Skip to content

NEWS: Harper government fails to commit to the Experimental Lakes Area

Maude Barlow speaks at a Save ELA media conference on Parliament Hill, June 2012.

Maude Barlow speaks at a ‘Save ELA’ media conference on Parliament Hill, June 2012.

The Globe and Mail reports, “The Coalition to Save ELA, which includes some of Canada’s top environmental scientists, said Friday it has been informed that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is on the verge of transferring the 44-year-old (Experimental Lakes Area) facility near Kenora, Ont., to a private-sector operator. …Handing over the ELA to a private corporation or organization is an unacceptable option, (Diane Orihel, the director of the Coalition to Save ELA) said (because) unless the facility remains funded by the government and staffed by public-service scientists, its research priorities will cease to reflect public policy priorities or serve the public interest. …The group wants (Environment Canada) to take over responsibility for the facility.”

Acting Fisheries Minister Gail Shea denied any deal is imminent.

The article adds, “The ELA, consisting of 58 small lakes and their drainage areas, has helped scientists address critical water problems like acid rain and excessive algae growth, and learn more about issues such as climate change and mercury in fish. But the DFO says it no longer falls within its mandate.”

“The government says it is willing to transfer ownership of the 3,700-square-metre facility – which includes 19 buildings, some of which have recently been upgraded – for $1. …The transfer of the research facility to another operator is expected to save the federal government about $2-million annually. …If a buyer is not found by March, the ELA will be closed. …Closing the facility entirely could cost tens of millions of dollars because an agreement with the Ontario government requires all the lakes to be remediated to their original pristine condition.”

In mid-October, CBC reported, “Three-quarters of Canadians, including 60 per cent of those who voted Conservative in the last election, oppose the cuts to the Experimental Lakes Area in northern Ontario, according to an Environics poll… ‘(Prime Minister Stephen) Harper is missing the mark, even with his own supporters,’ said Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, the group that commissioned the poll.”

To add your name to the Coalition to Save ELA petition, please go to http://saveela.org/public-petition/.

For Council of Canadians campaign blogs in defence of the ELA, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22experimental+lakes%22.