“Mr. Speaker, today I wish to present five petitions signed by Canadians from several provinces who are calling on the government to reverse its decision to close down the Experimental Lakes Area, in order to protect aquatic ecosystems.
Need I add that that program has allowed scientists to gather data after monitoring fresh water in Canada and that the research conducted in the Experimental Lakes Area has earned international recognition?”
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present four petitions.
The first petition has to do with safeguarding the Experimental Lakes Area.
People from across Canada have signed this petition calling on the government to recognize the significant impact of the research done there and to continue to fund that research and support scientists.”
“Mr. Speaker, I have petition calling on the government to recognize the importance of the Experimental Lakes Area and the government’s mandate to study, preserve and protect aquatic ecosystems.
The petitioners are also asking the government to continue to staff and provide financial resources to the Experimental Lakes Area at the current or higher level of commitment.”
“Mr. Speaker, I have a petition on behalf of Canadians who are very concerned about Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area.
The petitioners are calling on the government to reverse the decision to close the ELA research station and to continue to staff and provide financial resources to the ELA at current or higher levels of commitment.”
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of a petition with respect to the Experimental Lakes Area as well.
The petitioners indicate that since 1968 the Experimental Lakes Area has been the global leader in conducting whole ecosystem experiments. The petitioners are extremely concerned about these closures. They recognize the importance that this has played in preserving and protecting aquatic ecosystems, and would like the government to reverse its decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area research station. The petitioners also ask that there be continued support for the staff and financial resources at the current or higher level.”
“Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on the member’s closing comments. Along with environmental research, the Environmental Lakes Area research station will now be closed under this administration.
Canadians as a whole recognize the importance of fresh water and research so we can maintain quality fresh water, which will be a wonderful commodity not only today but well into the future. I ultimately argue that the importance of the research station is becoming greater, not diminishing, yet we are seeing the government cut and close the research station.
Would she provide comment on that decision by the government?”
“Mr. Speaker, the closing of the Experimental Lakes Area project is one that has deeply troubled so many Canadians. This unique project brought together some of the finest scientific minds and was doing cutting edge research for such a long period of time. This was addressed in the spring budget implementation act. It is part of a growing trend of the government to silence, or layoff or underfund projects that it does not want to hear from.
We just have to look at the weather system, Hurricane Sandy, that has come up through North America over the last few days to see the importance of climate scientists and the kind of research that was done at the Experimental Lakes Area project. This is the kind of cutting edge work we should be investing in and not silencing.”
“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to revisit a very critical debate in this House, the future of the Experimental Lakes Area. Many of us in the NDP have raised this issue, this blight, and the work that the Conservative government has done to debase and weaken the environmental standards in our country.
The Experimental Lakes Area is an institution that all of us ought to be proud of and, through that, pay homage to the tireless work of scientists and researchers, not just Canadian but from around world. They have contributed key scientific research that has played a critical role in policy and economic development. This work has truly shown that Canada is a country that goes forward with economic development in a way that ensures environmental stability; frankly, until now.
The Conservative government has waged a full-on attack on environmental regulation, on scientific research, period. Frankly, it is an offensive against anyone who dares speak out on the importance of research and scientific evidence.
The Experimental Lakes Area was founded in 1968. It is an area in northwestern Ontario that covers 58 lakes. It requires a mere $900,000 operating budget and involves roughly 15 to 20 core staff. Some 745 peer-reviewed scientific articles have been produced based on ELA research, and those are the peer-reviewed articles that have been key in shaping policy when it comes to government or the work in which the private sector engages.
I would note, as the MP for Churchill, that I appreciate the significant work ELA scientists have done to benefit Lake Winnipeg, the first nation communities and other communities that depend on Lake Winnipeg for their livelihoods, and for all of us Manitobans who benefit from a better environmental policy that has been shaped in part by the work of the ELA.
It is absolutely mind-blowing that the Conservative government has failed to see the value of the ELA and has attacked people who have spoken in favour of it. The government is keen to dismantle a program that has been so critical in the work that has been done.
