"Transparency is no longer an aspiration, it is an expectation"
Business leaders and politicans urged Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper today to implement the global EITI transparency standard.
"Transparency is no longer an aspiration, it is an expectation," stated the six leaders, which include Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada, John Browne, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs at Colombia University. If Canada implements the EITI, it would join Norway, the United States and around 40 other resource-rich countries and disclose all government revenues from all oil, gas and mining activities in the country.
Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper
We are writing to encourage the Canadian Government to implement the EITI, alongside requirements for the mandatory disclosure of extractive company payments to governments.
You will have taken note of the UK Government’s recent announcement that it will review whether to implement the EITI, which we expect to come out positively, and the US Government’s implementation efforts. These announcements arise both from domestic reasons and from a recognition that we cannot expect countries to do what we are not doing ourselves. Good management of natural resources begins with strong systems of transparency and accountability, and it is the lack of these fundamental foundations that has left billions of citizens excluded from the benefits of their country’s abundant wealth. Prime Minister Cameron and others have spoken many times of the need to get our house in order if we are to be effective messengers of good management.
We also believe that there are significant domestic benefits to EITI implementation in Canada. President Obama spoke of implementing the EITI to ensure “that taxpayers receive every dollar they’re due from the extraction of natural resources”. Australia is piloting the EITI for similar reasons. In all of the 37 EITI implementing countries, we have seen how the establishment of a national commission of senior government, company and civil society representatives builds trust and reduces the tensions that inevitably arise from natural resources. Such a commission could be a useful forum in Canada for debate around such knotty issues as tax and royalty levels, land rights, environmental impact, rights of affected communities, and so on.
Norway, also the home of the EITI International Secretariat, puts its costs of implementing the EITI at US $200,000 a year for the government and negligible for the reporting companies. Transparency and openness should not add a burden on companies. The EITI is a low cost way of encouraging a public debate amongst the key people based on sound and agreed data.
We see EITI implementation as complementary to mandatory disclosure standards for extractive companies, such as those passed by the US Government and now under development in the European Union. Given the important global role played by Canadian extractive companies, action on this front is a powerful companion to implementing the EITI, and is clearly in the interest of Canadian dual-listed companies that are already subject to the US Cardin-Lugar Amendment disclosure regulation and expect competitors to be subject to equivalent regulations. Ensuring that Canadian companies practice the same high level of transparency wherever they operate is good both for development and for business. The fact that the Canadian mining industry is actively supporting the introduction of a mandatory disclosure regime in Canada, and is currently developing recommendations for reporting requirements in partnership with civil society, is a positive sign that such an integrated approach to promoting good governance in the extractive sector enjoys strong multi-stakeholder support.
Many Canadian companies also support the EITI, including Barrick Gold and Talisman. Transparency is no longer an aspiration, it is an expectation. We would welcome the Government of Canada showing international leadership on this issue.
John Browne, The Lord Browne of Madingley, CEO of BP (1995-2007)
Rt Hon Joe Clark, Prime Minister of Canada (1979-1980)
Dr Randall Gossen, President of the World Petroleum Council (2008-2012)
Ms Karina Litvack, Head of F&C Sustainable Investment (2001-2013)
Sen Richard G Lugar, US Senator (1977-2013)
Prof Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University