41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION – October 25, 2012

Mr. Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay—Superior North, Ind.):

“Mr. Speaker, I have yet again today the pleasure of presenting more petitions from the residents of Thunder Bay and Dryden on the topic of the Experimental Lakes Area.

In the 2012 budget the government made the ill-advised decision to close the ELA, one of the world’s leading freshwater research stations, depriving Canadians of the groundbreaking scientific advancements that it provided. These petitioners call on parliamentarians to reverse the decision to close the ELA, as well as to continue to provide staff and financial support for that significant Canadian institution.”

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Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP):

“…I will now move to the choices the Conservatives have made in this budget. They have spent tens of millions on propaganda advertising while telling Canadians the cupboard is bare for money for EI or OAS.

They are eliminating the Hazardous Material Information Review Commission that helps protect workers from hazardous materials in the workplace. That is not something the Conservatives talked about in the budget. It will have an effect on the lives of workers and we will fight it every step of the way.

They are dissolving the Canada-EI financing board, leaving the employment insurance account $9 billion in deficit. Do members remember that phantom agency?

They are scrapping the Experimental Lakes Area, which is the only place on the planet Earth where whole lake ecosystems can be studied.

They are cutting $47 million to food safety, over $100 million to air safety and making cuts to marine search and rescue centres. We are talking about services that literally save lives and the Conservatives are making cuts to them.

It is enough. The government is mismanaging the economy. We cannot support its choices or priorities for so few Canadians. We will work hard to oppose its vision and propose—”

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Mr. Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay—Superior North, Ind.):

“Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to follow up on a question I asked earlier this year regarding the value of the Experimental Lakes Area in Kenora and the government’s reckless decision to axe it.

Some of the best and brightest environmental scientists in the world have been doing one of a kind research in these 58 lakes in Northern Ontario for decades. The ELA is the only site in the world where research is conducted over many years on entire freshwater ecosystems. However, in one of the worst examples of penny-wise but pound-foolish mismanagement, after over 40 years of groundbreaking scientific research, the government is eliminating the program to save $2 million a year, or that is what it says. This is way less than the government spends on chauffeurs, limos and orange juice for its ministers.

The ELA is a huge point of pride for Canada, one which places us at the forefront of global freshwater research. The federal government once shared Canadians’ appreciation of the ELA, contributing $3 million just in capital investment dollars to the program alone in the last 10 years. Indeed, after announcing an investment of nearly $800,000 in 2010, the Conservative member for Kenora proudly praised the program for “…helping to establish Canada as a leader in knowledge creation, and attracting the jobs and growth that go with it”.

Research done at the ELA is used by governments worldwide and has had a profound and immeasurable impact on the quality of life of countless Canadians. It has directly informed policy changes around the world, including air pollution regulations to reduce acid rain in Canada and the U.S. and bans on harmful chemicals in our laundry and dish detergents around the world.

The true value of the ELA lies in the key role it plays in protecting the quality of life of Canadians, our environment and our fisheries. What really makes this decision senseless is the meagre savings that result from closing the ELA. According to internationally celebrated scientist, Dr. David Schindler:

“Few scientific projects of any sort have had the global impact of ELA, and certainly none can match it on the basis of scientific return per dollar spent.”

However, we all know that this reckless decision was not really about saving money at all. The ELA has been considered a model government program since its inception. The Auditor General has repeatedly given the program outstanding reviews regarding its financial management. The government subsidizes only a portion of its $2 million in operating costs and even then it is shared between departments. I ask if saving this small amount sounds like a reasonable sum in return for jeopardizing the health of Canadians and the health of our lakes and fisheries, especially when this investment leverages many millions more in vital research funding.

The government’s argument that it can simply shift this research elsewhere is completely false. Numerous scientists have said the ELA is the only place in the world where this research can be conducted properly. Cash strapped universities do not have the budgets to take over the facility. I note that months after its announcement to close the ELA the government still has not found anyone to take it over.

This decision has been roundly criticized by experts around the world. Ordinary Canadians have also spoken out to voice their disapproval. So far, over 25,000 have signed a petition demanding the government reverse its decision.

Over 2,000 scientists marched here on the Hill this past summer to mourn the death of evidence in the Conservative government’s policy and dozens of towns in Northern Ontario, including Kenora and Dryden, have passed resolutions to keep the facility open. Polls show a majority of Canadians oppose closing the ELA. I ask—”

Mr. Randy Kamp (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC):

“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to respond to my hon. colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North on the important issue of the Experimental Lakes Area.

Through the deficit reduction action plan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, like every department, conducted a full review of its operations and is implementing measures to reduce the cost of operations and program delivery in order to eliminate the deficit and contribute to current and future prosperity.

As a result of this review, Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognized that it does not require whole lake or ecosystem manipulation, such as was being done at the Experimental Lakes Area facility.

However, we do acknowledge the unique opportunity that the facility represents for other researchers and we would welcome the opportunity to transfer the Experimental Lakes Area facility to another organization that can continue to manage the facility and ensure that it is available to other researchers.

The department is working actively to find another operator. Departmental officials are in discussions with various parties that may have an interest in the continued operation of the Experimental Lakes Area facility. A successful conclusion to those discussions will be reached as quickly as possible.

