The Green Party of Canada once again offers its whole-hearted support to the Coalition to Save ELA – made up of top scientists from across the country – in light of rumours that the Harper Conservatives have found a private buyer for this irreplaceable, public, 58-lake scientific area.
“We join the Coalition to Save ELA in urging Environment Minister Kent to take immediate action to stop the Department of Fisheries and Oceans from selling the ELA to a private owner,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. “Like the Coalition, we fear such a transfer from public to private hands might be done while Parliament is recessed, and opposition members won’t be in Ottawa to criticize this destructive move.”
The Environmental Lakes Area is Canada’s only whole-lake, freshwater research region capable of providing the scientific information needed to keep the government and Canadians informed about issues facing our increasingly threatened environment. Transferring such a crucial facility to private, for-profit interests could alter the focus of future research and bring results into question. The ownership and use of the data will also be lost to Canadians.
To quote from the Coalition to Save the ELA: “Unless it remains funded by the government and staffed by public service scientists, the research priorities at ELA will cease to reflect public policy priorities or serve the public interest. Furthermore, the disposal of ELA and the dismantling of its science team will significantly reduce the freshwater science expertise and capacity within the Public Service of Canada.”
Tragically, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans claims that research at the ELA is “no longer aligned with its core mandate.” The Green Party joins with the Coalition to Save ELA in asking Minister Kent and Environment Canada (EC) to take the ELA under its wing where it can help EC fulfill its stated priorities.
These include addressing the implications of economic growth, climate change, and other factors on water resources. The ELA has 40 years’ worth of data on the health of and changes to our lakes. Also, EC scientists have been operating floating sampling stations on ELA lakes to integrate air and water monitoring.
“One of the primary roles of the Experimental Lakes Area has been to investigate and mitigate the impacts of Alberta’s oil-sands development on regional water bodies,” said May. “I certainly hope that the Conservatives aren’t abandoning this internationally respected field station because it might embarrass them and their pro-extraction agenda.
“This would be tragic because scientific research and findings are needed to guide public policy in the interests of all Canadians and remain in the public interest. This effective natural laboratory, needed now more than ever, simply must remain a part of the Government of Canada.”