Canadian Dollars for "Corporate Serial Killers"
Despite mounting outrage over Canada's pivotal role in the global pro-asbestos lobby, the federal government continues to support the work of a Montreal-based trade body set up primarily to market Canadian asbestos. Last week, a motion was tabled at a meeting of the Natural Resources Committee to continue federal funding for the Chrysotile Institute (CI: formerly known as the Asbestos Institute), an asbestos industry group led by registered lobbyist Clement Godbout.1
In recent years the CI has routinely received $250,000 of taxpayers money to spread the pro-asbestos message throughout the developing world. Indeed, Godbout accompanied a trade union delegation (no doubt made up pro-asbestos unionists from Quebec) to Mexico this month (March 2010) to instruct Mexican workers on the safe use of Canadian asbestos. Speaking of this visit Godbout told a journalist: Canada has a lot of experience in the safe use of chrysotile [asbestos].2
The parliamentary meeting which took place on Thursday, March 18, 2010 pitted Canada's Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis, from the town of Thetford Mines,3 against MP Pat Martin, an outspoken critic of the Conservative Government's asbestos policy and a former worker at a Yukon asbestos mine.4 Toeing the industry party line, Paradis said: [scientific] studies show that asbestos is safe.5 The Minister maintained that the CI's principal purpose was to promote the safe use of asbestos. Martin wasn't buying it. He categorized Ottawa's funding of the CI as corporate welfare for corporate serial killers. Warming to the subject the MP said:
The asbestos lobby is the tobacco lobby's evil twin, and taxpayers are funding this group to lobby the government so they will keep on exporting this dangerous substance.
During his 30 minute speech, the MP pointed out the dangers of selling a known carcinogen to countries with few health and safety regulations: We are exporting human misery to other countries on a monumental scale, and the rest of the world is begging Canada to stop it. Conservative, Liberal and Bloc Quebecois members of the budget committee left the room as Martin was talking which resulted in the meeting being suspended for lack of a quorum. The committee will meet again on Tuesday, March 23, 2010. Watch this space!
March 21, 2010
Update March 24, 2010:
Voting on the motion to discontinue federal funding for the Chrysotile Institute resumed on Tuesday, March 23, 2010. Unfortunately, the Committee members from all political parties, except Pat Martin and Nathan Cullen from the New Democratic Party, supported continued funding of the Chrysotile Institute "a taxpayer-supported industry lobby group that defends asbestos through phoney science and aggressive lobbying."
1 Lalonde M. Lobby group takes flak over federal funds. March 19, 2010.
2 Nicoud A. Le Canada, pourvoyeur du Sud envers et contre tout. (Canada supplies asbestos to the South in spite of everything. March 18, 2010.
3 Paradis represents the Quebec riding of MeganticL'érable, the location of Canada's sole remaining asbestos mine. Fewer than 500 people now work for LAB Chrysotile, the company which runs the Black Lake Chrysotile Mine in Thetford Mines.
4 Weese B. Paradis, NDPer duke it out over asbestos. March 18, 2010.
5 Rabson M. Feds should cut asbestos advocacy funding: NDP MP. March 19, 2010.