Experimental Lakes Area Saved with Government Investments

Experimental Lakes Area group with Greg, receiving $850K of funding to modernize labs
Experimental Lakes Area group with Greg Rickford, receiving $850K of funding to modernize labs

ELA Greg Rickford
Kenora MP Greg Rickford announcing ELA Funding

KENORA – Environment – “I am pleased to announce that the federal government has secured a new operator for the Experimental Lakes Area,” said Kenora Member of Parliament Greg Rickford, the Minister of Natural Resources and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario. “The federal government has been leading negotiations to transfer the Experimental Lakes Area for the past year and we are pleased IISD will continue the work of the ELA.”

Minister Rickford and Joyce Bateman, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre, on behalf of the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today announced that agreements have been finalized with the new operator of the Experimental Lakes Area, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD ELA Inc.)

“With these agreements and upcoming regulations, our Government has followed through on its commitment to ensure that scientific research can continue at the ELA. In addition to the donation of surplus moveable assets, I am pleased that our Government will provide financial support to IISD to help with the transition,” said Joyce Bateman, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre.

Minister Michael Gravelle and Minister Bill Mauro
Minister Michael Gravelle and Minister Bill Mauro

“The Experimental Lakes Area is a truly significant location in the Northwest that continues to produce vital scientific and academic research. I’m extremely pleased that our government has taken a lead role to keep the facility operational and allow for important research to continue,” stated Minister Michael Gravelle , MPP Thunder Bay – Superior North.

‎”Today’s announcement again shows our Government’s support for world class research in the north. By supporting the IISD we will ensure a better understanding of the environment and help support a growing research industry in the region,” added Minister Bill Mauro, MPP Thunder Bay – Atikokan

“Ontario has heard concerns from the scientific and academic community regarding the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area. Our government has stepped up to provide the financial support necessary to keep this world-class facility operational, while ensuring the environment is protected,” commented David Orazietti, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources.

“These agreements mean that the federal government has fulfilled its commitments to ensuring that research at the Experimental Lakes Area can continue under a new operator,” stated Minister Rickford.

“This incredible achievement for Canadian science highlights how science advocacy can really make a difference”, praised Dr. Katie Gibbs, Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy. After learning that Fisheries and Oceans Canada eliminated funding for the ELA program and was on track to shut down this one-of-a-kind research station, scientists immediately sprung to action to save the ELA. Scientists assembled themselves into an advocacy organization, launched a social media campaign, wrote dozens of letters to Canadian ministers, organized press conferences and meetings with politicians, and held public forums and protests in cities across the country. The closure of ELA quickly became an issue of national significance and over 30,000 Canadians signed a petition to save the ELA.

While the news that the ELA will stay open under new management is expected to be received as a victory after a hard fought battle by science advocates, concerns about the loss to public science remain. “The transfer of ELA out of the hands of government is a double-edged sword”, remarked Dr. Diane Orihel, the young scientist who launched the Save ELA movement. “Scientists will hopefully enjoy a new freedom at the IISD to explore controversial research questions and freely communicate their scientific findings to the public. On the other hand, the Government of Canada has divested itself of an incredibly valuable tool and science team to support federal policies to protect and manage our country’s freshwater and fisheries resources.”

The Governments of Ontario, Manitoba and the federal Government have all contributed to the process.

As part of the federal agreement, IISD will receive surplus assets and operational funding of $1 million over four years to help with the transition. The federal government has been working with the Government of Ontario and IISD since September 2012, in order to secure a new operator for the Experimental Lakes Area better suited to conduct whole-lake experiments.

Quick Facts

– In August 2013, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Government of Ontario and the International Institute for Sustainable Development signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This document included a commitment for definitive agreements to be finalized on the future of the Experimental Lakes Area by March 31, 2014.

– In February 2014, the federal government announced that the proposed Experimental Lakes Area Research Activities Regulations had been published in the Canada Gazette, Part I. When finalized later this spring, these regulations would authorize the new operator to continue scientific research at the Experimental Lakes Area.

– The Experimental Lakes Area is a unique, world-class facility for conducting whole-lake experiments and can provide significant contributions to scientific knowledge of freshwater ecosystems.

“This agreement opens a fresh, new chapter in the life of the ELA,” said Scott Vaughan, President and CEO of IISD. “Together, IISD and ELA will support world-class, science-based observations that will help shape policies needed to understand and respond to mounting threats to our freshwater resources, from the impact of mercury from coal-fired electricity generating plants to the effects of climate change on water hydrology. We are grateful for the commitment of the Government of Canada and other partners.”