Harper Government sabotaging ELA – Bruce Hyer

ELA Greg Rickford
Kenora MP Greg Rickford announcing ELA Funding

ELAOTTAWA – Politics – “The Harper Government is unnecessarily sabotaging ongoing research at the Experimental Lakes Area,” charges Bruce Hyer MP (Thunder Bay Superior North). Hyer states the Conservatives are “Deliberately robbing international and domestic scientists of the 2013 field season”. 

Harper Government sabotaging Experimental Lakes Area

Kenora MP Greg Rickford, who has not accepted any of the invitations to public meetings hosted by ELA supporters in Kenora was contacted for comment on Hyer’s statements. Rickford, the Conservative MP has not commented.

“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has declared that the Experimental Lakes Area will be mothballed on March 31st. Scientists won’t even be able to visit the facility, and only a site manager will be on location after that date,” said Hyer. “But a leaked letter sent from the DFO to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources showed that the Memorandum of Understanding to operate the Experimental Lakes Area won’t come to an end until September 2013. This means that there is at least another summer field season available to continue vital ongoing research.”

The Harper Government has come under fire for the shuttering of the ELA, after MP Greg Rickford expressed initial support and announced funding for the project in an $850,000 investment to modernize the facility.

ELA Greg Rickford
In happier times for ELA, Kenora MP Greg Rickford announcing $850,000 to modernize

 When Greg Rickford announced the funding of $850,000 to modernize the ELA Rickford, stated, “The Experimental Lakes Area is known world-wide as Canada’s most innovative freshwater research centre. Our Government recognizes that a strong economy is one that harnesses new knowledge and innovation. That’s why we are investing in projects like this one — helping to establish Canada as a leader in knowledge creation, and attracting the jobs and growth that go with it”.

Rickford is no longer willing to comment or respond on the ELA.

“Many current studies at the Experimental Lakes Area are already fully-funded from exterior sources up to their completion date,” said Hyer. “Scientists are ready to do research this summer that can only be completed at the ELA. Furthermore, Fisheries staff at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg, who analyze much of the data, will still be getting paid whether they have ELA data or not. If the ELA only needs a site manager on location to operate this summer, there is no good reason scientists can’t continue their research. Barring scientists from the facility this summer will only serve to sabotage the research, at great cost.” 

On Friday it was revealed that Fisheries staff had started to gut cabins scientists use during the field season. It was feared that buildings were being prepared for demolition according to Hyer. 

“If the government is really negotiating in good faith to find a replacement operator, why would there be any need to cancel ongoing research prematurely …and fire our scientists?” asked Hyer in question period. “This jeopardizes fully-funded research worth tens of millions of dollars.” 

“The Canadian aquatic science community is dismayed that the important research at Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area is being unnecessarily halted,” said Dr. Jules Blais, President of the Canadian Society of Limnologists. “Even if federal scientists were excluded from participating in summer 2013, important research could continue by independent university researchers if the federal government would simply permit these scientists to access the site”. 

“These studies were planned years ahead, and include things like climate impact studies and nanosilver experiments assessing the effects of nanoparticles on lakes, the only studies of their kind taking place worldwide,” said Blais. “Dismantling buildings and blocking research only leaves the scientific community – and the public – questioning the government’s sincerity in transferring the ELA to a new operator.”  

Exchange during Question Period

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, the government has already started destroying buildings at the Experimental Lakes Area, one of the world’s greatest research facilities. March 31 was the date given to find a new operator for the ELA, but the government has decided to destroy the ELA even while it claims to be trying to find a new operator.    

Will the government commit to immediately stopping the destruction of the ELA and continue funding its research until a new operator can be found? 

Hon. Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, we have made the decision that the experimental lakes will be ending as a federal facility. Our government is continuing important freshwater research in other facilities across Canada, such as the Freshwater Institute, in Winnipeg and the Bayfield Institute, in Burlington.    

We are also making important investments to clean out freshwater lakes like Lake Winnipeg and Lake Simcoe. 

Mr. Kennedy Stewart (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, the Conservative war on science knows no bounds. The Conservatives are recklessly cutting the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area. Government support is set to expire in just a few weeks and now it looks unlikely another organization will step in, in time to save it.    

With logging companies revving up their chainsaws, the ELA could be transformed from a unique space for scientific experiments to a clear cut.    

Why will Conservatives not do the right thing and agree to extend ELA funding? 

Hon. Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, we made the decision that the facility will no longer be a federal facility. The department has a number of science facilities that are focused on our freshwater program. The Freshwater Institution, in Winnipeg, as I mentioned earlier, the Sea Lamprey Control Centre, in Sault Ste. Marie and the Bayfield Institute, in Burlington focus heavily on freshwater science. 

Ms. Laurin Liu (Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, since the Conservatives have decided to attack science and take away funding, they should at least maintain the facilities in good condition, in order to facilitate the transition for the new operator. Logic would dictate that they should not dismantle the facilities until the new operator is installed. However, that would only happen if they really cared about science.    

Why is the Conservative government destroying the science facilities in the Experimental Lakes Area? 

Hon. Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that our department continues to do an incredible amount of science work. There are also freshwater components to the science program that are conducted at most of our other nine major research institutes that the department operates across the country. 

Ms. Wai Young (Vancouver South, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, as a trading nation, Canada depends upon marine shipping for economic growth, jobs and long-term prosperity. Thousands of ships come to Canadian ports each year, importing goods from around the world and exporting Canadian goods to markets beyond our borders. Canadians want to know that we have one of the strongest tanker safety regimes in the world.    

Would the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities update the House on the latest initiatives our government has taken? 

Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Natural Resources and I announced a comprehensive world-class tanker safety system in Canada. While our current tanker safety system is robust, it is essential that we strengthen it to meet future needs. Through our responsible resource development plan, we are ensuring that there is a system that will create jobs and economic growth while increasing environmental protection. We will also ensure that Canadians and aboriginal groups are fully engaged throughout the development of this system.