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article imageCanadian PM defends asbestos exports and pushes for Senate reform

By Andrew Moran     Apr 26, 2011 in Politics
Windsor - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke in Quebec Tuesday where he defended asbestos exports, despite the number of cancer risks. The Conservative leader earlier said he would push for reforms in Canada's Senate.
It’s no secret that the Canadian Prime Minister is keeping a low profile with less than week until voters head to the polls. Some columnists have pointed out that Stephen Harper has hid from the general public and questions from the media.
This week, the Conservative Leader spoke at a rally in Windsor, Ontario where he said that if his party wins on May 2 then he will move forward with plans to reform Canada’s Senate, but forewarned that progress will be slow and will not re-open the nation’s Constitution, according to the National Post.
“The turnover of the Senate itself takes many, many years to get new elected senators in there,” said Harper. “And of course there are many other issues that would involve constitutional negotiations that we're not prepared to undertake right now and I don't think the population wants us to undertake.”
For years, however, Harper has promised to reform the Senate, but instead he has appointed Conservatives, which is something he admits to doing in order to reform the Senate.
At local all-candidates debates, voters have often asked about the Senate and how it can face either elections or abolishment. Toronto Centre Liberal Member of Parliament said it can only be eliminated in collaboration with provinces and Senators can only face elections if a federal court rules in that favour.
Nevertheless, Harper believes a Senate overhaul is good. “Even if the process is slow, I would like to see it begin,” said Harper, reports the Calgary Herald. “I think it's overdue. I think the first proposals on Senate reform were in the 1870s, so I think it's time we begin.”
Asbestos Exports
Speaking in the Quebec riding of Richmond-Athabasca in order to rally support from Bloc Quebecois voters, Harper defended the local asbestos mining industry, which has come under intense scrutiny from local and foreign critics.
The Prime Minister stated that he will continue the export of of chrysotile, a product that is otherwise identified as white asbestos and is highly restricted in Canada, according to the Toronto Star.
“Chrysotile, specifically, is permitted internationally under conditions of safe and controlled use,” said Harper, reports the Canadian Press. “Canada is one of a number of exporters of chrysotile and there are many countries in which it is legal who are buyers. This government will not put Canadian industry in a position where it is discriminated against in a market where sale is permitted.”
Despite support of the industry, the Conservative government is removing asbestos from various buildings, including the House of Commons, 24 Sussex Drive and numerous schools.
Health professionals, environmental organizations and union officials urged the Prime Minister to end support of asbestos. “We call on you to put people’s lives ahead of politics,” said Dr. Kapil Khatter of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
More about Canada Election 2011, Stephen Harper, asbesto exports, canada senate reform
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