Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

ELA footdragging

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The future of the valuable research at the Experimental Lakes Area remains hanging on federal involvement. Ontario now has pledged to cover current operating expenses of the freshwater-lakes lab east of Kenora. The Harper government needs to step up to indemnify the ELA's liability and decommissioning costs.

Since the ELA was opened in 1968, the federal government has not just funded its staff, who operate the wilderness facility and conduct research, but has insured the site in Ontario against environmental mishap and for the decommissioning of work there, including returning lakes altered in long-running studies back to their original states should the site close. Cleaning up catastrophic environmental damage, should it happen, could buckle provincial resources.

Ottawa holds that duty now and if the ELA does fold, the federal government would have to remediate the lakes where experiments continue. It should continue to carry the obligation, in a tri-governmental agreement with Ontario and Manitoba.

The Selinger government, meanwhile, can offer more than the token transfer of funding it now grants the International Institute for Sustainable Development -- envisioned as the future manager of ELA -- for work under the ELA banner. Operating costs are bound to rise at the globally respected work at the facility. That is where Manitoba can meet Ontario in a real deal.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 6, 2013 A10

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