I spoke at a press conference today regarding who should be the new operator for Experimental Lakes Area (ELA). The Experimental Lakes Area 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 where scientists study the effects of water pollution, climate change and other threats. On May 17, the Harper government announced they were cancelling the funding to the research program in order to save $2 million annually.
Francis Scarpaleggia, MP, Liberal Water Critic opened by highlighting how the Experimental Lakes Area contributes to government policy and to people in Canada. Diane Orihel, Director, Coalition to Save ELA put forward the proposal that the ELA be transferred to Environment Canada and urged Minister Kent to take on this critical responsibility. Rebecca Rooney, Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo made the case for the ELA as a public science program. Bruce Hyer, MP, Independent and Elizabeth May, MP, Green Party Leader
The Council of Canadians commissioned a poll that found that a majority of Canadians oppose the cuts to the ELA. The poll conducted by Environics Research found that 73% of Canadians oppose the cancellation of federal funding for the ELA, with 42% strongly opposed to the funding cuts. The Harper government is on a track that NO longer reflects the values and opinions of people in Canada.
The Harper government is even out of step with their own supporters. The poll showed that a majority of Conservative voters – 60% of them - oppose the cuts to the ELA.
We’re facing a water crisis here in Canada and in First Nations. Water yield in Southern Canada has decreased by nearly 10% since 1971.Water is being polluted at an alarming rate through fracking, industrial spills and other threats. Climate change is having serious impacts on water sources. We saw significant droughts over the summer in parts of Canada and low lake levels in the Great Lakes. With this backdrop, the Harper government is cutting funding to the ELA. We need the research being conducted at the ELA to find solutions to the looming water crisis. And we need to keep the ELA public.
The poll shows that people in Canada are clear about the critical work that the ELA does and the need for long-term scientific studies on freshwater lakes.
If the Harper government cuts funds to the ELA he is not only shutting down a public research centre. They are stifling Canada's leading role in freshwater research. And they are shutting down people's right to information and democratic debate. The budget cuts and legislative changes that the Harper government is foisting upon people in Canada as well as First Nations will reverberate for generations to come. We’re calling upon the Harper government to listen to the public - especially his own supporters - and continue to fund the ELA.