Topic – Corporate Responsibility: Should there be more or less government regulation? With over 1 million businesses operating in Canada, corporate responsibility is a major issue that should be recognized by citizens within society. In simple terms, corporate responsibility is the ethics and morals of a business. Many corporations in Canada have a tremendous amount of wealth and power. Regulation is essential in order for good government. Corporate responsibility occurs when initiatives taken by these corporations benefit all the stakeholders. These stakeholders vary from the employees, to the customer, and to the community. Corporate responsibility is necessary in Canada in order to secure its democracy, protection of consumers, and sustainability of our society. Therefore, it is important that Canada has a tight leash on corporations and effective regulations are in place. Lobbying is just one aspect citizens must be aware of. Also, more and more Canadians suffer from precarious employment which implies they have fewer labour protections than others who have stable employment. Additionally, through various acts of parliament pertaining to the environment, corporations are less constrained by regulations. It is important for Canadian citizens to know how these corporate giants are using their power and how they can still fight for their democratic rights. No citizen should be being more outweighed than corporations, because they are just “corporate citizens” themselves. Lobbyists have a very powerful influence on government policies. Canada is still allowing Corporations to send lobbyist to influence government decisions and polices which endanger the democratic status Canada has. Canadian citizens should be having the most influential impact on our government. Teeple stated that, Lobbying politicians may well be an accepted apart of our democracy, but to describe it as ‘necessary’ stretches the point. Endorsing the role of professional lobby firms implies acceptance of the notion that those with money and insider knowledge are entitled to superior access to government and policy decisions (Teeple). If citizens need an intermediary of a lobbyist to get the attention of Ottawa, then we have no real democracy. Governments are following lobbyists’ impulses rather than pursing the common good, which larger democracies are unable to allow a sufficient number of their citizens to have his or her voices heard. This is antidemocratic and causing only an individuals’ pursuit of their own desires which leads to self-centredness and conflict. The people with money and connections with parliament should not be the ones having the most say to implement new polices. Arguments may be made that lobbying is acceptable to Canada’s democracy because pressuring politicians is sometimes crucial in order to get their attention. However, corporations lobbying in order to only benefit their company and profits and not the citizens and society are not democratically correct. Distorting the truth is a huge problem with corporations and lobbyists. Lobbyist are there to get many important decisions made by officials, rather than elected representatives. Teeple summarized that, “Lobbyist run any number of efforts, from simply mapping the bureaucracy to assist clients make their own way to the right door, to obtaining access to politicians, to running campaigns to distort the truth in media” (Teeple). Citizens have the right to know the truth and how these corporations will be affecting their society. Lobbyists have an overwhelming amount of power. Majority of citizens do not have access to parliament like these lobbyist do. Giving these lobbyist a front-of-the-line pass in unjust. Everyone should have equal power to communicate with parliament and just like the rule of law, nobody should be more powerful than another. If majority of citizens do not have this power, corporations should not either. There seems virtually no limit to Stephen Harper’s efforts to diminish the government and democracy in Canada. There seems to be an excessive amount of so-called trade deals, which are really just Corporate Right Deals. Not only is harper busy negotiating them, but corporations like Walmart are in on the action too. However, what about the majority and common good of the people, like jobs? Murray Dobbin is one of Canada’s most popular progressive political commentators and analysts who explained that, They influence politicians and political parties with huge amounts of cash; they threaten government that dare to consider any laws that lessen their power or privilege; they withdraw capital to punish governments that don’t take them seriously; they spend millions on lobbyist to persuade legislators (Dobbin). Officials are not required to keep formal records of their contracts with lobbyists, and there is some scope for lobbyists to avoid registration by claiming that they are merely responding to requests for information from officials. The government has set up regulations relating to lobbying, but these regulations are not restricting lobbying, it is making it even more legal. Teeple outlined that, The process of registering lobbyists began under the Mulroney government in 1989. The Lobbyists Registration Act essentially puts the onus on lobbyists to register, pay a fee, and list their areas of interest. By its very principles, the Act legitimizes the role of the lobbying industry (Teeple). It has to be emphasized that “registration” is not “regulation”. Allowing lobbyist to enter parliament legitimately eats away at Canada’s democracy even more. It is a form of corruption, because really it is money that is buying these policies corporations want. If the Rogers Corporation want the liberals to win the next election, why should they be allowed to give them millions of dollars for their political campaign? The government is going in the wrong direction and making lobbying too easy. One successful example of lobbying is Enbridge lobbying the Harper government. It had to deal with the proposal for a 1700 kilometre pipeline that would deliver bitumen. There were many vocal public campaigns going against this proposition as it affected the environment, First Nations, and three levels of government. Harris, a former Liberal member, noted that, I can’t imagine a project that’s more complex, yet it (Enbridge) was able to convince the federal government, the Conservatives, of its value to the point that the federal government, who puts in place the regulatory process by which projects are independently evaluated … (Enbridge) had themshamelessly out theresupporting the project before their own process was even completed(Harris). The Conservatives even changed the environmental regulations that affect the project. Enbridge was able to take something that is not well liked and actually get a government too literally shamelessly support it as the federal level, all because of lobbyist. There are 16 people registered as working for Enbridge on the lobby registry of British