Sunday, 16 September 2012
Asbestos - Canada supposedly acknowledges chrysotile as bad - but why the change of heart?
In a relatively surprising move the federal Tories have reversed their position on asbestos.
This is good news – one has to think. For years just about every major health organization in Canada has denounced Canada’s persistent opposition to placing chrysotile asbestos on the Rotterdam Convention on international trade of hazardous substances. The stalwart embedded and immovable position of the federal government against such opposition was baffling at best.
One might think the election of the Parti Quebecois which occurred just 2 weeks ago might have something to do with it, or perhaps that is being too conspiratal?
That a truce existed between the Quebec Liberals and federal Tories might seem implausible, but stranger bedfellows have amicably survived tortuous relationships. It was puzzling at times to note how little federal Tory bashing the Quebec Liberals engaged in.
That the province’s federal representation shifted from the Bloc to the NDP as the loyal government opposition last year would also have changed the political ambiance surrounding this issue. No jurisdiction likes to be penalized for voting against the government.
So, at the risk of alienating a constituency that clearly has stated that it did not want to align with the federal Tories, doing a one-hundred and eighty degree turn would upset a few voters in the Thetford Mines area, Asbestos and the odd investor. The gains across the country will exceed this minor loss – hence the decision makes good political sense, saving lives may be unimportant in the policy shift.
Would the fact that the owners of the Jeffery mine were unable to conjure up sufficient private capital to match the mysterious loan guarantee, effectively killing the mine reopening proposal anyway have anything to do with the change of heart? Perhaps it just enhanced the opportunity.
The deeper cynics might even question whether Canada’s apparent reversal of decision is actually that. Seems the last few rounds of negotiations the Canadian contingent was absent during the votes on chrysotile asbestos, so they didn’t actual oppose the listing. They had looked to countries that import from Canada to veto the proposition. Such deals may still persist despite the political rhetoric.
Speaking of political rhetoric – if anyone can find a formal government position other than the Industry Minister Paradis’ speech in Thetford Mines please let email@example.com know or post a comment for others. Words don’t have the same commitment as seeing it in writing.
The important question on this change of heart, is will Canada move to ban exports of asbestos as well? Placing a substance on the Rotterdam convention on hazardous goods does nothing more than require that the exporting country appropriately label, and the importing country acknowledge it is receiving the material.
Sadly, many workers in partially developed countries with less stringent worker safety regulations have knowingly been given a death sentence by working with Canadian asbestos.