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NEWS: The Harper government does a U-turn on asbestos mining

The Harper agenda can be stopped with the support of provincial governments.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada is ending its much-maligned practice of defending asbestos mining on the world stage, a reversal of a stand that made it a pariah in some international circles. The Harper government, which until Friday unflinchingly defended Canada’s right to export the cancer-causing mineral from Quebec, is blaming the incoming Parti Québécois regime for its change of heart. Premier-designate Pauline Marois’s party, which will soon take office in Quebec, pledged during the provincial election campaign to cancel a government loan guarantee designed to resurrect the big Jeffrey asbestos mine in Asbestos, Que. It would have been the only mine operating in an otherwise moribund industry. …Industry Minister Christian Paradis said Canada will no longer block international efforts to add chrysotile asbestos to a United Nations treaty called the Rotterdam Convention, a global list of hazardous substances. Being on the list places restrictions on trade of the mineral.”

While this is great news, the Harper government may now cynically use it to help advance the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The article adds, “Bernard Coulombe, a top executive at the Jeffrey mine, suggested the Harper government has made a U-turn on asbestos to help secure a free-trade agreement with the European Union. …Mr. Coulombe said he believed France was putting pressure on Canada to drop its objection to listing asbestos as Europe and Canada negotiate the trade deal. Canada has come under public attack from EU politicians for its asbestos exports. Last year, members of the European Union Parliament released a statement condemning Canada for mining oil sands, hunting seals and exporting chrysotile.”

That said about CETA, there is also growing concern among provincial governments about the detrimental impacts of this deal and their opposition – particularly on the issue of the European demand for extended patent provisions and the billions of dollars that would add to provincial health care costs – could help derail the deal and strike another blow at the Harper agenda.

The Globe and Mail article is at A Council of Canadians blog highlighting our decade long opposition to asbestos exports and noting CETA negotiations and the Rotterdam convention can be read at Please also note, ‘NEWS: Quebec and BC elections signal trouble for Harper’s CETA agenda’,