41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION – November 1, 2012

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, I have a number of petitioners here from St. Catharines and areas beyond. They call upon the government to reverse its decision on the Experimental Lakes initiative, which has been providing basic research and science since 1968 into the valuable resource that all Canadians cherish so greatly. The petitioners note that the government has made a decision to cut back on science and our understanding of our lakes and rivers, all the while gutting environmental legislation. They call upon the government to re-fund basic science.”

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Ms. Nycole Turmel (Hull—Aylmer, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, I also wish to present a petition on behalf of citizens of Ontario. The petitioners are calling on the government to reverse its decision to close down this research and education centre that benefits people across Canada.”

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Mr. Jack Harris (St. John’s East, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, the petitioners in the second petition are mostly from Ontario and are concerned about the work of the leading freshwater research station at the Experimental Lakes Area. They want the government to change its decision and recognize the importance of this station to the Government of Canada’s mandate to study, preserve and protect aquatic ecosystems. This was a leader in basic science research not only for Canada but also around the world on freshwater aquatics and science, and it should be restored.”

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Ms. Rosane Doré Lefebvre (Alfred-Pellan, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today to save the Experimental Lakes Area. The petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to recognize the importance of the ELA to the Government of Canada’s mandate to study, preserve and protect aquatic ecosystems, and to reverse the decision to close the ELA research station and continue to staff and provide financial resources to the ELA at the current or a higher level of commitment.”

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Mr. François Pilon (Laval—Les Îles, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to present a petition on behalf of citizens of Ontario who are calling on the government to reverse its decision to put an end to the experimental lakes program, because it is an invaluable resource for research in Canada.”

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Ms. Peggy Nash (Parkdale—High Park, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Parkdale—High Park and many petitioners from Ontario, I am happy to present a petition concerning the Experimental Lakes Area. Since 1968, the ELA has been a global leader in conducting whole ecosystem experiments, which have been critically important and unique in the world. As part of its gutting of environmental legislation in its budget implementation act, the government has cancelled the funding for the ELA.

The petitioners are asking for this decision to be reversed, for the ELA to be fully funded and its financial resources to continue so that we can continue this cutting-edge research.”

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Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, as you will note, there are a lot of petitions being tabled today on the Experimental Lakes Area and I, too, am tabling a petition on it.

It is important to recognize that since 1968 the Experimental Lakes Area has played an integral role in ecosystem experiments that have been critical in shaping our environment and our effort to understand the impact that humans have on our lakes and fishes.

The petitioners are calling on the government to recognize the importance of the Experimental Lakes Area and reverse its decision to close the Experimental Lakes research station and continue to staff it and provide it with financial resources.

We must take this into account when we consider the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.”

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Mr. Andrew Cash (Davenport, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by residents from right across southern Ontario, from small towns and rural communities, who are very concerned about the government’s decision to cut the Experimental Lakes research station.

The petitioners are calling on the government to reconsider this vitally important institution and its work in preserving the integrity of our freshwater system.”

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Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.):

“Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question, but perhaps I will just get a couple of facts on the record first.

I am glad to see that the government is bringing this bill forward. After all, it was four front-line cabinet ministers in the government who were named by Mr. Justice Dennis O’Connor as being responsible for the Walkerton crisis, which killed many Ontarians and poisoned thousands of others.

The second thing I would like to remind the House about is that right now, for example, we are seeing the Experimental Lakes Area of Canada being completely killed in terms of funding. It is a global masterpiece of research for water and freshwater in the country. Moreover, the Environment Canada water research unit has been completely eliminated by the government. There is no water research capacity left. NRC’s water research division has been slashed. The list goes on. The sustainable development technology Canada fund has been exhausted. There is no new money coming forward for water technologies.

How does my colleague react to that, particularly given the importance of not only Canada’s first nations’ drinking water crisis, but also the fact that one of the fastest growing environmental technology marketplaces in the world is to actually deal with water and waste water?”

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Mr. Philip Toone (Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for being present this evening.

The government is cutting budgets for science and research. Over the past year, there have been budget cuts to an unbelievable number of programs and organizations conducting research in a wide variety of fields.

The Experimental Lakes Area program has been eliminated. This internationally recognized program with huge spinoffs for Canada will cost more to close and move than the $2 million that the government hopes to save. Can the Minister explain the logic behind this decision?