I want to end by quoting Diane Orihel, director of the Coalition to Save the Experimental Lakes Area, who said “I call upon [the environment minister]…to do the right thing for Canada, for Canadians, and take over the operation of the ELA and its team of freshwater scientists”.
My question for the member across and for his government is this. In order for Environment Canada to be able to truly fulfill its mandate, it requires the work of the ELA. Will Environment Canada take over the operations of the Experimental Lakes Area?
“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the member opposite on the important issue of the Experimental Lakes Area and environmental research.
After conducting a full review of its operations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will be reducing the cost of operations and program delivery. This means that the department will increasingly focus its resources on priority areas that directly support conservation and fisheries management.
As such, the department will no longer conduct experimental research that requires whole lake or whole ecosystem manipulation. We believe universities and non-government research facilities are better suited to carry out the type of research done at the Experimental Lakes Area.
Indeed, the research conducted at the Experimental Lakes Area is of interest to many other organizations. This is why departmental officials are working to transfer the facility to another operator who can continue to perform this type of scientific research.
We are hopeful that another operator can be found. The facility offers a unique opportunity to conduct ecosystem experiments; there is significant interest in this type of research within the broader science community; and the department has been very successful in collaborating with universities and other organizations.
While Fisheries and Oceans Canada is winding down its research program at the Experimental Lakes Area, the department will continue to invest in freshwater research in response to departmental needs.
The department’s Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg has an active science program. The science staff are continuing to conduct research on freshwater fisheries and habitat science.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada also operates the Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in Burlington, Ontario. Staff at that laboratory conduct freshwater fisheries research related to fish habitat and sea lamprey, and provide scientific advice to support the department’s mandate.
This summer, department scientists and biologists at these institutes, as well as other locations across Canada, were out in the field and in laboratories undertaking research that will help guide environmental policies and regulatory decision-making.
Departmental scientists are conducting research on aquatic invasive species, one of the leading threats to aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem health. They are conducting research on freshwater species at risk. They are conducting research on fish habitat and the impacts of human activities.
The department will continue to invest in priority scientific research, including environmental science. For example, the department has recently launched an aquatic ecosystems research fund. The strategic program for ecosystem-based research and advice began funding aquatic research projects across the country this summer, including freshwater research.
In addition, the department launched the aquatic climate change adaptation services program. This research program will support departmental science aimed at understanding climate change impacts on Canada’s oceans and inland waters.
Departmental scientists are also continuing to collaborate with academia on priority research, doing science projects in partnerships with universities and supervising graduate students.
The department remains committed to freshwater science in support of its mandate. The department will continue to conduct science on the aquatic environment and fisheries resources that supports long-term sustainability and conservation. We will continue to invest wisely in priority science areas that directly support conservation and fisheries management.”
“Mr. Speaker, with all respect to the member across, it is a difficult message to believe after we have seen the changes the government has made to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
If I could note to the member across and to his government some information they already know, I would like to put it on the record that scientists say that transferring control of the program and its lakes to a university is not ideal. Universities are not in the business of conducting decades-long research, and the liability involved in deliberately contaminating a lake may be too risky and too bureaucratically complicated for a school or non-profit research foundation to take on.
What we are really talking about here is losing the wholesale range of work that ELA was able to do. It would be great if the government would just come out and say that work will no longer be done, because everybody, certainly scientists, are indicating as such.
Finally, I would like to note that the Experimental Lakes Area is doing critical work in studying ecosystems, like those affected in northern Alberta by the tar sands. They would be in a key position to study the impact of chemicals in diluted bitumen and oil sands tailings ponds.
Is the government afraid of the kind of facts that ELA would come up with when it comes to the damage we are seeing in the tar sands and the tailings ponds?”
“Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is fearmongering, of course.
We acknowledge the quality scientific research that can be conducted at the Experimental Lakes facility. However, we believe that other organizations are better suited to conducting this type of foundational research. We look forward to transferring the facility to another operator.
The member should be assured that scientists and biologists at Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to conduct research on freshwater ecosystems in various locations across the country, including at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg. The department will continue to provide funding for priority ecosystem research.
Science research and advice is and will remain one of the key considerations when making decisions that could impact the future of Canadians.“