Ignatieff and the death of Liberal class

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On Oct. 27, the House of Commons narrowly defeated a private members bill, C-300, aimed at ensuring mining companies are accountable and responsible for human rights and environmental standards abroad.

Despite being a Liberal lead private member's bill by MP John McKay, Ignatieff's Whip, Marcel Proulx in caucus during the week of the vote, was quietly encouraging Liberal MPs to stay away from the third reading vote on Wednesday evening to ensure its defeat.

In apparent contradiction, a backgrounder was sent from Ignatieff's office to the caucus members just before the vote that appeared to support the bill.

This is how it read:

"Issue: The House of Commons will vote on Liberal John McKay's Private Member's Bill C-300 today, which supports the principle of Corporate Social Responsibility for Canadian mining, oil and gas companies in developing countries.

Key Messages: Liberals recognize the importance of the mining, gas and oil industry to Canada. We believe that a commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) -- at home and abroad -- makes good business sense and is a Canadian advantage. We are sending a strong message of the government that they cannot continue to ignore CSR for Canadian companies."

But this was just window dressing. Actions speak louder than words, and Ignafieff along with 12 other Liberal MPs, did not show up for the vote which resulted in the defeat of the bill with a count of 140 to 134.

The CNCA is a network of 23 national civil society organizations concerned with the impact of Canadian extractive industries operating abroad and they lobbied hard for Bill C-300 to pass.

Claire Doran, director of education at Development and Peace, the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada, said, "Half a million Canadians have written to the Prime Minister calling for measures to ensure that Canadian companies are held accountable in Canada for their overseas operations."

Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada said, "Passing C-300 would have boosted Canada's national reputation and demonstrated that we take human rights seriously."

A week before the vote, 40 organizations in Latin America sent a joint letter of support for the Bill C-300 legislation, calling for its passage.

The actions by Ignatieff were contrary to public well-being on some other issues last month as well. He changed his mind on employment insurance last month when he decided that measures for a range of improvements to EI, included in a Bloc MP's bill, were too expensive and no longer necessary. Just a year ago he vowed to take down the Harper regime because it wouldn't make the same reforms.

Despite his employment insurance critic, Mike Savage, supporting the Bloc bill, Ignatieff said the bill was "not fiscally responsible" and he did not show for the vote. The bill was defeated.

Ignatieff is marching in step with the Conservative policies of corporate interests trumping any well-being issues that support the public commons. Our political system seems much the same as the US with the Democrats saying what people want to hear and then doing what corporate America wants.

Writer Chris Hedges just released book The Death of the Liberal Class states that the liberal-left has been coerced by big business. The actions of Michael Ignatieff confirm this time and again, in a case of Liberal no class.

Ken Bilsky Billings is an activist, blogger and member of ActCity Ottawa. He can be reached at


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