Columbia. Due to changes in the economy and business practices, many citizens have precarious employment. This causes fewer labour protections and even with the Employment Standards Act and labour laws, some citizens within Canada are still being treated unjustly. Barnes noted that, “Precarious employment encompasses forms of work involving limited social benefits and statutory entitlements, job security, low wages, and high risk of ill-health” (Barnes). The Canadian government should be taking more action in order to protect these at-risk workers. Most employees usually do not have the option to be in precarious employment. An example is the Canada Action Plan. This has created many jobs, but majority of them were precarious employment. Construction jobs are becoming a big issue as construction does not last forever. The government is doing the right thing to create jobs, but should be creating stable jobs. Canada is a democratic country and therefore, nobody should truly have an advantage over another. Vosko outlined that, “Employees in these more precarious forms are less likely to receive extended health, dental, pension, and life and/or disability benefits than full-time permanent employees” (Vosko). The government should be ensuring that all citizens are being treated equally regardless of job type. Some people have to enter precarious employment because it is the only type of jobs available in the economy. Economic efficiency is an issue too. Precarious employment already make less than full-time permanent employees. Then they have added living costs, like dental plans, which are not covered. This lowers their disposable income which causes less money circulating in the economy. Therefore, social costs, like welfare, will increase causing the government to spend even more money which is not efficient. Vosko uses statistics to explain that, An increasing share of jobs are less secure, temporary and contract jobs. Half of the new jobs created since October 2008 have been temporary, and 90 per cent of those are term or contract positions that have increased at ten times the rate of permanent jobs. This direction will continue if governments lay off public servants, contract out services, and increasingly rely on temporary, term and contract employees themselves.” (Vosko) The government is doing the opposite of what they should by doing in order to secure citizens work life. The government should be setting regulations on corporations on how much they can contract out services so majority of the Canadian citizens can benefit. Precarious employees should have access to a community union in order to have a say in their employment rights. The focus of ‘Community Unionism: Organising for Fair Employment in Canada’ is the limited rights and access to traditional vehicles of representation such as unions, due partly to the prohibitive costs and obstacles associated with organising, confronted by workers in precarious employment (Barnes). Having access to a community union will establish a much needed intermediary in order for citizens to be heard. Precarious do not have access to unions because of the cost and organization of one. Governments should be assisting precarious employment in order to achieve long-term stability. Through various acts of parliament pertaining to the environment, corporations are less constrained by regulations. Corporations have lots of power, while some companies even make more money that provincial governments. Anderson mentioned that, According to Hawken, not only was business and industry the principal instrument of global destruction, it was the only institution large enough, wealthy enough, and pervasive enough to lead humankind out of the mess we were making (Anderson). Many corporations have the wealth and power to be environmentally friendly, but tend not to care. Corporations are going to keep going about their ways if they are not forced to change. An article from CBC News stated that, “The federal environmental directorate ‘does not have adequate information on whom it is regulating and who is not complying [with the act]” (Unit). The government regulation in Canada needs to be more specific. There should be penalties on corporations who are not following the regulations. Officials should be looking over these companies to make sure they are not slipping by. Economic efficiency is argued by some and that it would cost millions of dollars to set higher environmental standards. However, if these regulations are not passed onto corporations, the Canadian government is going to be spending even more to repair the damaged environment. Anderson outlined that, Today, an extremely effective shield is in place against vendors sending us things we do not want. We have used this approach to screen out lead, mercury, perfluoronated alkyl substances, and other persistent bioaccumulating toxic substances and chemicals. What has this cost us? Nothing (Anderson). If Canada is able to easily restrict environmental hazards from other countries, Canada should be setting the same restrictions on corporations within Canada. These regulations will not cost the government money, but rather save money. Global warming and environmental damage will have to be fixed by the government if corporations are not forced to act upon the issues. Corporations have the profits to make the economy and environment sustainable. Governments do not just have to set regulations and restrictions against corporations, but rather help motivate them. Anderson summaries that, Government never seems to lead; it always seems to follow. Not religious institutions, either. Until very recently many churches helped perpetuate the myth that the earth was ours to conquer and subdue, to abuse as we pleased. And sadly, not colleges and universities; they could train the next generation, but we needed action here and now. Who then? (Anderson). If governments are not going to step their foot out and lead, corporations are not going to do anything. The government should not wait until the environmental effects start hurting the Canadian society, because it may be too late to fix, and not to mention, too expensive. A proper democracy, protection of consumers, and sustainability of Canada’s environment is very important and must be achieved by making sure corporations are following effective regulations in order to demonstrate positive corporate responsibility. Lobbying is something that happens every day within the government walls which is allowing corporations to have a more influential impact on the government then citizens. Additionally, rising precarious employment must be put to an end and citizens should feel secure with useful labour protections. Also, it is important Canada is environmentally friendly by regulating corporations in order to obtain sustainability and efficiency. Money talks in Canada and citizens should be aware of this because it is eating away their democratic rights.
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