NIMBY Plus 1

Stephen Harper is showing Canada’s maligned asbestos industry some love Tuesday while stumping for votes in Quebec’s Eastern Townships – a move that’s sparking renewed pressure on him to end production of the cancer-causing mineral.

Asbestos is a silicate mineral used in building construction that can trigger cancer if it's inhaled. Its sale is restricted in Canada but large quantities are exported to developing countries. Most forms of asbestos have been banned in the European Union.

The Conservatives, however, support the industry and Mr. Harper journeyed to Asbestos, Que., to trumpet his backing for the failing pariah industry. Ottawa funds an asbestos industry lobby group and fights international efforts to restrict trade in asbestos.

But one of Mr. Harper's own cabinet ministers, Chuck Strahl is a victim of asbestos. Mr. Strahl, who is not seeking re-election, has been diagnosed with incurable lung cancer – mesothelioma – believed to be triggered by breathing asbestos when he was younger.

And a coalition of environmental and union activists released an open letter to Mr. Harper Wednesday, urging him to stop backing the failing industry.

“The science is indisputable that all asbestos is deadly. Not a single reputable authority supports your claim that chrysotile asbestos can be safely used,” the Rideau Institute’s Kathleen Ruff said in the letter on behalf of more than 15 activist groups.

“Canada is becoming known as an immoral asbestos pusher and as an enemy of global public health. This is not the role Canadians want to play in the world.”

Asbestos is home to the Jeffrey Mine, one of the world’s largest asbestos mines.

The Tories are hoping their bid will help them wrest the riding of Richmond-Arthabaska from the Bloc Québécois. It’s an uphill battle however; the Conservatives lost in the 2008 election by more than 8,800 votes.

The Conservatives are running Jean-Philippe Bachand, brother of former Progressive Conservative MP André Bachand, as their candidate.

Votes no matter what the cost?
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Mesothelioma is a good thing for the Canadian economy.
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