While the ELA will be ending as a federal facility, the department will continue to conduct freshwater research in various locations across Canada. Departmental scientists and biologists will continue to conduct relevant research that is essential to guide fisheries protection polices and regulatory decision-making.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has an active freshwater science program in many priority areas, including aquatic invasive species, species at risk and freshwater fish habitat. This past summer, departmental scientists and biologists were in the field conducting research on freshwater ecosystems in various locations across Canada where science advice is needed to guide sustainable development and enhance economic prosperity.

The department will continue to invest in priority scientific research, including environmental science. The department has recently launched a fund for research on aquatic ecosystems. The strategic program for ecosystem-based research and advice began funding aquatic research projects across the country this summer.

Furthermore, the department continues to collaborate with numerous other partners in freshwater science, including provincial governments, universities, non-government organizations and industry partners.

University networks, under the auspices of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, have been established to create synergies and fund aquatic science in Canada. These networks include: HydroNet, which focuses on ecosystem impacts of hydroelectric facilities; the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network focusing on marine biodiversity research; and the capture fisheries network program focusing on ecosystem health and productivity research in relation to fishing.

Results of these research collaborations are part of the scientific information that the department uses to develop policies and make decisions about our aquatic environment and fisheries resources.

We will continue to build scientific knowledge about our aquatic environment and fisheries resources to support long-term sustainability and conservation objectives in the most effective and cost efficient manner.”

Mr. Bruce Hyer:

“Mr. Speaker, while I thank the member for his response, I am sure he knows that the whole ecosystem research done at the 58 experimental lakes simply cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Experts have explained this many times but the Conservatives would rather continue to ignore the evidence. This facility has attracted brilliant researchers to Canada and its closure will only send another signal that science is not welcome in Canada anymore.

The government has had programs to revitalize fish stocks and clean up the environment but these will not help much if it insists on eliminating the research that will actually prevent problems in the first place.

Will the government please do the right thing and just keep the Experimental Lakes Area open and perhaps give its member for Kenora a hope for keeping his seat in the next election?”

Mr. Randy Kamp:

Mr. Speaker, let me say again that we do recognize the quality scientific research that has been conducted at the Experimental Lakes facility. That is why we look forward to transferring the facility to another operator who will ensure that this type of foundational research continues.

Just as ecosystems and the priorities of Canadians evolve, so do our investments in science. Be assured, Fisheries and Oceans Canada remains a science-based department and the Government of Canada will continue to invest in science.

Scientists and biologists at Fisheries and Oceans Canada continue to conduct research on freshwater ecosystems in support of the department’s mandate. The department will continue to use this important scientific knowledge to inform decisions and to support long-term sustainability and conservation objectives.”

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Mr. Dan Harris (Scarborough Southwest, NDP):

“Mr. Speaker, I stood in the House last May to question the Conservatives’ reckless cuts to major science-based programs and projects.

These ideological cuts undermine the talent and innovation of our Canadian researchers and scientists. Because of the government’s war on science, we have lost good-paying jobs in many fields, including the Canadian space industry.

We are losing a world-renowned research facility in the Experimental Lakes Area, and the government has signalled to the scientific community that its work is not only unappreciated but that it is also undermining the Conservative agenda.

Since coming to power, scientists are often barred from speaking to the media or to the general public without obtaining consent from the Prime Minister‘s Office. Even then, they can only go with a chaperone.

There is one particular case of the government’s mismanagement I would like to highlight this evening. It is an example of government incompetence that is putting an entire industry at risk and has already cost hundreds of people jobs in the space industry. I want to make it clear that these are high-paying, high-skilled jobs that have been lost. Here I am talking about the RADARSAT Constellation mission, which would see a Canadian-made, designed and manufactured earth observatory satellite sent into space.

After funding phases A, B and C, the government has been wavering for months on the funding of phase D, the final phase that would see the satellites actually built and deployed.

The RADARSAT Constellation mission is the crown jewel of Canada’s satellite program, a boon to our science and technology sector that puts us on the global map. RADARSAT has a diverse multi-mission. It will monitor icebergs on the east coast, as well as flow and ridging, potential spills and pipelines on the west coast, flooding and forest fires in central Canada, and it will help to maintain Arctic sovereignty by monitoring the Northwest Passage.

Further delays in funding would put Canadians’ safety at risk and jobs on the line. Earlier this month, COM DEV, a Canadian company that is a subcontractor to the RADARSAT program, announced the loss of 31 specialized workers. This on the heels of major job losses at MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates earlier this year.

All of this uncertainty is caused by the government. It is saying that it is committed and has been saying this for months, but it refuses to sign the contract or to provide the timelines necessary to complete the RADARSAT Constellation mission.

COM DEV CEO Mike Pley has said that while Canada has a world-class space program, it is at risk of slipping, and with funding running out, many more job losses are expected.

Rob Young, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity who follows COM DEV, said that Ottawa is hurting major suppliers such as COM DEV and MacDonald Dettwiler by not laying out a long-term spending plan for the space agency. This is something that the government has promised for four years. Not surprisingly, it is a promise made but not kept.

I hope that the government will end its war on science and reason, and that scientists will be able to conduct their research without fear of government persecution. I have been to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates and have seen some of the fantastic work they are doing in robotics, satellite design and other projects.

Since the first budget came out in March, we have been waiting and waiting to see the contract signed. Why has the government not done so?”

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