Federal Budget Finally Buries Asbestos Industry

Winnipeg Free Press, March 25, 2013 | Go to article overview

Federal Budget Finally Buries Asbestos Industry


Ends shameful practice of exporting it overseas

OTTAWA -- If the asbestos industry in Canada was on life-support, last week's federal budget finally pulled the plug.

It was hidden midway through the budget papers, amid the more flashy and noticeable cuts to the cost of baby clothes and the "largest long-term federal commitment to Canadian infrastructure in our nation's history."

"Supporting the Economic Transition of Communities Economically Linked to the Chrysotile Asbestos Industry," said the headline on page 241.

"Historically, the chrysotile asbestos industry has been a significant employer in the communities of Thetford Mines and Asbestos in the province of Quebec," reads the section. "Due to the decline of the industry, these communities are now exploring ways to diversify their local economies and create new jobs. Confirming the commitment made by the government in September 2012, Economic Action Plan 2013 proposes to provide $50 million over seven years to Canada Economic Development for Quebec regions to support economic diversification efforts in the communities of Thetford Mines and Asbestos."

The money was actually first promised last September, announced by Christian Paradis, the country's industry minister, who also represents Thetford Mines and Asbestos in Parliament and was born in Thetford Mines.

The budget delivered on the promise.

For years, Liberal and Conservative governments held their fingers in their ears as the evidence mounted about the dangers of asbestos.

Medical experts and workplace-safety advocates called for Canada to stop mining the substance, whose fibres can lead to deadly lung disease and cancer if inhaled.

Yet Canada kept saying it was safe.

"Canada stands by its position that the policy of controlled use is well-founded because it has a sound scientific basis and is a responsible approach," said a spokesman for then-foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon in 2009.

Canada wouldn't even agree to add chrysotile asbestos to an international list of toxic substances. The list, part of the Rotterdam Convention, wouldn't bar the use or export of the substances but requires exporting nations to warn importing nations of the dangers.

So not only were we still exporting the stuff, we didn't even want to have to warn people it might kill them.

Canada has barely used asbestos in our own country for years. We're spending millions to remove asbestos from the Parliament Buildings. …

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