Almost a year after Rick Mercer posted his Asbestos Rant on YouTube, Christian Paradis, the federal Minister of Industry finally announced that Canada will no longer block the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance under the Rotterdam Convention.
Mind you, the Conservative Government's sudden change of heart has little to do with Rick's Rant (sorry Rick), scientific findings from around the world, or advice from international and national medical/health professionals (such as the World Health Organization and the Canadian Public Health Association). Instead, the motive behind the policy U-turn is straightly political and is based mainly on the outcome of the recent General Election in Quebec.
The federal Conservative Government (and the previous Liberal Quebec Government under Jean Charest) has always maintained that chrysotile asbestos is not hazardous if it is handled/used "properly". But we all know in many developing countries, workers are often not protected and laws not enforced when it comes to the management of hazardous materials.
While I am glad to hear the decisions of the provincial and then the federal governments to stop subsidizing the chrysotile asbestos industry, I am disturbed by Christian Paradis' political game to blame the newly elected provincial govt for the loss of hundreds of asbestos mining and processing jobs.
He could have claimed credit for reducing tens of thousands of asbestos related illness and deaths in many developing countries. But instead his announcement has done little to repair the reputation of Canada. It does not make any social-economic-environmental sense to jeopardize the health and well-beings of many thousands of foreign asbestos workers just for the sake of saving a few hundred jobs (and therefore political votes) in Quebec.
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