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8 Apr 2019

Gabriel Friedman, Financial Post

'Lobbied to death': Liberals face backlash over corporate responsibility ombudsman

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Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr named Sheri Meyerhoffer, a Calgary lawyer with ties to the energy industry, to act as the country’s first Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise... Carr said lawyers still need to study whether the office will be able to force companies to turn over documents or compel witnesses to testify... Human rights advocates said it would be impossible to effectively investigate corporate misconduct allegations without such powers, and accused the Liberal government of backing off of earlier commitments to provide such powers.

... [Catherine] Coumans [of MiningWatch Canada]... noted that Global Affairs Canada has posted a frequently asked questions section about the ombudsperson office on its website. In one question and answer, the government said it was committed to providing the office with such powers. But by Monday, that language had been removed. “It’s pretty clear what happened if you look at the lobby registry,” she said. “They’ve been lobbied to death.”... Ben Chalmers, acting president of MAC [Mining Association of Canada], said that his organization does not support the investigative powers that the Coumans and other human rights advocates want, and instead believes the ombudsman should help bring dispute resolution.

... Michael Jones, director of communications for the office of the Minister of International Trade Diversification, said... the international trade diversification minister remains committed to providing the ombudsperson’s office with such investigative powers, pending the outcome of an external legal review to be launched in the next few days. “We’re saying give us another few weeks, we’re hoping to have this resolved by early June,” said Jones.