John Baird says pushback needed to support mining (Northern Miner – October 8, 2015)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry.

Former Foreign Minister John Baird says the mining industry and government “must play offence, not defence,” when it comes to defending their interests and combatting anti-mining activism.

“Far too often, the industry, and to some extent government, are playing defence when it comes to anti-mining activists and their close friends in the media,” Baird declared in a keynote address at a mining conference in Toronto. “To a great extent, anti-mining activism has become a bit of an industry in this country, and it takes many, many forms.”

Baird resigned his post as cabinet minister earlier this year and now sits on the advisory board of Barrick Gold Corp., is a global strategic advisor to engineering and development consultancy Hatch Ltd., and is a senior advisor at Bennett Jones, a law firm active in the mining industry.

“You would be absolutely amazed at how many times that we discovered Canadian taxpayers’ dollars going to fight Canadian commercial interests abroad, especially in the extractive sector,” he told the conference, organized by Red Cloud, a capital markets advisory service firm.

Over the course of his two decades in politics, Baird witnessed a number of cases in which taxpayers’ money was footing the bill for anti-mining activists. In one instance, he said, the government was funding a labour group fighting a mining project in Mexico to try to win over unionized workers, even though the workers had chosen their existing union. In another case, the government was funding environmental activists protest and derail a Canadian mining project in South America. And there many others.

“We would regularly fund First Nations groups to travel abroad to teach their brothers and sisters in the indigenous peoples’ movement to fight and derail Canadian mining projects,” he said. “But this gravy train must stop. We’ve worked tremendously hard to stop it and we must be vigilant that this practice doesn’t re-emerge in the future.”

Baird added that Canadians enjoy many freedoms, among them the freedom of speech and the right to protest against their government, and even industry, but “they shouldn’t be getting money from the public purse to pursue this narrow ideology.”

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