Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member who just spoke for sharing his time with me today. Of course, this matter is very important to me, considering that the town of Asbestos and the Jeffrey mine are right in the middle of my riding. I am sure you have heard a whole litany of arguments today from the NDP, the party that moved this opposition motion. Of course, they talked about the issue of chrysotile in a very demagogic, negative way.
Ever since I was elected—I may be exaggerating to say every day, but perhaps nearly every week—the member for Winnipeg Centre has been rising in this House to present petitions and make comments. Clearly, he has parliamentary immunity when he talks about serial killers and criminals. I do not want to repeat those kinds of comments here today. In the past I have had a habit of becoming angry when talking about this issue. Today I have decided to remain positive. This may come as a surprise to some of my colleagues, although I am really a very friendly, cheerful guy.
Today I would like to speak about this issue in a positive light simply because, in Quebec, there is a very interesting underground mining project. As hon. members are aware, Asbestos has suffered many negative effects as a result of the difficulties experienced by the mine. Then, Magnola Metallurgy opened a plant to produce magnesium, and invested $1 billion in the area of Asbestos. This project lasted about a year and a half and created excellent jobs that benefited the community and offered high salaries. These jobs in the area were lost.
Clearly, the region of Asbestos is pursuing economic diversification. It is important to say it. Nevertheless, this underground mining project is very important in terms of job creation—between 400 and 500 jobs. That is a significant number. The Asbestos mine currently employs between 350 and 400 people. All in all, the mines in Asbestos and Thetford Mines employ about 1,000 people. There are also approximately 1,500 indirect jobs. We are talking about a payroll and benefits of approximately $35 million. For the town of Asbestos, a community that has had so much difficulty, this is a pivotal moment.
I know that an NDP member made a speech today and gave the history. As the hon. members know, we are talking about strikes and all the battles that the workers fought for their health, particularly in Asbestos, and also in Thetford Mines. Today, this has been a recurrent theme among many of the members of the NDP, the party that presented this motion. They have spoken of people's health, not just the miners but also the other people who live in the area. They told all sorts of what practically seem like legends about people's health.
Did the hon. members know that Asbestos has the third-oldest population in Quebec? When I am out in public, with my riding association or anywhere, I talk to people—people I know, friends who live in Asbestos and who are seniors. Some of them worked in the mine for 35 or 40 years. Not everyone is going to die because they worked in the mine.
However, in the beginning, in the 1950s and the 1960s, it truly was hazardous. It is not for nothing that the workers and the unions fought for their health and for their rights. No one is saying it is not hazardous, but they were extracting amphiboles. A geologist not far from here, at the University of Ottawa, has already clearly demonstrated, when responding to doctors, that there are different types of asbestos. We cannot lump them all in the same category. There are at least half a dozen different types of asbestos.
Amphiboles used to be used for insulating homes. We often talk about the West Block here and say that MPs do not want to live in asbestos. It was used back then because it makes an excellent firewall. Obviously when it gets into the air, then it becomes a problem. If it gets into a person's lungs, it can be quite harmful and the effects can last for a very long time. The person can eventually develop cancer.
Today we are no longer mining amphibole asbestos because it is banned. We use chrysotile, chrysotile cement, in most cases. We also often hear that in the United States or in the Americas, they are no longer allowed to use asbestos and chrysotile. They only export asbestos. In the United States alone, they use chrysotile in a number of areas, including in the automobile industry for brakes and automatic transmissions. Today, they also make clothing, pipeline wrappings, roofing and slate tiles with chrysotile.
This is still the case everywhere, and it is one of the safest and most durable products. Why is it used a great deal in developing countries? Because they are developing, and so they are often in the process of building water systems. There is a very big difference, in terms of quality and health for the people of those countries, between a metal pipe that will rust and cause health problems for the people receiving that water and a pipe made of chrysotile cement.
We must clarify the issue. There is also a great deal of misinformation about this. André Lalonde, a mineralogist and dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa, clearly explained the difference between the products in an article that appeared in Le Soleil in 2010. This is a fairly recent article in which Mr. Lalonde said:
Historically, doctors have misunderstood asbestos. We cannot blame them, since they did not study mineralogy...[however,] all of these minerals have different chemical formulae and crystalline structures. The proof that [the misunderstanding] is still present today is that people still talk about asbestos instead of talking about amphibole or chrysotile.
You need to be a geologist to understand him. I am not a geologist. However, as the town of Asbestos and the Musée minéralogique d'Asbestos are in the centre of my riding, I know a little bit more about all the types of asbestos in the world. I believe that there is also a museum of mineralogy in Thetford Mines, but that is in the riding of the Minister of Industry.
Every day, everyone, all the MPs who spoke today, will breathe asbestos in this building or outdoors. This natural resource is found in the ground everywhere. I went to a small island in my riding, which is far away from Asbestos, and there was asbestos in the ground. The people I went to visit, who are not very young and have a small cottage on this island, are the picture of health today. Asbestos is found in its natural state almost everywhere.
You have to visit a mine, whether it be Asbestos in my riding or Thetford Mines in the Minister of Industry's riding, to understand how well the workers have done their job. Obviously, they do not want to die. Members of the family of workers at the Jeffrey mine in my riding had health problems at the time, because of what was happening. Today, occupational safety standards are extremely high. I went to visit the mine and I would have no problem staying there for a few hours and breathing the air that comes from the mine and from the place where the workers work. As well, the air is checked, but not every day. There is a laboratory, a place in the mine where people are paid solely to monitor the ambient air and make sure that the rate is safe for the workers.
There are several new NDP members. I want to remind them that not so long ago, all parties in the House were in favour of the safe use of chrysotile; everyone understood it. In 2005, I tabled a report from the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade in the House. The committee was unanimous; all parties agreed that Canada should continue to promote the safe use of chrysotile. That was not so many moons ago. It was in 2005, when I was elected.
The government was asked to adopt a national chrysotile policy based on the research, promotion and safe use of this product. The NDP voted for that. Second, the Government of Canada was asked to conduct a comparative study on the “hazardous nature” of replacement fibres and chrysotile. The NDP voted for that. And third, the Government of Canada was asked to organize a public education campaign on chrysotile and, in so doing, promote the safe use of this product domestically and internationally, and encourage its own use of chrysotile. The NDP and all parties in the House voted for that.
Obviously, therefore, I am going to vote against banning asbestos.