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Politics Mining industry lobbied nine of 24 MPs who helped kill ethics bill

Greenpeace activists protest against mining operations outside the Canadian embassy in Mexico City on May 23, 2006.

SUSANA GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images

A lobbying blitz on Parliament Hill may have sealed the defeat of a controversial mining bill that lost a razor-thin vote in the House of Commons.

Records filed with Canada's lobbying watchdog show nine of the 24 MPs who skipped the vote last month were lobbied by the mining industry.

The private member's bill would have forced Canadian mining companies to toughen their environmental and human-rights standards when working abroad.

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The bill lost by just six votes, 140 to 134.

The nine absent MPs lobbied by the mining industry were Liberals Scott Andrews, Scott Brison, Martha Hall Findlay, Keith Martin, John McCallum, Geoff Regan and Anthony Rota, as well as New Democrats Charlie Angus and Bruce Hyer.

Fifteen other Liberal, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and independent MPs also skipped the Oct. 27 vote, but records show they were not lobbied by the mining industry.

All but one Conservative MP voted against the bill. Former environment minister Jim Prentice missed the vote because he was on his way to China for trade talks.

Ms. Hall Findlay said her opposition to the bill came from her background in international law and business, not from any lobbyists. She has blogged about why she didn't back the bill.

"My position had long been decided before anyone approached me on this file," she said in an interview.

She brushed aside the notion that lobbyists doomed the bill. She said supporters of the bill also came out in full force, even if they don't appear in the lobbyist registry.

"This was not a question of lobbying by the mining companies. There was huge lobbying on the other side, too," Ms. Hall Findlay said.

"Some people may have been affected by one, some people may have been affected by the other. I can tell you, for me personally, your question - 'Did it affect me?' - no."

Mr. Regan also said his mind was made up before he spoke to any lobbyists.

The other MPs didn't return calls and emails.

The lobbyist registry reveals the mining industry put a full-court press on Parliament Hill in the days and weeks leading up to the late October vote.

Lobbyists for mining companies and industry groups reported dozens of "communications" with MPs, senators, political staff and senior bureaucrats in September and October.

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Some were one-on-one meetings, while others were with groups of people.

Former Liberal cabinet minister Don Boudria was one of the busiest lobbyists. He is now a Hill and Knowlton lobbyist who was working on behalf of Barrick Gold.

The lobbyist registry shows Mr. Boudria, a Grit veteran, had 22 "communications" with Liberal MPs, Senator Dennis Dawson and two aides in Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's office between Oct. 12-26.

Mr. Boudria declined comment. "I do not comment upon client work," he wrote in an email to The Canadian Press on Thursday.

Mr. Regan saidMr. Boudria tried to get him to vote against the bill. "He would have been speaking to me to try and persuade me to vote against the bill," the MP said. "He knew already where my mind was."

Liberal MP John McKay sponsored the bill, C-300, which all three opposition parties initially supported. He recalls that Parliament Hill was crawling with mining lobbyists ahead of the vote.

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"You couldn't turn around without bumping into one of them in the lobby," Mr. McKay said in an interview. "They were all over the place."

Mr. McKay said he spoke to Liberals who skipped the vote, but he couldn't persuade them to support his bill.

"I think there was local pressure brought to bear on MPs who have mining interests in their ridings," he said.

The registry shows MPs were lobbied by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Goldcorp Inc., Vale Canada Inc., Iamgold Corp., the Mining Association of Canada, Stillwater Mining Company and Xstrata Nickel.

Industry watchdog group MiningWatch Canada also lobbied MPs.

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