MONTREAL - A lavish fundraiser for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff will be hosted by a businessman leading the charge to reopen one of Canada's last-remaining asbestos mines.

Ignatieff has often said Canada must stop exporting the carcinogenic material abroad.

But he's scheduled to rub elbows with Liberals on Thursday night at a $500-a-head cocktail at the Westmount mansion of Baljit Chadha.

Chadha's company, Balcorp Ltd., leads an international consortium of investors hoping to buy Jeffrey Mine in the city of Asbestos, Que.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Ignatieff acknowledged that he doesn't agree with his friend's view on asbestos.

"I think that Canada cannot export a product that is dangerous and cannot be handled safely," Ignatieff said in Montreal.

"I've said that for a long time."

The deal to revive the controversial operation hinges on whether the Quebec government will guarantee a $58-million bank loan to the mine.

Supporters of the purchase say it would breathe another 25 years of life into the mine and create hundreds of jobs in the region.

The Conservative government has said it supports the safe use of asbestos.

But Ignatieff insisted that it's time for a change.

"It's absolutely crucial for us to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the workers in that industry and in that region and help them transition to new employment," Ignatieff said Thursday.

Health experts in Canada and abroad say exporting the potentially deadly substance to developing countries is immoral because safety practices there are inadequate.

But Chadha has said that Balcorp has been exporting Quebec chrysotile asbestos to developing countries for over 15 years.

He has stressed that Quebec's chrysotile asbestos can be used safely, even in developing countries.

Their differences on asbestos aside, Ignatieff said he's happy to attend Chadha's fundraiser.

"Baljit Chadha is a great guy, personal friend, great businessman," he said.

"(Asbestos) is a discussion I have with Mr. Chadha, but I'm happy to be there tonight."