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 workers.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for that.

In the name of justice and protection of workers here and around the world, in the name of our obligations to others on our planet, I urge MPs in all parties to support this motion.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in support of the motion put forward by the hon. member for Nickel Belt.

I am proud of the fact that the Green Party was the first federal political party to call for an end to the asbestos industry in Canada and a just transition for its workers.

We now face world disapproval for our quite immoral position that somehow chrysotile asbestos can be used safety in other countries while we recognize that it kills people here. I would like to ask the hon. member for Nickel Belt what information he has regarding the World Health Organization's position on the Canadian support of asbestos.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, even though the Green Party has supported this position for a long time, I would like to again thank and refer to my colleague from Winnipeg, because had he not done due diligence on this file, we might not be discussing this today.

However, it is quite clear that the international community supports the ban of asbestos throughout the world. It is a substance that is dangerous. It is a substance that kills. It is a substance that we should not import or export to third world countries that are not protected against the use of asbestos.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments that my colleague has made.

I have a constituent, Julius Hava, who is struggling right now to stay alive because of this illness.

The problem here is that not only do a lot of people in Canada and across the world suffer from this illness, but the fact of the matter is that in Canada it is very difficult to get treatment for it.

Julius's wife, Martina, says this should never have happened: “Do not take me wrong. We still believe that miracles might happen and God could cure Julius”. She goes on to say that she thought this was the best country in the world, and now she is ashamed to be Canadian.

Does the hon. member think that Canadians who are struck by this disease should have access to medical assistance immediately? If there is a problem between WSIB and the provincial government, should it be dealt with in a way similar to what Jordan's principle was meant to do?

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, if people affected by asbestos in Canada are having problems getting medical attention in a country like Canada, think about the people in India, where we export this product.

The government of the day tries to lay claim that it is the protector of immigrants in Canada, but with the exportation of asbestos, we are killing some of their brothers and sisters in their home country. We are killing some of their parents. We are killing their cousins, but we still do not want to ban it for some ideological reason. The government should be ashamed of not wanting to ban this substance.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Nickel Belt for proposing the motion in the House.

Given the substantial amount of information that is out there about the dangers of not only mining asbestos but also using it, and given the fact that it is not only the miners who suffer with related cancers but also often their families because the miners come home with their clothing full of asbestos, I would like to ask the member to comment as to whether he can see any logical reason whatsoever why Canada would not support the Rotterdam Convention?

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite right. Not only are miners affected by this but so can their children or wives when miners come home with their clothes full of asbestos. There is absolutely no reason for not banning the substance.

I wish to quote from an email I received, “My husband died of mesothelioma and I belong to Canada's Voice of Asbestos Victims. Canada's export of asbestos to developing countries has to stop. Here are all the Canadian organizations who agree with your motion”.

It goes on to list the many organizations. I do not have enough time to list them all, but there is a full page of organizations that support the ban of asbestos.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join in this debate, which has been a long time coming and is long overdue.

Asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. More Canadians die from asbestos than from all other industrial and occupational-related causes combined, and yet Canada continues to be one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world. On a good year we dump nearly 200,000 tonnes into underdeveloped and developing nations.

Not only is asbestos not banned in Canada, as it is in as many as 50 developed nations, but we have spent millions of dollars and continue to spend millions of dollars subsidizing and promoting the asbestos industry. No other Canadian commodity enjoys the amount of support that asbestos does. This class A carcinogen enjoys an irrational affinity of the Government of Canada, which made 160 trade junkets to 60 different countries using our embassies, trade commissioners, and our foreign missions to promote something that we Canadians ourselves would not allow our children to be exposed to.

It is the height of hypocrisy that we are spending tens of millions of dollars to remove all of the asbestos from the Parliament Buildings because no MP should ever be exposed to a single fibre, and yet we promote and subsidize the export of thousands of tonnes per year to underdeveloped nations where there are virtually no health and safety protocols.

We are exporting human misery on a monumental scale and there is no justification or excuse for it. We are exporting a made in Canada epidemic. It is like unleashing a thousand Bhopal's into India in a timed release way because we know that the legacy of disease and death stemming from this is undeniable.

Who agrees with us? The World Health Organization, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Cancer Society have all recently said that asbestos should be banned in all its forms and that Canada should be out of the asbestos industry.

We do not even have to take active steps to shut down the asbestos industry. All we have to do is turn off the tap of corporate welfare, the millions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies to the industry. I call it corporate welfare for corporate serial killers. It is indefensible. Canadians would be horrified to know the extent of our involvement in the asbestos cartel.

I agree with Keith Spicer, a veteran Canadian journalist, who said recently that Canada's position on asbestos is morally and ethically reprehensible. He wrote this in Paris, where notably, France was one of the first countries in the European Union to ban asbestos in all of its forms. Canada went to the World Trade Organization in 1999 to try to stop France from banning its asbestos. Fortunately, for the people of France, Canada lost and that led to the entire European Union banning asbestos in all of its forms.

