It took a solid year of outrage from Canadian researchers, the international science community and the public to force the Harper government to finally agree to transfer the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) to a non-profit organization.
“The Harper government was being hammered on this from every conceivable angle before they finally buckled,” said Diane Orihel, PhD student at University of Alberta and founder of the Coalition to Save ELA.
The ELA is 45 year old freshwater research facility in northern Ontario considered unique in the world. It was there that Canadian scientists discovered the dangers of acid rain as well as mercury and phosphorus pollution. Regulations that protect the health of the environment in Canada many countries are based on the work done at the ELA.
Canada's crown jewel of environmental research may yet survive the Harper government. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced yesterday the province would work with Winnipeg's International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to keep the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area open.
The 45 year old freshwater research facility in northern Ontario considered unique in the world was closed March 31st over protests from the scientific community and the public.
“Premier Wynne's announcement is most welcome but this is far, far from over,” said Diane Orihel, PhD student at University of Alberta and the founder of the Coalition to Save ELA.
“It's wonderful that IISD will lead but they don't have the $2 million to keep the ELA open. There will need to be a huge fundraising effort involving provincial governments, university and industry,” Orihel told DeSmog.
The investment will be more than worth it given the history.
The future of Ontario’s Experimental Lakes Area is still up in the air, but the Conservative government has already begun dismantling the cabins that house the scientists who come to study at the world-renowned research facility.
With only two weeks left until the government is set to revoke funding, it’s still unclear whether the facility will be transferred to new management or shut down completely.
But the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ decision to quietly start removing windows and doors from researchers’ quarters, as well as personal possessions, indicates the desire to be rid of the place may be stronger than the push to put it in new hands.
With the ELA set to begin research into the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), one of the primary toxins produced by tar sands development, it’s not hard to imagine why.
The Harper government announced in May of last year, with the release of the federal budget, that it would be withdrawing funding for the unique facility. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) spokesperson Melanie Carkner said that it would no longer conduct research that required the use of whole lakes and ecosystems. In a statement, the DFO added that, “every attempt will be made to transfer the ownership of the facility to universities or provinces.” But with less than two weeks left on the clock, the government has still not found anyone to take over.
This is a post by Michael Harris, originally published on iPolitics.
“Everything has a crack in it; that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen, take a bow.
Another crack has appeared in the Harper government’s surreptitious but merciless war to muzzle Canadian scientists — and just about everyone else.
The light entering through this particular crack shines on a disturbing fact. Canada, the only parliamentary democracy in the Commonwealth where a government has been found in contempt of Parliament, is now the only democracy in the world where a government bureaucrat can suppress scientific research.
“If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver.
And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.
“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”