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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—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP 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—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP 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—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal 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—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP 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—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

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

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary 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--

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Maybe the hon. member and my colleague on the natural resources committee did not understand the motion. It is about asbestos. He has talked about the economy, oil sands, forestry and science, but not about asbestos. We are here today to talk about asbestos that kills Canadians, not only in Canada but globally. We would like the member to--

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

As the member for Nickel Belt knows, the Chair is in the habit of allowing members the opportunity to work their way back to the subject at hand and I trust that the hon. parliamentary secretary will get to the matter before the House.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about our mining industry and, today, I want to help my colleague understand the broader picture in which we find ourselves in Canada. It t is important for him to listen and learn from this.

We have done some things that are encouraging our mining industry. We have extended the mineral exploration tax credit for another year. We are supporting the targeted geoscience initiative and the green mining initiative, which are all designed to foster the industry's environmental footprint. The member opposite wants to talk about the environmental footprint and we are certainly doing that.

We are also striving to improve our regulatory system for major projects and for the mining projects that are taking place in this country. For too long, our resource projects have been stuck in an inefficient regulatory system. Our objective has been clear, we want to move toward a one project, one review process that will continue to protect the environment, as the NDP claims that it is concerned about, while speeding up the process and providing clearer areas of responsibility for every project that has to be considered.

All these initiatives are done with the same goals in mind, and that is boosting Canada's economy and creating jobs in rural and remote communities. As the member opposite would know, many remote communities are benefiting from the boom in mining activity right across this country.

At committee, we have been exploring this very thing. We have been taking a look, in particular, at the geo-mapping for energy and minerals initiative that is taking place in this country. It is helping to unlock opportunities across the country, particularly in the north, that will bring real economic benefits and long-term jobs for local residents.

I guess I should maybe mention an example or two. The Meadowbank gold mine in Nunavut is a good example of how our government's geoscience is supporting mineral exploration and development in the north. It is one of a new generation of northern mines that are bringing direct benefits to Inuit communities while ensuring that we protect the environment.

I should point out that more than 39% of the mine's workforce is Inuit. Mine construction operations have also contributed more than $1.26 billion to the community and northern-based suppliers over the last three years. Last year, the mine dispensed about $10 million in royalties.

I think I need to cover another pillar of Canada's natural resources economy, and I will just touch quickly on forestry before I get back to the specific issue that the member opposite wanted us to address.

I want to assure members that we are standing behind workers who depend on the forest industry in hundreds of Canadian communities. Even at the best of times, these hard-working men and women face many challenges. Now, during the ongoing global difficulties, their challenges are that much greater. The economic downturn has certainly caused uncertainty and volatility in our economy, and forestry is no exception.

Our government is making strategy investments to ensure a solid future for workers in Canada's forest sector and the communities that depend on it. We recently delivered another instalment on our commitment to the forest industry. Our government is investing almost $90 million in 13 projects to build a more sustainable and competitive forest sector in Canada. These projects range from improving energy efficiency at the Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp mill in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, to helping a Boyle, Alberta mill diversify its products to include methanol.

Funding is delivered through federal programs that are supporting the renewal and transition of our—

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, my English comprehension is starting to improve. I do not think forestry has anything to do with asbestos. Can we hear at the wording of today's opposition motion? Are we talking about asbestos or forestry? I will have to adjust my speech accordingly. There is something that does not add up today.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

As I said to the hon. member for Nickel Belt a few moments ago, the Chair gives speakers the opportunity to work their way toward the matter before the House today. I trust that the parliamentary secretary will do that. There is one minute remaining in his speech.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I know I would be up here much longer if the members opposite had not been interrupting and shortening my speech.

I am glad to talk about natural resources and the importance—

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to understand. I asked you a question. Are we talking about asbestos or forestry today? Is this NDP opposition day on the impact of chrysotile asbestos or something else? We will have to adjust our speeches. I just want to know whether we are talking about forestry or asbestos today.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The Chair would be pleased to provide a copy of the motion for the hon. member for Bourassa so that he could verify the contents of today's debate.

