Matt McEachran: Why does Canada insist on exporting death?


Just a few days ago, the House of Commons voted on whether to ban the use and export of asbestos.

Ironically, this vote was exactly one month after a walk against asbestos, held here in Sarnia-Lambton.  People from as far as Halifax, Utah and Banff came to brave what felt like insanely cold weather on October 1st to walk against the dangerous mineral that has had such a widespread effect in our community.

Many people wonder what all the fuss is about.  Hasn’t asbestos been banned for decades?

Well, not exactly.

Canada is the last developed nation in the world that exports asbestos. 

That’s right, it’s too dangerous to use at home, but unbeknownst to many Canadians, Canada still exports asbestos to the developing world. 

In fact I had no idea this was happening until one night a year or two ago I happened to catch part of a story on CBC news about Canada’s exporting of asbestos.  That news story has since gotten quite famous, and for good reason.  (Check it out here if you haven’t seen it.  Your eyes will bulge out) . 


That’s what makes the House of Commons vote on November 1st even more shocking, annoying, maddening….. fill in your own emotion, there are lots that fit.

In a vote of 152-123, the Conservative government defeated an NDP private members bill to ban the use and export of asbestos.  The NDP and Liberals voted to end the exportation, the Conservative and Bloq voted to keep exporting.

If there’s one thing governments of all levels love in Canada, it seems to be regulations intended to make us safer, regardless of cost.   So why does asbestos get such an obvious “pass”? 

 An article in Maclean’s indicated three Conservative MP’s abstained from voting, including our own Pat Davidson.  The Conservatives would not say however if the MPs had been whipped on this vote, or whether it was a free vote.

If Conservative MPs were forced to vote with the government on this issue, then I think Canadians deserve to know that.  I think Conservative Party members would also like to know that.

We are exporting death to developing nations that in many cases use no safety equipment at all when handling asbestos.  Our government just voted to continue doing that.  I think Canadians and residents of Sarnia-Lambton are entitled to an explanation.  What does our government know about asbestos that we don’t?  I mean it must be good if we are determined to keep exporting it, and we’re ready to force government MPs to vote for it.

And it’s not just Conservatives that have blood on their hands on this issue. Oh I know the Liberals voted against it, but where were they before?  You know, back when Jean Chretien won three majority governments.  They rammed through a lot of legislation in the 1990s and the 2000s, including the costly and controversial gun registry that is now being dismantled.  They could have easily ended asbestos exportation if they wanted to. 

Now that they are in opposition, suddenly they are converted?

And don’t forget about the Quebec Liberal government who is apparently prepared to guarantee over $50 million in loans, to keep one asbestos mine open for another 25 years.

Perhaps the politicians who think the asbestos industry is so good that we should whip votes and guarantee loans to keep it in business, should come to Sarnia-Lambton.  Let them look the widows in the eye, and the workers who are slowly dying with lung cancer in the face.  Then let them tell us it’s still safe.






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