The House

Midweek podcast: a new TPP, and a new ombudsperson to end decade-long fight for accountability

This week on The House midweek podcast, Chris Hall talks with trade expert and former Quebec premier Jean Charest about the state of the NAFTA talks and the new TPP. We also speak with MP John McKay about the government's new responsible enterprise ombudsman and his push for a watchdog to look after Canadian companies abroad.
A new Canadian ombudsperson will be appointed to look into cases involving human rights issues like child labour. (Evelyn Mayanja)
Listen to the full episode32:32

An MP's decade-long battle for accountability from Canadian companies overseas has finally yielded fruit.

Last week, the government announced a new social enterprise ombudsperson would be appointed to watch over and investigate companies operating in foreign countries.

The government will work to resolve conflicts between local communities and Canadian companies, focusing on the mining, oil, gas and garment industries.

The announcement is a major breakthrough for John McKay, who had tried unsuccessfully to get two private members' bills passed, both dealing with corporate social responsibility.

His journey started in 2008 when he targeted the practices of Canadian mining companies abroad.

Bill C-300, the first attempt, sought to ensure corporations were abiding by human rights laws that protect vulnerable workers in developing countries.

The Tories were unimpressed with its contents, McKay recalled.

"To listen to the opposition you would think this is the end of western civilization as we know it," he told The House.

Mining companies went on high alert as the bill gained momentum and hundreds of thousands signed a petition in support of the bill.

In 2009, the bill almost passed but was ultimately defeated 140-134.  

Expecting 'big things'

About five years later McKay tried again — and failed harder than before.

In his own words, the bill was "Taken out and shot."

However, a modified version of that second bill ended up in another piece of legislation that requires mining companies to disclose payments they make to get concessions. The Canadian mining sector supported that call for more transparency.

Though his bills fell flat, his concerns will mostly be addressed in the new ombudsperson's mandate.

"I'm actually expecting big things," he said.

"I think Canadians want to know that products they purchase do not come from supply chain slavery."

On The House midweek podcast, Chris Hall talks to former Quebec premier Jean Charest about the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its potential impact on the NAFTA talks. Then, we hear from Liberal MP John McKay about his efforts to bring more independent oversight of Canadian mining companies, and what he plans to go after next. 32:32