Yes, you read that right: Yukon MP Larry Bagnell was in Mongolia.
Canada sent a delegation of politicians to Ulan Bator last week, to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Mongolia and to show disapproval of tough new mining laws that are hurting Canadian companies there.
Bagnell tagged along after being selected to represent the Liberal Party.
He was joined on the five-day junket by House of Commons speaker Peter Milliken and Conservative MP.
Officially the trip was to “strengthen parliamentary relations,” said Bagnell on Tuesday.
But two new Mongolian laws that could mean skyrocketing tariffs on gold exports and the potential for government ownership of mining companies were the main focus, he said.
“We’re the biggest investor in mining in Mongolia,” said Bagnell
Nearly 50 Canadian companies are operating in mining in the country.
Canada is the second largest overall investor in Mongolia, behind China, with bilateral trade topping $140-billion USD in 2005, according to a report in the UB Post, an English newspaper from Ulan Bator.
Almost all of the Mongolian exports to Canada are gold, harming the textile industry in the country, said the report.
The new laws appear aimed at curbing those trends, but are damaging for Canada.
“Virtually overnight, Canadian companies had their stocks devalued by $3-billion,” said Bagnell.
“In the long-run this is bad for both Mongolia and Canada,” he said.
The Canadian delegation worked to impress upon the Mongolians, including the president, prime minister and chairman of the Great State of Hural (Mongolian for speaker of the house) that the laws will discourage sorely needed foreign investment, said Bagnell.
“I think they certainly got the message, because we raised it at every meeting.”
Bagnell also discussed sharing cold-weather technologies between the Yukon and Mongolia, as well as opening a permanent Canadian embassy in the country.
“Our companies would like a dedicated office, so that we can keep track of their (Mongolia’s) legislative process,” said Bagnell.
Mongolia is currently served through the Canadian embassy in Beijing.
Peter Irniq, former commissioner of Nunavut, also came on the trip to meet with Mongolians at a university film festival and present Inuit films.
“Peter’s quite convinced, as are other academics, that the Inuit people originated in Mongolia,” said Bagnell.