In light of the mainstream media focusing on a current scandal linking Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Chief of Staff to lobbyists from the Barrick Gold corporation, Canadians for Mining Awareness Peterborough wants to remind readers that this is not the first time that the Harper Government has been influenced by Barrick Gold. Harper’s Chief of Staff is Nigel Wright, a man who has very close ties to Barrick Gold. He formerly held a position on the board of the Munk Foundation (created by Peter Munk, CEO of Barrick Gold) and is the godson to Anthony Munk’s son (Peter Munk’s grandson). He also used to work with Anthony Munk at Onex Corp. Sakura Saunders of Protest Barrick revealed that Wright also sat on the Board of Directors at the Aurea Foundation, a charitable foundation founded by Peter Munk in 2006 to support the study public policy development. Wright resigned shortly before filling his position in Harper’s office in November of 2010. The current scandal focuses on a couple meetings between Wright and lobbyists from Barrick Gold. The question being asked is whether Wright is braking conflict of interest rules by meeting with lobbyists from a company whose founding family he is so closely connected to. However, as we will reveal below, a few meetings with lobbyists is trivial compared to other actions the Harper government has taken.

The following is a short list, not extensive by any means, with details and statistics provided by ProtestBarrick.net

• Marketa Evans, founding director of the Munk Centre of International Studies at the U of T, is now the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) director for the Canadian government. It is her job to mediate disputes between mining companies and communities and people accusing those companies of human rights and environmental abuses.

• The Federal government contributed $25 million towards the establishment of the Munk School of Global Affairs, also at the University of Toronto. (The Provincial government also contributed $25 million towards the school.)

• Harper ignored the consensus report on human rights and environmental standards for Canadian Mining Companies operating abroad, produced during the government-sponsored National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Instead, the Harper government released their report “Building the Canadian Advantage”, which rejected calls for human rights standards and instead promised more money to mining companies to promote their CSR programs.

• Under Harper’s “Building the Canadian Advantage” strategy, Barrick receives millions in CIDA funds to build schools next to their contested project in Peru.

• CIDA sponsors forum at the Washington DC  headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility in a time of crisis”, with a Barrick executive representing Canada.

Has Nigel Wright violated conflict of interest rules by entertaining Barrick lobbyists? Maybe. But in perspective, the hand of the mining industry reaches so far into the Harper government that this current news item that the mainstream media is preoccupied with is merely a demonstration of just how close the relationship between the two really is on a regular and ongoing basis.