At Fisheries and Oceans Canada, there have been a number of budget cuts and layoffs in fields relating to research and science. For instance, the ocean pollution monitoring program has been eliminated, along with its 75 scientist positions.

The Conservatives are eliminating scientist positions at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute. The positions that have been eliminated are all related to the program that studies the effect of contaminants on water and aquatic life. How can the Minister cut programs that have the potential to protect our fisheries and our water?

The Conservatives have closed the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council. The FRCC was science-based and assessed the total allowable catches every year. Its objective was to protect the viability of fish stocks. The council protected our fisheries over the long term.

These kinds of budget cuts have dramatic consequences. In the 1990s, nearly 50% of jobs in the fishing economy were lost because the stocks of groundfish, such as cod and redfish, collapsed. This is one example that clearly shows the role that science can and must play.

How can Fisheries and Oceans Canada protect our fisheries over the long term without access to the necessary information? It seems that the only information the Conservatives find acceptable is information that comes from the Prime Minister‘s Office. If science contradicts what they want to do, they cut budgets.

This is not how a country is supposed to be governed. Information is not supposed to be hidden. Information is supposed to be distributed. The Conservatives must not forget that they are there to serve Canadians, not to control them by preventing science from providing them with information. The Conservatives would know this if they were in the habit of consulting the people before making hasty decisions. It is essential to consult the people on issues that affect them directly.

In Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands, we are well aware of this. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board lacks the resources to consult the people of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The government has decided to withdraw from oil exploration in the Gulf. However, if a catastrophe were to occur, the fishing economy in the Gulf would suffer enormously. If the Conservatives consulted with the scientists, they would know that this is a significant risk. This is a perfect example of information that has not been effectively distributed. How can the government make decisions if it does not have all the information?

Why do the Conservatives not do everything they can to make enlightened decisions? Canadians want to know the facts. The Conservatives do not want to know the facts and seem to prefer working in the dark.”

Mr. Greg Rickford (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC):

“Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question and the work being done by the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the House on the important issue of science at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is implementing measures that will contribute to the elimination of the deficit and support economic prosperity. Science remains essential to the department. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to build scientific knowledge about the aquatic environment and fisheries resources to support long-term sustainability and conservation objectives in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.

In this context, DFO is establishing an advisory group to obtain scientific information on the biological effects of contaminants. In addition to this advisory group, the department will continue to maintain the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research, which is a world renowned centre of expertise located at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. COOGER, as it is known, will continue to provide scientific knowledge to ensure the safe and environmentally sound management of oil and gas, while the newly established advisory group will provide priority advice on biological effects of oil and gas. Together, COOGER and the environmental advisory group will ensure that the department has the necessary scientific information related to contaminants, including oil and gas.

Science will continue to be the backbone of departmental decisions.

The advisory group will be reaching out to other researchers within the academic community and private industry. The department has had great success in collaborating with academia and industry over the years. For example, the department has established a variety of university networks under the auspices of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to create synergies and fund aquatic science in Canada. These networks include: HydroNet, which focuses on the impacts of hydroelectric facilities on aquatic ecosystems; the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network, which conducts research on marine biodiversity; and the Capture Fisheries Research Network, which examines ecosystem health in relation to fishing.

Results of these academic departmental research collaborations become part of the scientific information that the department uses to develop policies and make decisions about our aquatic environment and fishery resources. Rest assured, the department’s own scientists will continue to conduct research in support of the sustainability of Canadian fisheries. In addition to research, the science sector will conduct other functions, including providing scientific advice, conducting monitoring, providing essential products and services, and managing scientific data and information about our aquatic ecosystems.

The key words are “science” and “scientific”. The science sector undertakes these important science functions to support the department’s three strategic outcomes: economic prosperity for maritime sectors and fisheries, sustainable aquatic ecosystems, and safe and secure waters. The science program within Fisheries and Oceans Canada is diverse. It is at the cutting edge of scientific investigation with research institutes and laboratories across Canada.

In conclusion, the department continues to invest in its science programs. Recent investments have been made in fisheries science, species at risk science, aquatic invasive species and climate change. As needs for new scientific knowledge emerge, the department will address them, guided by science.”

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