CARTAGENA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a pitch for Canada’s mining industry Saturday, as a summit of Western Hemisphere leaders was overshadowed by bomb blasts and an incident reportedly involving prostitutes that led to a dozen of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Secret Service agents being relieved of duty.
The weekend Summit of the Americas kicked off Saturday. It is being attended by leaders from more than 30 nations, including Canada. But before the summit, which is held every three years could even start, two separate security incidents occurred that marred the occasion.
On Friday, there were two bomb blasts in the seaside resort town of Cartagena, where thousands of security police have been hired to prevent terrorist attacks. No one was hurt. Also Friday, Obama’s security detail – the renowned Secret Service – was embarrassed when it was announced that some of its agents travelling with the president were relieved of duty and replaced.
A spokesman for the agency said there had been “allegations of misconduct” made against the agents, who went to Colombia prior to Obama’s arrival for the summit.
There were media reports that the allegations involved prostitution, something that was not disputed by the Secret Service.
As these developments occurred, Harper was intent on delivering his economic and trade message to the summit.
On Saturday morning, the prime minister delivered a speech to a gathering of chief executive officers who had gathered for their own meeting just before the launch of the politicians’ summit.
Harper has been promoting Canada’s plans to break through into Latin America with more trade and investment. Already, in recent years, Canadian mining companies have established many operations in the region, and Harper devoted much of his speech to promoting the industry.
He said a strong mining sector – assisted with a low-tax regime and environmental regulation without excessive delays – can help the Canadian economy and provide a lesson to the countries of Latin America.
“Resource development has vast power to change the way a nation lives,” he said.
“It is also something which is tremendously responsive to the actions of government.”
Harper said there are many ways a government can “maximize the value of this great industry for a country and its people.”
He painted a picture of how important resource industries are in Canada: Mining contributed $50 billion to the country’s GDP in 2011, he said, and provides “well paying” jobs for more than 300,000 Canadians.
“We are already the world’s No. 1 potash producer, second for uranium and a major global producer of most mineral and energy products.”
Mining accounts for more than one-fifth of Canada’s exports and has close to $200 billion in assets throughout the world, he said.
Sixty per cent of the world’s exploration and mining companies are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
“In other words, in Canada, we know this industry well.
“Looking to the future, we see increased Canadian mining investment throughout the Americas – something that will be good for our mutual prosperity and is therefore a priority of our government. We are prepared to share our expertise in this area.”
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