EXPERIMENTAL Lakes Area supporters did some last-minute protesting over the weekend against the federal government's decision to stop funding the renowned freshwater and fisheries research facility.
On Friday, members of a social justice group, the Council of Canadians, camped out in the ELA and were joined by about 15 supporters from Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout and Red Lake in staging a two-hour protest at the road leading into the facilities near Kenora on Saturday.
"The ELA has had a huge influence on our country, our environment and it's critically important for the future of freshwater lakes in Canada to keep it open and public," said Mark Calzavara, an organizer with the Council of Canadians.
Last May, the federal government announced plans to pull $2 million in annual funding from the 44-year-old unique aquatic research area, which employs 17 scientists and others working on the ELA program.
The ELA is a network of 58 lakes in northwestern Ontario used for the last four decades as an outdoor laboratory for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The program and its scientists are based in Winnipeg.
The lakes allow research on acid rain, mercury, phosphates and other pollution.
The government is said to be negotiating with the International Institute for Sustainable Development to take over the operations.
What happens this morning is anybody's guess as the ELA's funding officially ran out at midnight Sunday. Its scientists, in theory, won't have access to the building.
Calzavara said he has asked his group's 25,000 members in Ontario to send letters to the premiers of both Manitoba and Ontario.
"The most important thing is to keep it open and keep that science relevant. We have 44 years of continuous data on our lakes and the changes they're going through over time due to climate change and changes in the weather," he said.
Calzavara urged both Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to find the necessary money in their provincial budgets.
"It's such a small amount of money. It would make sense for Ontario and Manitoba to keep it going for a few years until a federal government is in place that would fund it," he said.
The official Opposition failed in its attempts two weeks ago to convince the Harper government to extend funding for the ELA until a new operator can be found. The motion was defeated 157 votes to 137.