Council of Canadians celebrates a bittersweet victory for the Experimental Lakes Area

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 17:32

The Council of Canadians is applauding the transfer of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) to the International Institute of Sustainable Development but continues to decry the Harper government’s abdication of its responsibility for fresh water protection.

“The Ontario and Manitoba governments are the real heroes for saving the ELA in a time when the Harper government is clawing back fresh water research and environmental legislation, muzzling our scientists and downloading its responsibilities to provincial governments,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians. “But this victory is bittersweet because the transfer is happening as a result of our federal government abandoning its responsibility to our water sources.”

The ELA is a unique federal research program that studies the long-term impacts of global threats to freshwater lakes. Operating for more than 40 years, the ELA consists of 58 small lakes in Northern Ontario where scientists study the effects of water pollution, climate change and other threats. On May 17, 2012, the Harper government announced they were cancelling the funding to the research program in order to save $2 million annually.

Despite the strong and sustained public opposition to the announcement, the Harper government refused to bend and the ELA was only saved because the Ontario and Manitoba governments stepped in to fund the ELA to enable the critical research to continue. Last month the Ontario Ministry of Environment released regulations to follow through on their commitment to fund the ELA.

“We are so grateful that the critical research at the ELA will continue. Understanding the human impacts on our watersheds will have untold benefits for generations to come,” Emma Lui, Water Campaigner, Council of Canadians. “It is crucial that the research at the ELA remains independent from industry influence and the public must continue to press the federal government to reinstate funding for the Experimental Lakes Area.”

The Council of Canadians worked with the Coalition to Save the ELA and other allies to keep the ELA open. Some of the Council’s work included commissioning a poll that found that 60% of Conservative voters opposed the cuts to the ELA, delivering a $50 million invoice to then Environment Minister Peter Kent for closure of the ELA, and occupying the ELA.

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