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Save ELA presents petition to Tories

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OTTAWA — An advocacy group trying to save the Experimental Lakes Area has collected more than 11,500 signatures of support in just 17 days.

Save ELA was formed after the federal government announced May 17 it was pulling its $2-million annual funding of the unique aquatic research area near Kenora.

The petition began circulating May 23. Today 11,514 signatures will be presented to the government urging it to recognize the importance of ELA and reverse the decision to no longer fund it.

"The ELA is vital," said Save ELA founder Diane Orihel. "It helps to ensure Canadians have safe drinking water, clean lakes and healthy fish."

Dr. Jules Blais, a biologist at the University of Ottawa, said the research done at ELA has resulted in numerous commercial applications and economic drivers, and is the only research in the world which can show how lakes respond to human and natural disturbances.

"It is to environmental science what the Hubble Telescope is to astronomy," said Blais.

All opposition parties were in attendance at a press conference today calling for the government to heed the call to save ELA.

The federal government has said it is looking for an alternative organization to fund the ELA, such as a provincial government or the private sector.

Independent MP Bruce Hyer said the economy benefits from the ELA research but that there is no one sector which will step in to fund it. He said at the very least, it would be better if the government gave ELA more time to try and find alternative sources of funding.

ELA funding is set to expire at the end of this year.

The $2 million provided by Ottawa is used to leverage additional investments by universities and research groups.

There are about 17 scientists and other researchers employed in the ELA arm of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. All of them have been given letters noting their jobs will be eliminated.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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