Canada's Asbestos Industry Could End under PQ

The Canadian Press, August 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Canada's Asbestos Industry Could End under PQ


PQ would shut down asbestos industry

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MONTREAL - The party considered the front-runner in the Quebec election is poised to shut down what's left of Canada's asbestos industry, following its lengthy and controversial decline.

The Parti Quebecois says it would start by cancelling a $58 million loan, promised by the current Liberal government, to help reopen what would be the country's last asbestos mine.

It would then hold consultations with several hundred workers around Asbestos, Que., about diversifying the regional economy and finding replacements for an industry that, according to PQ Leader Pauline Marois, is a relic from another era.

Documented links between asbestos and cancer have prompted much of the developed world to stop using it in construction materials.

Now Marois says all signs point to a ban.

"All the trends are headed there. We know the health studies illustrate that," Marois said Wednesday, referring to the links with cancer.

"We can still spend an hour or two with (workers) to correctly clean up the file and take the decisions that need to be taken and show people that they can count on a PQ government because the financial resources will be there for diversifying the region."

But she added that a complete shutdown of the industry was the "path that seemed clearest at the present moment."

That statement from the PQ, leading in the polls with a week left in the provincial election, could be a fatal blow to an already frail Canadian sector.

With Jeffrey Mine relying on the $58 million loan to reopen, and with Quebec's other remaining asbestos mine in disrepair, the PQ policy could effectively end a Canadian industry that for much of the last 130 years dominated world production and led to the construction of entire towns.

Until recently, Quebec political parties were staunch defenders of asbestos but concerns about the health impact, particularly in poor countries, worked to turn the political tide.

Proponents of the industry insist chrysotile asbestos can be safe if packaged and handled with the right precautions; its detractors question whether safety standards can ever be adequately guaranteed in the developing countries where it's exported. …

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