Greens congratulate parties on reaching last-minute ELA deal

The Green Party of Canada today congratulated and thanked the key players in saving the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA): the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) as well as provincial and federal agencies.

Since 1968, ELA scientists have conducted vital research into human impacts on freshwater ecosystems. The facility, located near Kenora, Ontario, lost all federal funding in the 2012 omnibus budget, but had been operating under a temporary agreement between the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and the Winnipeg-based IISD.

A new deal was reached shortly after the March 31 expiration of this temporary agreement, enabling the IISD to fully take over the operation of the facility.

“I am glad to see the parties come together to save the crown jewel of Canada’s freshwater research efforts,” said Bruce Hyer, Green MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North and a long-time defender of the ELA. “While it is unfortunate that the federal government is choosing to get out of basic science, it is a real relief to Greens, concerned scientists, and millions of Canadians who depend on crucial ELA research for their health, safety, and livelihoods that this won’t end up killing the work done at the ELA. I’d like to thank Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources, David Orazietti, past Minister Michael Gravelle as well as the IISD and federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea for their work in coming to an agreement.”

ELA research has led to a number of critically important discoveries in the study of water pollutants and wastewater treatment, such as the impacts of acid rain, mercury poisoning, and of phosphates and nitrates from detergents and fertilizers. Findings have resulted in policy changes in many countries around the world, including the United States and the European Union. Current work includes research on the ecological impacts of silver nanoparticles – tiny particles of silver that are found in countless household products such as clothing.

“Canada’s ELA is unique. It is the world’s most innovative water research facility – one whose findings have helped save fish and freshwater habitat around the world, and it is a treasure we cannot afford to lose,” said Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. “The SaveELA Coalition, scientists such as Diane Orihel, David Schindler and Jules Blais, and many civil society groups across Canada who fought the ELA’s closure can claim a real victory today. I also would like to single out the International Institute for Sustainable Development for thanks; without them stepping up to the plate to assume responsibility for this facility we would have lost it.”

The ELA is expected to continue university-funded research under the IISD, although it is unclear whether federal restrictions on DFO scientists participating in research at the facility have been lifted.