Mark Calzavara set up camp with allies next to Lake 468 at the ELA

In December 2012, the Council of Canadians and the Boreal Forest Network wrote to then Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and Manitoba premier Greg Selinger to ask that each provincial government contribute $1 million annually to the Experimental Lakes Area for a minimum of three years until federal funding could be reinstated after the next federal election.

In January 2013, we received a letter from the Government of Manitoba declining our request. But the premier said at that time that he would work to encourage “the Government of Canada to ensure funding for this program.”

Undaunted, in February we repeated our request to the new Ontario premier, Kathleen Wynne, as well as to Selinger.

Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported, “Ontario has found common ground with the federal government and Manitoba to keep a world-famous experimental research area open in the northwestern part of the province, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday.”

The news report adds, “Ottawa announced last year that it was closing the area to save $2 million annually. Provincial officials say that figure represents federal spending on research projects, and the operating costs are $600,000 annually. …The amount of money Ontario will spend to keep the facility open hasn’t been determined, Wynne said. …But the province is working collaboratively with the Conservatives, the Manitoba government and others to keep the area operational this year and to ensure sustained longer-term operations, she said.”

Public pressure made this happen.

As the federal government’s March 31 deadline drew near, the Council of Canadians issued a ’48 Hours to Save the ELA’ action alert. We asked people to ‘Tell Ontario and Manitoba they are our only hope to save the ELA!’ — and they did!

Close to 4,000 e-mails were sent to Premiers Wynne and Selinger with this demand.

At the announcement in Toronto Wynne commented, “We have had many conversations with members of the public and our scientific and academic communities who want to see the Experimental Lakes Area stay open.”

Congratulations to everyone and all groups — with a special shout out to the Thunder Bay chapter of the Council of Canadians — who worked so hard to win this commitment to the ELA.

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Brent Patterson

Brent Patterson is a political activist, writer and the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. He lives in Ottawa on the traditional, unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Algonquin...