No amount of money is going to take the stink off the asbestos industry. Imagine a lobby organization being funded by the government to lobby the government. That is how irrational our approach to asbestos is. We not only spend money subsidizing the industry directly but we subsidize it in an indirect way as well. We sent a team of Department of Justice lawyers all over the world like globe-trotting propagandists to try to block other countries from curbing its use. It is incredible.

I went to Rome at my own expense and observed the Canadian delegation sabotage the Rotterdam convention in an effort to keep asbestos off the list of hazardous materials. The Rotterdam convention does not even ban hazardous chemicals. It just says that if they are going to be sold then they must include a warning label and a caution to the end user. In other words, informed prior consent that the end user knows that it is a carcinogen.

Canada has consistently blocked asbestos being listed on the Rotterdam convention because it would interfere with our ability to market it in the third world. When commercialization trumps science and reason, logic, morality and ethics, then we are in a serious situation.

There are those who would have us believe that there is something magically benign about the asbestos that we mine here in Canada. Ninety-five per cent of all the asbestos ever mined in the world is chrysotile, the type that we mine here. I used to work in the asbestos mines. We were lied to about the health hazards of asbestos then, just as the world continues to be lied to about the health hazards of chrysotile today. All asbestos kills. Chrysotile asbestos is a class A carcinogen, according to Health Canada, the World Health Organization, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Time does not permit me to go through the history of Canada's irrational affinity for this carcinogen. The asbestos industry has been like the tobacco industry's evil twin, in that they both have relied for more than a century on junk science, the best science money can buy; on aggressive public relations campaigns, domestically and internationally; and on intense political lobbying.

That is how the asbestos industry has pulled the wool over the eyes of the world for a generation. Canada plays an integral role in the activities of the asbestos cartel because it relies on Canada's boy scout image. The asbestos industry tells the world that if a nice country like Canada thinks asbestos is okay, it must be okay. That boy scout image is being severely tarnished. Canada is being viewed as an international pariah for our involvement in the asbestos industry.

Let me suggest that the money we spend subsidizing the asbestos industry would be better spent on starting a national registry to track and monitor the incidence of asbestos-related disease across the country. It would be better spent to improve the diagnostics and treatment of asbestos-related disease because if we are going to be one of the largest exporters of exporters to the world, surely we should be a centre of excellence for the diagnostics and treatment of asbestos-related disease.

In actual fact, Canadians who are struck down with mesothelioma more often than not have to go to the United States to get decent diagnostics and treatment. The money that we spend subsidizing the asbestos industry now would be better used putting in place a testing and remediation program so that Canadian homeowners, whose biggest single investment is contaminated by this Canadian epidemic, would be given a chance to test for asbestos and remove it when found. That would be a good use of government tax dollars.

The Government of Canada participated in contaminating hundreds of thousands of Canadian homes through its CHIP, a home insulation program in the late 1970s and early 1980s. One of the products the government was subsidizing was called zonolite, which is loaded with tremolite asbestos. It contaminated the attics of hundreds of thousands of homes, subsidized and promoted its installation and then left homeowners with this liability, not only making their homes unsafe but devaluing them as well. That would be a good use of Canadian tax dollars in relation to this particular carcinogen.

In my final minute, I would like to make members aware of an open letter that was sent to the member for Simcoe—Grey, a medical doctor who recently received national recognition for her work in the protection of children. This letter is signed by hundreds of doctors around the country, urging the member for Simcoe—Grey, as a Conservative member of Parliament, to live up to her Hippocratic oath and not support the Conservative government's irrational and dangerous position on asbestos. In fact, the letter makes an urgent appeal to the member to stand with science and research, and not with the political and commercial considerations that have kept this deadly industry killing people for much longer than it ever should.

Let the asbestos industry die a natural death. Turn off the tap of corporate welfare and, believe me, it will go the way of all the other asbestos mines in the country and Canada will be out of this deadly industry.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to rise to commend the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for his years of dedicated service in raising this issue. He has been a champion on this file. I have only one question for him.

Can we, with compassion and respect toward members on the opposite side of the House, find ways to get them to at long last join all the other parties in this House who now see the danger of asbestos? How do we break through the barrier that continues to allow Canada to argue an unscientific and indefensible position in the world community?

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I, too, recognize the long-standing support by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for this global movement to ban asbestos. Often, she and I were the only ones at events, functions and rallies to bring the public's attention to this issue.

She raises an important point. There is zero scientific evidence to support the government side. There is one study, which has never been peer tested, by a man named David Bernstein that the Chrysotile Institute paid $1 million to have written. It is so absurd that not a medical doctor in the world has ever ratified or peer tested it. One of the points. Dr. Bernstein makes on behalf of the Conservative government is that ingesting chrysotile asbestos is actually good for people in the sense that it triggers their bodies' immune system to try to expel it. He went on to explain that it was like flexing a muscle. The body's immune system is mobilized to get rid of asbestos. It is so absurd it is almost comical.

