THETFORD MINES, Que. - The Canadian government has tossed in the towel and will stop fighting international efforts to list asbestos as a hazardous substance.
The announcement was made today by Industry Minister Christian Paradis, who hails from the asbestos belt and is one of the industry's staunchest defenders.
He said the government will no longer oppose efforts to include asbestos to the UN's Rotterdam treaty on hazardous materials.
Paradis looked glum and spoke in a nearly hushed tone during the announcement.
He cast the move as inevitable, given the growing opposition to the industry. Two of the parties in the Quebec legislature, including the new Parti Quebecois government, have called exports of the substance immoral given its links to cancer.
The PQ has said it will cancel a $58 million loan, promised by the previous Liberal provincial government, that was supposed to reopen what would be the country's last asbestos mine.
Paradis is also promising to spend up to $50 million to help the region diversify its economy. He made the announcement next to the mayor of Thetford Mines.
The mayor expressed disappointment in recent events and thanked the federal government for helping to make the best of a bad situation.