Mr. Speaker, on April 28, I asked the Minister of Human Resources Development a question about employees of the BC mine in Black Lake.
According to the information we have obtained from the placement committee, few or very few of these former employees are using active measures, with the result that only a small portion of the $3 million set aside for this envelope will apparently be used.
What I am requesting, on behalf of these former employees, several of whom are no longer receiving EI, is that the unused portion be put into the pool created by LAB Chrysotile and the Government of Quebec so that these employees, whose average age is over 52, can retire.
Of course, the best way of saving our jobs in the asbestos industry is to sell this product, which is unique in the world and has exceptional qualities. Almost two years ago, France announced its intention to ban asbestos on its territory. The entire region foresaw a domino effect and to keep this move in asbestos producing countries from having an effect in the Thetford region, we unanimously requested that a complaint be filed with the WTO against France, with respect to the agreements signed with other member countries.
All asbestos producers, the Government of Quebec, all unions, the Bloc Quebecois, the council of mayors of the Asbestos RCM, all were unanimous in calling for a complaint to be filed with the WTO.
Even a highly placed public servant—mark his name well—François Filion of International Trade, made the following statement at Thetford Mines on March 18, 1998. “For the federal government, it is not a question of whether or not we will be complaining to the WTO on France's asbestos ban, but only of when we will be doing so”. Now it is one minute to midnight. Time is of the essence. The Government of Canada should waste no time in filing a proper complaint within the next few days.
I have one question for the Government of Canada. Why does Canada not put the same effort into defending asbestos it would to defend the interests of Sherritt in the Toronto region, western Canadian wheat sales, the Pacific salmon or the famous turbot war in the Atlantic, in which Brian Tobin led the battle against Spain? Is it because the asbestos mines are located exclusively in Quebec? I am convinced that, if Quebec were a sovereign country, it would have filed a complaint long ago against the WTO, and we would have won our case.
I repeat, is the government going to continue to delay until asbestos is banned everywhere in the world, before it lifts a finger? The time for diplomacy is past. Jacques Roy could not deliver the goods, so now the Prime Minister should advise his ministers involved in this matter to act as promptly as possible.