Abandoning asbestos

A little less than a year ago, the House voted on an NDP motion that called on the Harper government to support the listing of asbestos as a hazardous chemical product under the Rotterdam Convention and provide measures to assist the transition of workers in the asbestos industry. The motion was defeated with the vast majority of Conservatives voting against.

This afternoon, the Harper government has announced that—with the Parti Quebecois moving to prohibit the industry promising to cancel a government loan for the Jeffrey Mine—it’s dropping its opposition to the listing of asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention and will be providing funds to help transition workers out of the industry.

Today, the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, Minister of State (Agriculture) and Member of Parliament for Mégantic-L’Érable, announced an investment of up to $50 million to support the diversification of the economy of asbestos producing communities due to the decision of the Premier-designate of Quebec to prohibit chrysotile mining in Quebec.

Minister Paradis said it is clear that Mrs. Marois’ decision is final, and it is not time for “academic” consultations but to take action. « Mrs. Marois’ decision to prohibit chrysotile mining in Quebec will have a negative impact on the future prosperity of the area. Right now, there are hundreds of workers in the region who do not have a job and live in uncertainty. The last thing they need is a false consultation, when the decision to close down the industry has already been taken by Mrs. Marois. My priority is therefore to work immediately with local partners on the transition needed to create jobs for our workers as soon as possible,” said Minister Paradis.

Minister Paradis highlighted the excellent cooperation that exists between the partners of the region, who were once again able to show that the people of the region can stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity. “Our region will have to live with the consequences of Mrs. Marois’ decision, but we will continue to work together on the continued economic development of the community,” highlighted Minister Paradis.

Minister Paradis also indicated that Mrs. Marois’ decision means that from now on, Canada will no longer oppose the inclusion of chrysotile in annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. “It would be illogical for Canada to oppose the inclusion of chrysotile in annex III of the Rotterdam Convention when Quebec, the only province that produces chrysotile, will prohibit its exploitation,” said Minister Paradis.

In conclusion, Minister Paradis reminded that since 2006, the Harper government has been a key partner in the development of the region. “Through sound investments, including the natural gas project, the Harper government allows our region not only to survive, but also to flourish. It is in that spirit that our government will keep supporting our region to tackle this new challenge.”

The NDP’s Francois Lapointe has a motion (M-381) about asbestos on the notice paper that is due to be debated on September 26 (with a vote as early as October 3).

For all previous coverage of the asbestos debate, see here.

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