Say it is so, Mr. Ignatieff
By Liz Armstrong, PCN Board member
It all started with a refreshingly honest response to a question about asbestos at a public meeting in Victoria, BC on March 28th. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was asked to support the ban on exporting Canadian chrysotile asbestos – which, like all other types, is a deadly carcinogen.
He sensed he was on thin ice, but responded with a bold pledge: “I’m probably walking right off the cliff into some unexpected public policy bog of which I’m unaware, but if asbestos is bad for parliamentarians in the Parliament of Canada*, it just has to be bad for everybody else. Our export of this dangerous product overseas has got to stop.”
Ah, wonder of wonders: a major Canadian party leader prepared to dump a dumb and deadly policy to do the right thing. Maybe time to rethink our deep distrust of mainstream politicians who so often fence-sit or do 180s on critical issues?
Well, not just yet.
Just three days later, in Ottawa, Mr. Ignatieff was telling a group of press gallery reporters what he really said in Victoria. No, no, it wasn’t that the export of Canadian asbestos should end, only that we should warn other countries about it. He was firm about saying nothing more than this – even though both statements, in Victoria and Ottawa, were taped.
It would be easy to roll our eyes and dismiss this sort of flip-flop with the same old cynicism we’ve come to reserve for most politicians (and lawyers) – then move on.
But there are deadly consequences to such a U-turn, so we want to regularly and persistently remind the new Liberal leader about his Victoria statement – and how it could save many lives. (Fellow Federal Liberal Valence Young is also after Mr. Ignatieff to mend his ‘loss of credibility on asbestos’. See letter below)
He may buy himself a few votes in Quebec with his Ottawa statement, but by reverting to this old and lethal Liberal policy, Mr. Ignatieff drives the possibility of an immediate Canadian asbestos ban back into the slow lane. Saying the right thing, as he did in Victoria, then acting on it, the Liberal leader could have fast-tracked what the whole world (other than the profit-at-all-costs, federally funded Chrysotile Institute) passionately wants – a ban on the mining, production and export of all Canadian asbestos.
How many more victims of asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma will die because Mr. Ignatieff didn’t stick with his first, honest instincts? We will never know exactly, but we know some will pay with their lives for this sad reversal and missed opportunity to do the right thing.
This is a terrible shame.
Mend your loss of credibility on asbestos, Mr. Ignatieff!
Please take a moment and tell the Liberal Leader to honour his first and best instincts on banning Canadian asbestos email Michael Ignatieff at: IgnatM@parl.gc.ca
Also in this Issue on An Ounce …