House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was asbestos.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

We have had several points of order raised today during the debate on relevance. I will reiterate the point that I made earlier this morning.

There is a matter before the House and there is a Standing Order that requires members to address that issue. It is the practice of the House that members are given a significant amount of latitude in terms of their remarks, whether they want to deal with the issue narrowly or more broadly. I would ask for the co-operation of all members in that regard.

Resuming debate. The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to resume debate. This is a question that the hon. member asked her own colleague earlier. It is an explanation to which she should take the time to listen. It would be to her advantage.

Labour market agreements exist above and beyond labour market development agreements, which help workers who currently qualify for employment insurance benefits to gain more skills and obtain more training. Paid for through employment insurance premiums, labour market development agreements allow individuals who have recently lost their jobs through no fault of their own to access training in order to make it easier for them to transition to another career.

Canada is currently investing close to $2 billion a year in the provinces and territories by way of this system. Since 2008, Quebec has received $2.4 billion through labour market development agreements to help its workers. What does this mean for Quebec workers? In the 2009-10 fiscal year, 205,411 people took advantage of the services offered by these programs, which provided 62,015 interventions pertaining to employment-related benefits and 173,297 interventions pertaining to employment assistance services. Clearly, our government, under the leadership of our Prime Minister, has made a significant investment to help unemployed workers get the training they need to transition to new careers.

As a result, and in conclusion, we reject the premise of the opposition's motion, which seeks to cast aspersion on one of Quebec's long-standing natural resource industries. We also reject the opposition's argument that separate funding is key to helping our workers transition to another industry since our government has already provided for the assistance necessary to help workers who wish to transition to another career should they feel the need to do so.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, during question period, the Minister of Industry said that exporting natural resources was a provincial responsibility, which is absolutely false. The export of Canadian minerals is the federal government's responsibility.

What is more, the Minister of Industry compared nickel mines, where I worked for 34 years, to asbestos mines. There are a lot of nickel mines in my riding. If the Minister of Industry is not familiar with the difference between asbestos mines and nickel mines, then I invite him to come to Nickel Belt. We will show him the difference between an asbestos mine and a nickel mine.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for that question. I would like to reiterate that Canada has been promoting the safe and controlled use of chrysotile at home and abroad for 30 years. If the hon. member wants to stand up for the Canadian mining sector, then he should just vote against his party's motion.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the NDP member who brought forward the point of order noted, the parliamentary secretary spoke very little of substance toward the motion and much of his speech was on other issues, promoting his government in areas that really were not associated whatsoever with the motion.

This makes one conclude that possibly the parliamentary secretary is not personally very proud or supportive of the government's position on this issue. He certainly did not have very many words to develop an argument for why he supported the government's position.

I have a specific question about section (b) of the motion. The parliamentary secretary talked about demonizing an industry. In fact, the motion also asks that the government “support international efforts to add...asbestos to the list of hazardous chemical products under the Rotterdam Convention”. India, an exporter and importer, supported the Rotterdam Convention.

Could the parliamentary secretary explain why the government would not add its voice to something of which even India is in support?

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, adding chrysotile to the list was debated during meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention in 2011, 2008 and 2006. All three times, the parties postponed the decision to their next meeting for lack of consensus. The hon. member's party was in power at the time. There are still former health ministers and natural resource ministers here. I would like the hon. member to tell us how her party plans to vote to stand up for Canada's mining resources.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, after question period and the intervention by the member for Nickel Belt, there remains a great deal of confusion. First, during question period, I said that natural resource development, and not exports, is the jurisdiction of the provinces. Second, the member knows very well that there is international pressure on the nickel industry to ban this metal. That is what I wanted to say.

The NDP is going after chrysotile; what will be next? Will it be uranium, the oil sands, all the country's natural resources? The NDP has absolutely no credibility. I would even say that the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, who talked about the workers, is out of sync with them. The workers established a policy on the safe use of chrysotile, they supported it, they developed it.

I know that my colleague has an email from Luc Lachance, the union president, in his hands. What does he have to say?

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to personally congratulate my colleague, the minister, who does an excellent job standing up for the people in his region. I do have an email from Luc Lachance, president of the steelworkers union at LAB Chrysotile. It was sent to the opposition party and says:

It is utterly appalling and unacceptable that you support banning chrysotile in Canada. In addition to the loss of approximately 1,000 direct and indirect jobs, you are preventing the Canadian industry from sharing its expertise with the rest of the world. In addition, when you manage to shut down chrysotile mining in Canada and the export of this supposedly hazardous product to other countries, I promise you that I will be there to stop the import, export and production of all other hazardous goods...

This email was sent directly by the union to the opposition party, the NDP.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech given by my colleague across the floor. I was particularly interested to hear him say that the countries that import chrysotile are solely responsible for implementing appropriate measures to ensure the health and safety of their workers. I would remind my colleague that, at this time, we export chrysotile asbestos primarily to developing countries. Furthermore, at the international summit in Geneva, Canada was the only country to oppose adding chrysotile asbestos to the list of hazardous products under the Rotterdam Convention. Even India, which currently exports chrysotile asbestos, agreed that it should be put on the list.

In the opinion of the member opposite, why does this government insist on being the odd man out and refuse to join with the other nations in banning this dangerous substance?

