Canadian Government Split Over Asbestos Ban

Two Conservative members of the Canadian Parliament have stepped away from the party line when it comes to the export of asbestos, a fibrous material that is used for insulation but which can also cause the cancer mesothelioma.
The two Tories, MP Dona Cadman of British Columbia, and MP Pat Davidson of Ontario, openly spoke out about their lack of support for the asbestos-mining industry, in a rare show of defiance of party leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policies.

Cadman stated that she would like to see asbestos exports ended, a direct contradiction to the stance of Harper. She added, “I could get myself in a lot of trouble for this.”

Davidson voted in favor of the last Conservative budget, which included funding for the Chrysolite Institute. She defended her vote, saying, “I’m definitely not supporting the mining or the exporting of asbestos.”

As Cadman and Davidson were making their comments, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was being lampooned by the asbestos industry and local politicians from Quebec for his comments last week about the dangers posed by asbestos. While he noted the value of the industry to Quebec’s Thetford Mines region, he stated “science is telling us that it is dangerous and we have to follow the science.”

Asbestos, which is strictly regulated in Canada, is currently being removed from the walls of the buildings of the Canadian Parliament in the wake of the debate. As Harper blasted Ignatieff for his comments, Cadman was targeting the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister, pointing out that “here we are, we’re ripping it out of our walls in Ottawa and yet we’re still manufacturing it.”

The Prime Minister, who supports the $100 million industry of exporting asbestos to developing nations, said Ignatieff doesn’t understand the need for the mining to continue. He painted his opponents with a broad brush: “These parties have a completely urban perspective. They don’t understand regional economies and the nature of the Canadian economy.”

It looks like there are those in his party who disagree.