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A critical program

In his Aug. 8 column, Attacks on Tories simply science fiction, Dan Lett is correct in his view that the Experimental Lakes Area came under fire from bureaucrats in the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans in the mid-'90s when the Liberal government under prime minister Jean Chrétien and finance minister Paul Martin was faced with budget cuts.

Manitoba MPs, however, including Lloyd Axworthy and me, fought like tigers to save the funding for the ELA and we succeeded. The ELA continued to receive funding and to produce valuable scientific research, which is a major contribution to our present knowledge of freshwater ecosystems.

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It should be noted that during the Liberal government's science and technology consultations of 1994-95, an important point emphasized was the federal government's need to be funding long-term programs that serve the national need.

The ELA is one such critical program and it should continue to receive federal funding to ensure it continues as a pivotal effort in research in one of the most critical issues for Canada and for the globe -- the availability and quality of fresh water.


Manitoba Liberal Leader



Re: PM delivers lake cleanup cash (Aug. 3). Is Stephen Harper naive enough to think that once Lake Winnipeg's algae blooms are licked with dedicated short-term funds, there will be no other threats to Canada's freshwater lakes? The research required is on a continuum -- from theoretical laboratory bench work, to controlled experimentation such as what the Experimental Lakes Area offers to applied pilot projects.

Announcing $18 million for Lake Winnipeg cleanup is all well and good. But these are temporary dollars, granted or cancelled at the whim of the ruling party, and not a sustained commitment to an institution and its scientists dedicated to protecting our fresh water for the long term.

Lake Winnipeg is just too big with too many factors impacting it to serve as an experimental lake. One is not a substitute for the other.




It should be an obvious truth that scientific understanding of how the world works and how we humans impact the environment is incomplete. The sad condition of Lake Winnipeg is a case in point.

James Bezan's comment that "research is best served by working on exactly where the problem lies" would seem to presume that we now know all. This is this sort of arrogance that has created the problems we now face.

The problem lies where it has always lain, at the feet of our incomplete understanding of cause and effect. This point should underscore the necessity of maintaining the Experimental Lakes Area, but sadly our Conservative government seems to think it knows all.




Investing in trains

Re: Why airports are soaring successes (Aug. 4). I was surprised by Mark Milke's argument to end subsidized passenger rail transport in Canada. His approach is basically: More people drive or fly now than take the train, so why invest in trains?

It is precisely this kind of attitude that has gotten us into the environmental mess we are in today. Passenger train travel is worth investing in and promoting because it is, without a doubt, the most environmentally responsible means of travel short of walking or cycling.

A train carrying 400 passengers between Calgary and Edmonton can take as many as 400 cars off Alberta's Highway No. 2. The environmental benefits of this, especially if the train is powered by the electricity grid and not by diesel locomotives, are manifold.

Airports may have been "the new train stations" in the late 20th century, but I have just returned from riding the high-speed trains in China and this is evidently no longer the case. In China, as in just about every industrialized nation outside of North America, train stations are most definitely the lifeblood of the country and the focus of architectural talent.

Trains are the travel choice for the 21st century, everywhere but here, and that is purely due to chronic under-investment: The taxpayer subsidy to VIA Rail last year was just 2.7 per cent of the total taxpayer subsidy to roads and highways.

To think that trains are no longer relevant today based on the Canadian experience reflects a parochialism of the highest order. I pray that our future governments have the insight to look beyond our borders and recognize the environmental and economic value of passenger rail.


Rapido Trains

Concord, Ont.


Unreliable rays

If Dan Cecchini (Letters, Aug. 4) is implying that had India invested more in solar power its recent electricity shortages could have been averted, he's failing to realize that this source is notoriously unreliable to the point that it provides less than one per cent of global energy output.

The real facts are that Coal India, the government body regulating the distribution of this mineral, has blocked imports, leaving domestic producers capable of supplying only 65 per cent of the nation's needs.

Meanwhile, for almost two decades, politicians have been stalling at allowing private-sector mining firms to fill the shortfall. In addition, electrical transmission infrastructure has become increasingly outdated and inadequate. In fact, some estimates claim the system needs as much as $110 billion in upgrades.

So maybe India needs to concern itself less with alternate energy sources and instead look to China for solutions, since that country, with almost exactly the same population, somehow manages to produce five times the electricity.




Defending an atheist

I do not in any way presume to answer on behalf of Diana Goods (Lack of belief, Letters, Aug. 1), but I would challenge Jon Beckham's logic (Questioning atheism Letters, Aug. 7).

I have read a few of Goods' letters in which she expresses her view of religion and the world, and I do not think her views are narrow, as Beckham suggests.




Mañana, mañana

Rainy spring delays expressway (Aug. 7) is just another story about the mañana factor. "Mañana" means "tomorrow" in Spanish. First it was the new stadium not opening this year as scheduled and the official excuse was it was too windy to work on.

Then it was the new Public Safety Building being delayed and the excuse had something to do with engineering. Now it is CentrePort stating it was too rainy this spring. When you listen to these lame excuses, you think they were coming out of a politician's training manual: "Whatever you do, don't tell them the truth."

All the above are government projects, and it's ma±ana, ma±ana, ma±ana. Then comes IKEA, which is building a mammoth store in Winnipeg, and it will be on schedule. Go figure.




Pro-criminal attitude

Re: Nothing was required (Letters, Aug. 9). It's too bad Pierre Trudeau is long gone. I would have loved for him to explain his pro-criminal attitude.

In 1971 Solicitor General Jean-Pierre Goyer announced in the House of Commons that the Trudeau Liberal government had decided to emphasize the rehabilitation of criminals rather than the protection of society.


Verdun, Que.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2012 A15


Updated on Friday, August 10, 2012 at 12:10 PM CDT: adds links

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