Asbestos Export Defense Draws Fire Admist Campaign

The last of the campaign efforts for the Canadian Prime Minister Election have involved debate over the highly controversial mineral, asbestos. The current Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has been rallying in support of the province’s export of this material despite criticism from his left-wing opponents, MSNBC reports. Asbestos is a fire-retardant mineral that has been linked to deadly cancers and diseases such as mesothelioma. Harper asserts that the chrysotile form of asbestos is safe to handle as long as proper guidelines are followed, the MSNBC article explains. The news source explains this claim mirrors those originally made by Quebec’s supporters of the asbestos industry. In addition, MSNBC reports that critics are especially concerned about exporting the substance to developing countries that may lack the safeguards to ensure the safe use of asbestos. If not properly sealed or handled, the mineral can endanger the lives of both workers using the material, and the general public, MSNBC states. Harper continues to support the mineral’s export, despite having it removed from public buildings such as Parliament, the article explains. In fact, the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, states that the Prime Minister “won’t allow a substance synonymous with cancer to be reintroduced in Canadian homes or schools but he’s firmly behind allowing Quebec’s maligned asbestos industry to export its product to willing buyers abroad.” According to MSNBC, Harper himself was recently quoted as saying, “This government will not put Canadian industry in a position where it is discriminated against in a market where sale is permitted.” MSNBC reports that such comments have been followed by applause from his supporters, whose demographic is largely comprised of elderly, conservative voters. In the past, Canadian asbestos produced at the Jeffrey Mine was exported to India to be mixed into various building materials, MSNBC reports. However, the facility faced strong price competition from Brazil and Russia, explains the news source. MSNBC notes that Harper’s efforts, in conjunction with other industry supporters, could bring production and export back to Canada as the Quebec provincial government has given conditional approval to a loan guarantee that would allow the reopening of the Jeffrey Mine, which is located near the Quebec mining town of Asbestos. These campaigning efforts are being made by Harper despite The Globe and Mail reporting that one of his own cabinet ministers, Chuck Strahl, is a victim of asbestos, having been diagnosed with the incurable lung cancer, mesothelioma. Currently, The Globe and Mail reports that the sale of asbestos is restricted in Canada, though it remains exported in large quantities to developing countries. The news source also explains that the European Union has banned most forms of asbestos, highlighting the criticism Harper might face from other nations. The Globe and Mail goes on to report that Harper’s conservative party even funds “an asbestos industry lobby group and fights international efforts to restrict trade in asbestos,” putting an international spotlight on his reelection bid. References: Chase, Steven. (April 26, 2011). “Canada labeled ‘immoral asbestos pusher’ as Harper visits Quebec mining town.” Retrieved on May 2, 2011 from The Globe and Mail. Dowd, Allen. (April 26, 2011). “Canada’s prime minister defends asbestos exports.” Retrieved on May 2, 2011 from MSNBC. Previous: Asbestos Poses New Threat After Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami Next: Five types of mesothelioma and their causes: Pleural mesothelioma