Friday, June 17, 2011

NDP's semi-principled stand on asbestos

NDP's semi-principled stand on asbestos is an interesting commentary assessing the anti-asbestos argument coming from the left in Canada. Here is one of the paragraphs:
The arguments against asbestos, however, are logical rather than emotional. And the single argument in its defence -that it's harmless if used correctly -is laughable. In 2010, the top three markets for Canadian asbestos were India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka -not exactly workers' paradises. And we know from a steady stream of damning reports, particularly from India, that workers are indeed falling victim to asbestosis, the inflammatory lung disease that often leads to mesothelioma. So far this year, a trust fund set up to compensate afflicted employees of a defunct auto-parts maker has awarded more than $15-million in India alone -to 40 people just last month, according to a recent report in Bloomberg Businessweek.
The comments on the "real" economic gains that asbestos mining brings to Canada are interesting. The bottom line is that the "real" gains are very modest:
We're talking about a single mine that employs something like 200 employees, and only seasonally at that. That's less than 10% of the workforce in Asbestos, never mind the province. Quebec's $74-million in asbestos sales in 2010 represented about one tenth of 1% of the province's total exports.
It seems that Canada asbestos policies are a key aspects of a picture that goes beyond Quebec: to survive, the asbestos industry needs that at least one industrialized nation supports "chrysotile defense" policies for that defense to be somehow viable. Certainly it is not about the miners.