I have not exactly kept it a secret that I disagree with many aspects of the Parti Québécois' current platform. However, when it comes to the PQ's policy on asbestos, I couldn't agree more. If elected, the PQ has stated that it would essentially abolish the asbestos industry in Quebec.
All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos or white asbestos as it is commonly referred to, are proven carcinogens. They cause malignant mesothelioma, lung and laryengeal cancer. This has been known for quite some time; consequently, no other G8 country currently mines and exports this known cancer-causing agent.
The current governments of Canada and Quebec claim to promote the "controlled use approach" to asbestos, and assert that if handled safely there is negligible risk for cancer. This, of course, is nonsensical politician speak. Countless associations, including the Canadian Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the Canadian Cancer Society have repudiated the claim that asbestos may be handled without risk.
Moreover, chrysotile asbestos is primarily exported, with very little of it being used domestically. In the past, countless instances of chrysotile's uncontrolled use have been uncovered in developing countries, with the most note-worthy example stemming from the CBC documentary, Canada's Ugly Secret.
Part of the interest in asbestos lies in its intrinsic properties, as it is an excellent insulator and binder; however, it is also very fibrous in nature. It is this property that makes it so dangerous. Asbestos fibres are so light that they can effortlessly become airborne, which means that it is not only front-line workers who are at risk, but also those who are exposed to the fibres through the air or from contaminated hair and skin.
The PQ would pave the way for an asbestos ban by first cancelling a $58-million loan promised by Jean Charest's Liberals to the failing Jeffrey Mine, in order to re-open it. Now, why would a provincial government crippled with debt be loaning out $58 million for an industry on the verge of collapse? Well, the answer could lie in the fact that it was the international trade and marketing firm, Balcorp, who first expressed interest in re-opening the mine back in 2011.
The plot thickens of course, considering Balcorp is led by Liberal lobbyist and occasional philanthropist, Baljit Chadha, who also happens to be a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada (Jean Chrétien nominated him in 2003). When Balcorp couldn't cough up the cash, the Quebec Liberals swooped in and decided it would help cause cancer for millions of people in the developing world by lending $58 million to a dying industry (pun semi-intended) that employs few people in Quebec.
The rationale behind keeping the asbestos industry has become increasingly unclear and unfounded. The Canadian asbestos industry has decreased dramatically and there is no shred of evidence to prove that it will recover, as more and more nations are choosing to ban the substance. Thus, any contention by asbestos industry members or politicians that asbestos mining is beneficial to the Canadian economy is mistaken.
Current polls are projecting that the PQ will form the next government, with the Coalition Avenir Québec forming the official opposition, both of whom oppose mining asbestos. While Quebecers may be in for a rough ride on sovereignty, language and identity issues, this is one facet of the next would-be government that should have us all breathing a little easier (pun not necessarily intended but serendipitously welcomed).
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