Documents detail Mulroney-era efforts to block U.S. asbestos ban – by Gloria Galloway (Globe and Mail – October 19, 2011)

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Anti-asbestos lobbyists say former Canadian politicians, ambassadors and bureaucrats abandoned their morals when they successfully lobbied two decades ago to prevent the carcinogenic material from being banned in the United States.

Laurie Kazan-Allen of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, a group based in Britain, told a news conference Tuesday that, “as a consequence of the legal and political actions mounted by Canadian interest, a further 300,000 tons of Canadian asbestos was used in the United States and vast amounts of asbestos-containing products were incorporated into the United States infrastructure.”

Ms. Kazan-Allen obtained documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to show that former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney lobbied his friend, then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan, in the mid-1980s about the EPA’s plan to ban asbestos.

The documents also say former Quebec’s premier Robert Bourassa raised Quebec’s concerns about the proposed ban with U.S. trade officials at a meeting in Washington in 1986.

And former Canadian ambassadors to the United States, Allan Gotlieb and Derek Burney, met with the U.S. environmental protection administrator in September 1986 and April 1989 respectively to talk about asbestos, say the documents.

Ms. Kazan-Allen said a number of federal and provincial minister ministers were also pushing the asbestos file in the United States. They included Robert Layton, the father of former NDP leader Jack Layton who was a former Conservative mines minister in Mr. Mulroney’s government.

“While the industry fronted the attack, financial support and political assistance from Quebec and Ottawa underpinned the incursion of Canada’s asbestos foot soldiers into U.S. territory,” Ms. Kazan-Allen said.

The bureaucrats and the ambassadors were doing the government’s bidding. But the opponents of asbestos say that does not excuse their actions.

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