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OTTAWA—The first potential clash between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and newly elected Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has come to a swift end as the Conservatives revealed they would stop defending the controversial asbestos industry.
Federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis announced Friday afternoon that the Conservative government would no longer oppose adding chrysotile asbestos to an international list of hazardous substances.
The Conservative government has stuck by the troubled industry despite strong criticism at home and abroad for downplaying the cancer-causing effects of chrysotile asbestos, but on Friday it was clear that Ottawa had seen the writing on the wall of the new political context in Quebec.
The Parti Québécois promised during the recent provincial election campaign to cancel the $58-million government loan the former Liberal government had given to the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Que. this summer.
Marois instead promised to invest that money in diversifying the economy in the region that produces asbestos and on Friday the Conservative government announced that it would commit up to $50 million to the same cause.
Revoking the loan would effectively put an end to the dying industry, but Marois has also said she would hold a consultation with the workers and industry before deciding its future. Paradis interpreted the campaign promise as a plan to outright ban the exploitation of asbestos in Quebec.
“Mrs. Marois’ decision to prohibit chrysotile mining in Quebec will have a negative impact on the future prosperity of the area,” Paradis said in a statement delivered in Thetford Mines, Que.
Paradis said he did not want to spend any time debating the issue when his constituents are out of a job, but he made sure to remind everyone that it was Marois who had moved to finally end the dying industry.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1256956–conservative-government-ends-opposition-to-listing-asbestos-as-hazardous-substance