Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to follow up on a question I asked earlier this year regarding the value of the Experimental Lakes Area in Kenora and the government's reckless decision to axe it.
Some of the best and brightest environmental scientists in the world have been doing one of a kind research in these 58 lakes in Northern Ontario for decades. The ELA is the only site in the world where research is conducted over many years on entire freshwater ecosystems. However, in one of the worst examples of penny-wise but pound-foolish mismanagement, after over 40 years of groundbreaking scientific research, the government is eliminating the program to save $2 million a year, or that is what it says. This is way less than the government spends on chauffeurs, limos and orange juice for its ministers.
The ELA is a huge point of pride for Canada, one which places us at the forefront of global freshwater research. The federal government once shared Canadians' appreciation of the ELA, contributing $3 million just in capital investment dollars to the program alone in the last 10 years. Indeed, after announcing an investment of nearly $800,000 in 2010, the Conservative member for Kenora proudly praised the program for “...helping to establish Canada as a leader in knowledge creation, and attracting the jobs and growth that go with it”.
Research done at the ELA is used by governments worldwide and has had a profound and immeasurable impact on the quality of life of countless Canadians. It has directly informed policy changes around the world, including air pollution regulations to reduce acid rain in Canada and the U.S. and bans on harmful chemicals in our laundry and dish detergents around the world.
The true value of the ELA lies in the key role it plays in protecting the quality of life of Canadians, our environment and our fisheries. What really makes this decision senseless is the meagre savings that result from closing the ELA. According to internationally celebrated scientist, Dr. David Schindler:
Few scientific projects of any sort have had the global impact of ELA, and certainly none can match it on the basis of scientific return per dollar spent.
However, we all know that this reckless decision was not really about saving money at all. The ELA has been considered a model government program since its inception. The Auditor General has repeatedly given the program outstanding reviews regarding its financial management. The government subsidizes only a portion of its $2 million in operating costs and even then it is shared between departments. I ask if saving this small amount sounds like a reasonable sum in return for jeopardizing the health of Canadians and the health of our lakes and fisheries, especially when this investment leverages many millions more in vital research funding.
The government's argument that it can simply shift this research elsewhere is completely false. Numerous scientists have said the ELA is the only place in the world where this research can be conducted properly. Cash strapped universities do not have the budgets to take over the facility. I note that months after its announcement to close the ELA the government still has not found anyone to take it over.
This decision has been roundly criticized by experts around the world. Ordinary Canadians have also spoken out to voice their disapproval. So far, over 25,000 have signed a petition demanding the government reverse its decision.
Over 2,000 scientists marched here on the Hill this past summer to mourn the death of evidence in the Conservative government's policy and dozens of towns in Northern Ontario, including Kenora and Dryden, have passed resolutions to keep the facility open. Polls show a majority of Canadians oppose closing the ELA. I ask—