The rest of the scientific community is united in saying that all asbestos kills, that there is nothing benign about Canadian chrysotile asbestos and that Canada should get out of the asbestos industry.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to read a quote for the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre and I would like him to comment on it. This quote was by Stephen Lewis at Concordia University on October 5. He stated, “It is beyond belief that we are exporting death. And we are exporting it wilfully and knowledgeably. I don’t understand it. I don't understand the government and this province, Quebec, and I don't understand the Government of Canada. There is no asbestos anywhere that is safe, none, and it is unimaginable that we are willing to sacrifice lives in developing countries to support a relatively handful of jobs in the Canadian economy”.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that poignant remark needs any additional comment. It is a widely-held view. First, most Canadians thinks that asbestos is banned in Canada. It is not. Canada even sabotaged the United States. When the United States tried to ban asbestos in 1992, Canada unleashed Allan Gottlieb and Derek Burney. Every senior diplomat in the country swept down and managed to block congress' bill to ban asbestos in all its forms. Had it done so 20 years ago, I believe a domino effect would have taken place and the world would have stopped the trade and traffic of Canadian asbestos.

Instead, we are the world's number one cheerleader and sabotage other countries' efforts to curb its use at every opportunity. We go to the WTO and file grievances whenever some country wants to ban asbestos. We twist the arms of small developing nations. We give them foreign aid with one hand on the condition that they keep supporting the asbestos industry. On the other hand, it is morally and ethically reprehensible, in the words of Keith Spicer.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I bought a house about four years ago that had vermiculite in the attic. It was tested and found to contain tremolite asbestos. I had to pay thousands of dollars to have it properly removed.

I was wondering if the member might tell us when Canada banned that particular form of insulation containing asbestos as a precedent for dealing with it.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, all forms of asbestos are heavily regulated in Canada. Zonolite insulation is no longer sold, not because it is banned but because of the liability associated with it. The manufacturer is bankrupt now because of class action suits against him. However, we are stuck with hundreds of thousands of homes contaminated by Zonolite insulation that was subsidized and promoted by the federal government under its CHIP, home insulation program.

When UFFI foam was put in the same program, the government immediately put in place a UFFI foam removal program and stripped all foam insulation. While UFFI foam was irritating to some people with allergies, Zonolite asbestos insulation is deadly. It is loaded with tremolite, which is the most virulent form of asbestos. If the government is going to subsidize anything in the asbestos industry, it should be a testing and remediation program to help homeowners make their homes safe and stop the devaluation that takes place when their attics are full of Zonolite.

Opposition Motion—Asbestos
Business of Supply
Government Orders

October 31st, 2011 / 12:35 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be splitting my time with the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.

I will take a few minutes to talk about the great things that are happening in our natural resources sector and our resource-based communities across the country. As most hon. members would know, Canada navigated the global economic downturn far better than most other countries. The global recession hit Canada later, affected us less severely and we emerged stronger than other G7 nations.

Our economy has delivered and developed more than 465,000 new jobs since 2009. International bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund, are predicting Canada will continue to be a leader in economic growth.

While the economic picture is now brighter, it is important to remember that our economic future remains fragile, and that is why our government will continue to focus on creating jobs, creating growth and expanding opportunities for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Unlike the opposition, our government recognizes that Canada's traditional industries still remain very crucial to our economy. We have always stood firmly behind Canada's forestry, mineral and energy sectors and we will continue to support them as they innovate and grow.

On the other hand, we hear the NDP members standing in the House again and again in opposition to our resource sectors. From a western Canadian perspective, if we are talking about the oil sands, we hear members opposite standing and opposing every measure that would actually grow this important sector. They join with foreign interests, for example, they oppose Keystone XL, the northern gateway and the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline. It seems they are opposed to all economic development dealing with the resource sector.

Furthermore, they oppose all of these important projects typically before the independent regulators even review the projects for the environmental impact.

On forestry, the NDP has also found it difficult to actually support workers and the rural economy. The member for Winnipeg Centre at committee a year ago said:

If we were talking big picture, about a sustainable future, we wouldn't be talking about a better way to cut down more trees and build with material that begins to rot the moment you use it. We would be talking about a way to build things without....

That is a pretty clear example of how the NDP fails to support our resource-based economies. It does not realize that our natural resource sectors are doing a great job to fuel Canada's economy. They are doing a great job in creating Canadian jobs. They are actually leading the economic recovery that is now under way.

In 2010, the energy, mining and forestry sectors accounted for $140 billion in real GDP. They are supporting hundred of thousands of jobs in rural communities right across the country. Today, our country's mining sector is proving to be a powerful engine for our economic success.

We all know that Canada is one of the largest mining nations in the world. We produce more than 60 minerals and metals. Canadian mining companies are located in more than 100 countries around the globe, involved in more than 10,000 projects and with assets outside of Canada worth over $110 billion in 2009.

In 2010, Canada's mining and mineral processing industry generated over $35 billion in GDP, over $12 billion in capital investment and $18 billion in trade surplus.

Our mining industry is also a powerful engine for job creation. Last year, more than 308,000 Canadians were directly employed in mining, exploration and mineral processing with many more in related industries. Many of these jobs are found in rural and remote communities across Canada. We know that for every dollar we spend on public geoscience, the industry invests, on average, $5 in new exploration. So there is a strong return for the money that is spent on science. At the same time as, this industry is facing real challenges, declining base metal reserves, increased competition from abroad and concerns about its social and--