Mr. Speaker, on September 27, I asked a question of the hon. Minister of Industry. I will read it now to refresh our memories.
This government claims to want to create jobs by supporting the asbestos industry. In reality, it is exporting disease and death to countries that have inadequate labour health and safety standards. This position does not help the communities that are relying on a dying industry. The workers have suffered enough.
What is this government waiting for to show real respect for these people and to develop with them a transition plan to stimulate the economy in that region?
I asked that question in the House, and two months later, the Lac d'amiante mine in Thetford Mines and the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos are now closed. There is no more mining going on in the asbestos region.
My question from two months ago ended on this point: what is this government waiting for to show real respect for these people who are now out of work and to develop a transition plan with and for them?
Something else rather significant has happened recently. More and more elected officials no longer support exporting asbestos. That includes some Conservatives who, anonymously of course, have gone as far as admitting that they wanted to vote in favour of the motion the NDP moved in this House less than a month ago. That motion called for an end to mining and exporting the substance, and for an immediate transition plan to help all workers in the asbestos regions.
Other factors have been added to the mix in the past two months. A growing portion of Quebec civil society has changed its position on asbestos. For instance, the Coalition Pour que le Québec ait meilleure MINE and the Centrale des syndicats du Québec are calling on governments to compensate asbestos workers and their communities immediately—with the money that is supposedly being invested to help that industry recover—so that healthy, sustainable industries can be developed instead.
The Confédération des syndicats nationaux, or CSN, has committed to talks with other unions in order to propose a retraining schedule for people working in the asbestos industry, all with a view to initiating the necessary debates with both levels of government on banning asbestos.
Given the present circumstances, we have a historic opportunity to stop a commercial activity that exports disease and is very harmful to Canada's reputation. The government therefore needs to finance a transition plan, stop mining asbestos and agree to include the substance on the Rotterdam Convention. That is all.
Will the minister take advantage of this historic opportunity? If not, how can he justify a decision that will not create any jobs in the asbestos region? My question is not about asbestos handling policies, but about the future of the people in the asbestos region.