OTTAWA – The Coalition to Save ELA says the government is on the verge of transferring the unique freshwater research program to a private buyer.
Diane Orihel, head of the coalition, said today she has heard of the impending sale from people close to the task force established to determine what to do with ELA and that it is likely to take place in the next few days.
Fifteen scientists and researchers from across Canada wrote to Environment Minister Peter Kent Friday asking him to stop the sale.
"Mr. Kent, we are appealing to you – as Minister of the Environment – to intervene and ensure that ELA remains a public science program under the purview of the Government of Canada," the letter read.
ELA was established more than 40 years ago as the only whole-water-body research program in the world. It encompasses 58 lakes in northwestern Ontario on which scientists can conduct research about how entire aquatic systems respond to certain changes including pollutants, hydro dams and other construction.
Research at the program, which is run through the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg, has helped understand and address problems such as mercury, acid rain and algae blooms. Scientists from around the world have asked Canada to reverse a decision to stop funding the program next April.
The cuts were announced last May as part of Ottawa’s $5-billion spending cuts to balance the budget. The ELA budget is $2 million a year and includes salaries for 17 scientists, biologists and other researchers.
Orihel said the research at ELA is "in perfect alignment" with the priorities of Kent’s department. It is currently under the purview of the department of fisheries, but Orihel said that department keeps saying ELA is no longer part of its mandate.
If that’s true, she argues, then it should be transferred to Environment Canada.