Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Last-ditch attempt to sustain ELA fails

Scientific research on lakes set to close March 31

  • Print

OTTAWA -- The official Opposition pushed the Tories Wednesday to extend funding for the Experimental Lakes Area at least until a new operator can be found -- and failed.

NDP critic Kennedy Stewart said the federal government must allow scientists to openly discuss their findings with colleagues and the public and should maintain support for basic science, including the Kenora-area ELA, until it can find someone to take over the program.

"The whole point of this is to try and get a small amount of money to save a living laboratory," said Stewart.

The motion was defeated 157 votes to 137, with Conservatives voting against it.

The Experimental Lakes Area 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.

Scientists from around the globe have lauded it as an irreplaceable facility that has led to public policy to help protect freshwater bodies.

But as of March 31, Ottawa no longer plans to fund it, yanking its $2 million in annual funding and saying it no longer works with the government's core mandate.

Stewart said Ottawa could keep the ELA open for research for a fraction of the $2 million if it really wants to. He said the government won't because it doesn't like science it can't control or might get in the way of its resource expansion.

Stewart said Wednesday pulling funding from the ELA is another sign of the government's dislike of science. He points to a Statistics Canada report that shows Canada's spending on science and technology is down six per cent overall, and now accounts for about 1.8 per cent of GDP, down from two per cent a decade ago.

"It doesn't sound like a lot, but 0.2 per cent of GDP is a lot of money," said Stewart. "It's not just ELA closing, it's labs right across Canada."

Science and Technology Minister Gary Goodyear accused Stewart of "twisting" the facts to suit his own purpose. Though he didn't directly dispute the Statistics Canada figures quoted by Stewart, he said they don't take into account the fact a $2-billion infrastructure fund for capital improvements at universities was a one-time-only fund that has since ended. Goodyear said the Tories are spending more on science and technology than any previous government.

It is not clear what will happen to the ELA or the scientists who work there. The government is said to be negotiating with the International Institute for Sustainable Development to take over the operations.

It appears no research will be done on the lakes this summer, meaning current experiments will either be postponed or cancelled and scientists from other programs won't have access to the facilities. The 17 scientists and other workers employed by the DFO under the ELA program have yet to be told what will happen to their jobs.

Canada's agreement with Ontario, which owns the lakes, to run the ELA expires in September. The agreement requires Canada to return the lakes to their original state if they end the program, a cost estimated to be between $20 million and $50 million.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2013 A5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Stephen Harper announces increased support for Canadian child protection agencies

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • The sun peers through the fog to illuminate a tree covered in hoar frost near Headingley, Manitoba Thursday- Standup photo- February 02, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of the government's announcement that there will be no balanced provincial budget until 2018?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google