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OTTAWA — The Canadian government is readying a campaign to promote this country’s mining sector abroad, an effort that will draw on Ottawa’s power and global network of diplomatic missions to help companies expand their exploration and extraction activity around the world.
It’s the latest step in the Harper Conservatives’ efforts to redirect foreign affairs, international development and trade spending so it’s more targeted to core economic interests. In recent years, Ottawa has jointly funded development projects in Africa and South America with large mining corporations.
International Trade Minister Ed Fast will launch cross-country consultations Wednesday to get feedback as he draws up an agenda on what support it should offer to Canadian mining firms. The effort is billed as helping the extractive sector, which also includes oil and gas companies, but is almost wholly focused on mining.
The timing is no coincidence. The Harper government, which is warming up its campaign machine for an expected 2015 election, is looking for ways to contrast itself with opposition party leaders Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair. The Conservatives will face tough criticism over files such as the Senate expenses scandal when the Commons returns in October and the Tories are hoping to weather the storm by stressing their efforts to bolster the economy.
Assistance could include pouring more effort into signing investor protection deals with foreign countries to create a more stable investment climate abroad or pushing consulates and embassies to promote Canadian mining projects and produce more comprehensive and frequent updates on market conditions abroad. Canada has more than 260 diplomatic and consular offices in about 150 countries.
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