Timmins, ON | October 22, 2015—The Timmins Chamber of Commerce is taking action to push the federal government to protect resource development in Canada and the communities that rely upon it.
At the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s (CCC) annual general meeting on Oct. 17-18, the Timmins Chamber successfully lobbied representatives of the country’s biggest business advocacy group to support a call by Timmins businesses to close loopholes in recent legislation that could financially cripple the mining industry and Aboriginal communities alike.
Held in Ottawa, the event saw nearly 400 delegates -- representing more than 200,000 Canadian businesses -- debating policies put forward by Chambers from around the country to determine the CCC’s top priorities for the coming year. Timmins Chamber President Kurt Bigeau was on hand to successfully lobby for Timmins Chamber members’ interests to be included among the CCC’s annual priorities.
This includes a policy resolution urging the federal government to quickly make changes to the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA). Passed in December 2014, this legislation was originally developed in response to reports that some foreign governments were improperly spending mining revenues generated by Canadian companies. To address the issue, Canadian extractive industry partners worked collaboratively with the federal government to develop regulations requiring public disclosure of payments made to foreign governments, resulting in the ESTMA.
However, the federal government inserted measures into the final version of the legislation requiring the mining, oil and gas industries to also disclose payments made to Aboriginal groups and communities within Canada, beginning in June 2017. In response, industry and Aboriginal groups have warned that, because such agreements are often confidential, requiring public disclosure could potentially damage relationships that have taken years to build.
More significantly, there is serious, widespread concern that loopholes in the Act would allow the federal government to reduce its own payments to Aboriginal communities in response to payments made to them by industry, as disclosed under the Act.
“While the industry is supportive of enhancing transparency, the clause within the Act requiring Canadian extractive firms to disclose payments they make to Aboriginal communities is very problematic,” said Bigeau.
“This loophole could severely harm Aboriginal communities’ ability to benefit from resource development, while preventing industry from enhancing local capacity and infrastructure. With 2017 looming, the clock is now ticking for government to help protect resource development in Canada and the communities that rely upon it by engaging in consultations and providing assurances that these situations will not come to pass.”
This policy, entitled Preserving Economic Benefits Under the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act, was crafted in consultation between the Timmins Chamber’s Government Regulation and Policy Committee, area businesses, and a broad number of partners across Canada.
This includes the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, as well as the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce.
“Extractive sectors like mining are major economic drivers not only for Timmins, but indeed for the rest of Canada,” said Bigeau. “The fact that Timmins’ policy saw such strong support is just one more sign that we must take steps to protect the strong financial impact generated by this industry in our communities and beyond.”
The Timmins Chamber was also successful in pushing a second member-driven policy at the CCC conference, urging the federal government to put in place a system that allows federal liens on long-standing derelict or abandoned properties to be waived after a time. Without such a system – which exists for provincial or territorial liens – these properties often sit vacant for years, hindering development and bringing down property values.
Having adopted Timmins’ policy on ESTMA and federal liens, the CCC will use those ideas as part of its efforts to urge the federal government to enact change in the coming months and years.
To view the full versions of the policy that will now be championed by the CCC, please visit the Chamber’s website at www.timminschamber.on.ca, or view them directly at http://tinyurl.com/ESTMA and http://tinyurl.com/FederalLiens
Manager of Policy, Research and Communications
Timmins Chamber of Commerce