. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Will Michael Ignatieff bury his own MP's mining bill? Add to ...

1. Open veins of mining legislation. A Liberal private member's bill is the buzz of Parliament Hill as the Tories tries to score political points on its back, Michael Ignatieff distances himself from it and Liberal Whip Marcel Proulx tells caucus members to stay away from the vote on Wednesday.

This consternation and controversy is over Scarborough MP John McKay's bill, C-300, that aims to clamp down on Canadian mining activities in foreign countries. The legislation, which went through committee without any amendments, would allow the government to deny funding of Canadian mining companies found guilty - through investigations initiated by Ottawa - of human rights or environmental violations.

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The bill is to be voted on for third reading Wednesday afternoon. If it passes - and that's still a big "if" - it will then go on to the Senate.

"Ignatieff MP John McKay has introduced legislation that unfairly targets successful Canadian mining, oil and gas companies - a key pillar of our economy," Conservative strategists said in a memo to MPs and supporters Tuesday. "If the Coalition has it way, many Canadian jobs will be lost in an industry that contributed $40 billion to Canada's economy in 2008 and which employs 351,000 workers."

Accusing the opposition of siding with "international special interest groups," Stephen Harper's team added: "During the thick of the global recession, overseas contracts kept the mining industry afloat. At a time when the economic recovery is still fragile, why does the Coalition want to make it harder for Canadian companies?"

The Globe reported Tuesday on the negative effects to the mining industry if the bill passes. "The result could be some miners looking to move abroad, setting back Canada's status as one of the great global mining centres, according to analysts at CIBC World Markets."

Mr. Ignatieff, meanwhile, doesn't seem too keen on it either but he has to be careful how heavily he treads on this as it is a private member's bill. MPs are usually free to vote their conscience on such legislation.

"C-300 is a private member's bill. And it's intended to send a message about corporate social responsibility," Mr. Ignatieff told reporters after Question Period on Tuesday. "I've said for six months that there's some problems with the bill. Even the initiator of the bill, John McKay, says there are problems."

Mr. Ignatieff added that a discussion is required with the mining industry to "create a process that is open and transparent and improves Canadian corporate responsibility overseas." He called it a "step forward."

And then there is the Liberal Whip, Mr. Proulx, who according to an opposition source is telling MPs to "not to show up re: John's bill."

Mr. Ignatieff's office would not comment on the Whip's activities. But a senior official noted what the Liberals see as the hypocrisy of Mr. Harper's promotion of human rights in Europe in this week versus the Tory stand on the mining bill.

"Now he's attacking human rights commitments for Canadian companies abroad. So much for principled Conservative policy," the official said. "This is a case of Conservative foot-dragging when Canadian industry and NGOs are actually out in front, having participated in and endorsed a 2007 roundtable process on the need for Canada to strengthen corporate social responsibility."

2. World's shortest scrum. On Tuesday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was stopped by reporters and asked to respond to Auditor-General Sheila Fraser's report on stimulus spending:

"Have a look at some of the efforts that were made to do a really good job on the Economic Action Plan," he said. "It turned out very well so I'm thrilled with the result of her assessment."

Then he walked away from the microphone.

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