Quebecois politician on asbestos exposure: 'We can't let people die to save a job'With the Quebec general elections coming up in September, a number of the province's politicians have begun questioning a controversial loan made last month by the Quebec government.
Totalling $58 million in taxpayer dollars, the loan - guaranteed by Premier Jean Charest - is intended to help reopen the Jeffrey Mine, a huge pit near the U.S.-Canada border that is the world's largest source of asbestos.
Several politicians (and countless public health advocates) have condemned the move as one that will put millions of people worldwide at a renewed risk of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.
'There are limits'
François Legault, leader of the province's Coalition Avenir Québec party, has been particularly vocal in his disapproval of the loan. According to the Montreal Gazette, Legault recently explained that he would ban asbestos entirely, if he were to become premier.
However, he promised to uphold the $58 million loan, provided it went toward creating non-asbestos-related jobs in the town surrounding the Jeffrey (a locale called Asbestos, Quebec).
"Quebec is not a banana republic," he told reporters during a campaign stop in Sherbrooke. "We can't let people die to save a job. There are limits."
Legault also explained why the new loan guaranteed by Charest is a direct, public one, instead of a private amount lent from a bank.
"No bank in Quebec would associate its name with the Jeffrey Mine," he said, quoted by the newspaper. Many commentators and public health advocates have made similar statements.
What will the province do?
Even though, as Legault emphasized to the Toronto Sun, asbestos "does not conform to the values of Quebecers," the Jeffrey Mine is still slated to open this year. Co-owner J. Bernard Coulombe has publicly stated that he plans to start exporting 200,000 tons of asbestos annually, most of it to developing nations in Asia.
While Coulombe argues that his mine's form of asbestos (called chrysotile) is safe, no major public health organizations agree. Epidemiologists and respirologists unilaterally warn that asbestos exposure causes lethal diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis.
While Charest and Coulombe seem uninterested in the health of miners, asbestos weavers or the residents of Quebec, Legault and other politicians are making it one of their top priorities.
For instance, Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Quebecois, told the Toronto Sun that her party members "were very shocked by Mr. Charest's decision to announce an investment without holding a debate." She promised to initiate a "societal debate" in the Quebec legislature over the future of the province's asbestos use.
Copper thefts may increase locals' risk of asbestos exposure, http://www.heraldnews.com/newsnow/x1922376864/Asbestos-spread-by-copper-thieves-will-cost-Fall-River-Housing-Authority-78-000, 12/14/12
Massachusetts school custodians learn about asbestos exposure, http://www.wickedlocal.com/norwell/news/x2105847083/Norwell-participates-in-asbestos-awareness-training#axzz2Ese9TA66, 12/14/12
Experts question integrity of asbestos exposure reports, international collaboration, https://www.rightoncanada.ca/?p=1761, 12/14/12
Northern Ireland campaign will educate tradespeople, others about asbestos exposure, http://m.u.tv/news/300-NI-asbestos-deaths-in-five-years/e3426c38-0a85-47ff-b68f-3e2d4fbbe3cd, 12/11/12