OTTAWA – New Democrat Member of Parliament John Rafferty (Thunder Bay – Rainy River) rose in Question Period to take aim at the Harper Government’s decision to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area research facility near Kenora.
“The Experimental lakes area is responsible for research that has made groundbreaking discoveries which have reduced acid rain and mercury contamination from coal fire plant emissions, and lead to the banning of phosphorous in detergents ,” Rafferty asserted before putting the question to the Minister for Fisheries. “When will [The Harper Government] stop their dangerous cuts that put our water, our environment, and our health at risk?”
The government asserts that the ELA is in transition toward being run privately. Randy Kemp, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans stated, “On this side of the House, we do not believe that the government has to do everything. We think that the Experimental Lakes facility, which was so useful in the acid rain era, now would be better managed by either a university or a non-governmental organization”.
The federal Conservatives have put money into the ELA over the past several years.
Rafferty’s question follows revelations that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is ending funding for the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) by March 2013.
The ELA contains 58 lakes and their watersheds and is managed between a joint agreement between the Canadian and Ontario governments. The world renowned research hub is one the few whole-lake ecosystem research facilities in existence and work in research at the ELA has lead to many groundbreaking studies into the effects of pollutants, acid rain, freshwater aquaculture, and hydroelectric dams on freshwater ecosystems.
“Time after time the Harper Conservative government has proclaimed it is pro-environment and concerned about the health and well-being of rural communities and families, but then gone out and done something that directly contradicts those claims,” Rafferty said. “This is a serious blow for families in Northwestern Ontario and other rural areas and needlessly puts our fresh water ecosystems at risk of degradation moving forward.”
Here is the complete exchange from the House of Commons:
Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives’ attacks on science have claimed yet another victim, the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area research program. This is a devastating blow to environmental science that will be felt for generations, particularly in provinces like Manitoba.
There is no other facility in the world that does this work. In fact, the loss of this program is so serious that scientists around the world are speaking out. Will the government reinstate this vital research program?
Mr. Randy Kamp (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC): Mr. Speaker, of course our government is committed to the Freshwater Institute and clean, fresh water. We have shown that by the funds we have put into the Lake Simcoe cleanup fund, for example.
The member is from Manitoba. She knows the Freshwater Institute will still continue to function. We just think that the work done at the Experimental Lakes facility would be better done by a non-governmental association or university.
Mr. John Rafferty (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are simply making stuff up as they go along. The minister knows the Experimental Lakes Area is the research facility that made groundbreaking discoveries about acid rain. He knows it identified and helped reduce mercury contamination in coal-fired plants. He knows phosphorus is banned in detergents now because of the facility’s work.
The Conservatives need to wake up. When will they stop their dangerous cuts to put our water, our environment and our health at risk?
Mr. Randy Kamp (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as I said, we are committed to research on fresh water. That is why much of what we do at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg has generated some very good results in Lake Winnipeg, for example, and in other lakes in central Canada.
On this side of the House, we do not believe that the government has to do everything. We think that the Experimental Lakes facility, which was so useful in the acid rain era, now would be better managed by either a university or a non-governmental organization.