The hon. member for Crowfoot.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech because it lays out for the opposition the fact that asbestos is a mining operation, not grown on trees, as the member for Bourassa seems to believe.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard you say that you should provide the hon. member for Bourassa with a copy of the motion today. Could I suggest that you supply a copy to the present speaker so he could talk about it?

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend the hon. parliamentary secretary for avoiding the topic of asbestos altogether. Giving a speech that does not mention it is the only morally defensible position.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I would ask all hon. members to allow the parliamentary secretary to complete his remarks.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, you generously stated that you would allow speakers to work their way toward the issue in question. There is one minute remaining in the hon. member's speech. I believe he would now be addressing asbestos in the last minute if he—

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I appreciate all the assistance the hon. members have offered the Chair in this regard. I would like to go back to the hon. parliamentary secretary so he can complete his remarks.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I guess I am disappointed that the member for Bourassa was not a bit more informed before he came to the House. He maybe should have read the motion ahead of time. He would know that it deals with natural resources and trying to develop a greener, more diversified and sustainable industry across the country, which is what we are trying to do.

I would like to talk about the fact that rural communities across the country that depend on natural resources can depend on the support of this government. They know we have a pro-grow strategy that is opposed by the opposition. However, we will create jobs right across the country, whether it is in Quebec, Atlantic Canada, Ontario, the Prairies or British Columbia.The NDP's agenda would do exactly the opposite, which is to destroy those resource extraction jobs that Canadians count on and upon which so many communities are dependent.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member that has nothing to do with geo-mapping, or forestry or the oil sands. I am going to partially quote from a long email that I received from Brian White from Sarnia. He states:

Please know that from a community where over 11,000 people have been killed or made gravely ill due to asbestos exposure, we are standing in solidarity to have this exportation stopped. We know the effects of this deadly product and do not wish to make a dime off of anyone else who will suffer as we have in this community. From the bottom of my heart, please stop this unethical industry.

Would the hon. member comment about asbestos and not forestry, or geo-mapping or whatever else he has on his mind? The motion is about asbestos.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we sympathize with workers across the country who may find themselves in a dangerous situation. I come from a farming background. We know that farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country as is mining. Therefore, we stand with miners across the country when they find themselves in a situation where their jobs are a danger.

However, Canada has one of the strongest regulatory environments around the world when it comes to our natural resource sectors. We are prepared to work again to create jobs through that development of our economy. We certainly stand strong, in terms of the regulatory structures. If we take a look at things like the nuclear industry, for example, the CNSC is a very strong regulator. In terms of the pipelines and so forth, the NEB stands strong as a regulator. Our offshore boards protect Canadians workers. There are many regulations across the country. We often hear that environmental assessments need to be done to protect workers and the environment, and we are in favour of that.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, could the parliamentary secretary tell us if the government has independent scientific reports on the health impacts of asbestos and if it does, is he willing to table those? Perhaps if he will not table them, he might put them in a video on his website.

Would he also tell us whether there is any reason why the House should believe that when materials containing chrysotile asbestos are cut, or scraped, or filed, or sanded or removed, people always take precautions to avoid getting cancer, for example, to avoid those health impacts?

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Industry has been clear on this. He has answered this question many times in the House and has explained it to the members opposite.

I am intrigued. Now that the Liberals are not in government, they appear to be changing their position on this issue. For a long time they had a different position than they do now. I would ask my colleagues across the way this. When did they decide to change their position? I do not think it was done through any sense of ethics or morality. They probably thought there was some political gain for them, and I am not sure that is actually the case.

However, the Minister of Industry has been clear on this. He has explained to the House many times that there are in fact places where chrysotile can be used safely. The government would certainly not support anything that would not be safe for workers.

Opposition Motion—AsbestosBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is good to hear my hon. colleague across the way talk about ethics and morality.

We have quotes from the Prime Minister, who is a vigorous proponent of the asbestos industry. On April 7, he said, “Only the Conservative party will defend this industry here and everywhere in Canada”. Yet the building right next to this place is closed to members of Parliament as workers carefully extract this deadly substance.

Could the hon. member speak to the issue of morality and ethics as it pertains to this issue and the hypocrisy that the government seems to have displayed?