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the risk of repeating myself, for the past 30 years, Canada has been promoting the safe and controlled use of chrysotile, as well as the same standards both in Canada and abroad.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, does the parliamentary secretary think that what the NDP is trying to do is shut down the natural resource industry in Canada? I know the member for Nickel Belt is sensitive to this. However, if we look at the NDP record from the last Parliament, that party brought forward not one but two bills that would essentially eliminate the natural resource industry from competition, first, on the ability of mining companies to base themselves in Canada and, second, on the environmental regulations which were so stringent they would shut down the industry.

I wonder if the member could comment on what he thinks the NDP's motive is in the big picture.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question that highlights the official opposition's conflicting positions regarding the Canadian mining industry. I would like that party to take a clear position. When it is organizing conventions, it supports the mining industry, but here in the House, it takes the opposite position. More consistency on the part of the opposition would be nice. The Canadian mining industry is an important economic sector. It is the driving force of our country's economy and we will proudly defend it.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that the member is thinking about the victims. There are millions of victims who face health problems and death. Asbestos can be compared to Agent Orange. The member may laugh, but I would like to know what he will tell the victims who do not have access to a health care system that can adequately treat their illness. Is the government prepared to invest so that they have access to a health care system and can go to another country to receive care?

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of Canada's health care system, which is one of the best systems in the world and which the government is maintaining along with the provinces. I hope that the members opposite are not challenging Canada's health care system, which is one of the best in the world. I would like the member to apologize.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Newton—North Delta.

Before I get into my speech, today is Halloween. Yesterday when I left home I talked to two of my children and asked them to let mom or grandma inspect any candy they bring home today before eating it. I urge all parents to check the candies that the goblins bring home and make sure it is safe before they allow their children to eat it. I also urge all Canadians to take care when driving tonight and to watch for the young goblins and trick-or-treaters.

Today I rise to speak to the NDP's motion on asbestos. The NDP has long called for an end to asbestos exports to third world countries. The motion calls for a ban on the use and export of all forms of asbestos and a just transition plan for asbestos-producing workers and communities.

The motion would ensure that older asbestos workers have a decent standard of living through their retirement. It also calls for an investment fund to support diversification of the economy in the asbestos-producing regions.

On my first day in the House, I arrived here with Conservative members, Liberal members and my NDP colleagues on one of the green buses that circulate on Parliament Hill. As soon as we entered the grounds, I noticed one of the buildings was covered in a building envelope. I asked my colleagues what was going on with the building. A number of them replied. Not only my NDP colleagues but also my Conservative colleagues offered insight into what was going on with the building.

The Parliament buildings have been undergoing extensive renovations over the years. Millions of dollars have been spent to renovate these buildings. When I asked my colleagues why the buildings were being renovated, they said it was to get rid of the asbestos which is a carcinogen and is harmful. They also said that asbestos is not used in Canada anymore because the product is bad and there are concerns. It was good to hear that I would be working in a healthy workplace and that I would not be exposed to harmful substances or materials on the Hill. It was helpful to find out that this product was being removed from the Parliament buildings.

I did some research after that. There are school buildings and other public buildings that have been cleaned. There are many projects where asbestos is being removed from buildings. Why is that? The facts indicate that it is a harmful product, but my Conservative colleagues do not believe in facts nor do they rely on any kind of science. Asbestos has been shown to be harmful. That is why it is being removed from the Parliament buildings, schools and other buildings across the country.

Asbestos is a product which has been proven to be harmful. It is a carcinogen. It causes disease. Many years ago the government took steps to ban its general use in buildings, and rightfully so. The million dollar question is, why are the Conservatives so bent on exporting it to third world countries? Why do they want to export death to the unsuspecting workers and the public in other countries?

I have been sitting here since this morning and I have not heard a satisfactory response. The Conservatives will tell us a lot of other stuff, which I will talk about.

Canada is the only developed country that exports asbestos to other countries. In fact, most of the European Union, over 50 countries, have banned the use of asbestos. Most of the developed world has banned the use of asbestos. What do we do? We export this product which is known to be harmful, which causes cancer, which kills people. I have seen emails from people who say that it sucks the life out of people. Yet we export tonnes and tonnes to third world countries where not only are workers exposed to it, but who knows where this material ends up. The general public in those countries may be exposed to asbestos as well.

Generally speaking, the workers do not have any training on its, as the Conservatives would say, safe controlled use. In fact, no studies have been done to show that asbestos can be used in a safe and controlled manner. That type of use is not supported by facts. My friends across the aisle, the Conservatives, would have us believe, and will say over and over again, that asbestos can be used in a safe and controlled manner. I think the Canadian public knows better. Canadians know when someone is not stating the facts. I have been sitting here this morning and the Conservatives keep saying that, but it is absolutely not true.

There are many concerns regarding health and safety. Asbestos has been banned in Canada. It is used on a limited basis in certain products. It was interesting to read about what asbestos does. All asbestos materials break down into fibres so tiny they cannot be seen. People would not know whether they are breathing in asbestos. All of it breaks down into tiny particles which people cannot see with their eyes. In places where asbestos is present people could breathe it in and contract a disease that could eventually kill them.

There are various estimates as to how many people are killed by asbestos material. The World Health Organization estimates that anywhere from 90,000 to 100,000 people die each year from this particular disease.

The Conservatives will claim that chrysotile asbestos is safe if it is used in a controlled manner. That is not supported by facts. The Conservatives will also tell us that the mining industry is a provincial jurisdiction. However, exports are governed by the federal government, so we can certainly ban the export of this material, the export of death to third world countries. This is a matter of human rights. We want to ensure Canada's reputation is kept intact and that we remain leaders in safeguarding the health not only of Canadians, but of citizens around the globe.