Canada won't oppose listing asbestos as a hazardous material

Following the shift in provincial policy after the Quebec election, the Harper government said on Friday that it will no longer oppose international efforts to put asbestos on a list of hazardous substances.

Newly-elected Quebec Premier Pauline Marois promised during her campaign to cancel a federal loan to the province's Jeffrey Mine, once the world's largest asbestos mine, and would undertake consultation regarding the future of the industry.

The policy shift will be dire for the asbestos industry, warns federal industry minister Christian Paradis.

"Mrs. Marois' decision to prohibit chrysotile mining in Quebec will have a negative impact on the future prosperity of the area," said Minister Paradis.

"Right now, there are hundreds of workers in the region who do not have a job and live in uncertainty. The last thing they need is a false consultation, when the decision to close down the industry has already been taken by Mrs. Marois. My priority is therefore to work immediately with local partners on the transition needed to create jobs for our workers as soon as possible."

Paradis says Canada will no longer oppose the inclusion of chrysotile, the most common form of asbestos, as a hazardous substance.

"It would be illogical for Canada to oppose the inclusion of chrysotile in annex III of the Rotterdam Convention when Quebec, the only province that produces chrysotile, will prohibit its exploitation," said Minister Paradis.

Paradis said his government will invest $50 million in the region to support diversification.

Image of Quebec asbestos mine and 1929 advertisement for Durabestos