Forty-four years ago, the federal government established the Experimental Lakes Area. Peter Kent has announced that his ministry is eliminating the agency. Michael Harris reports that the ELA has a stellar reputation. Consider what it has done:
When DFO itself was amongst the host of visionaries who couldn’t see acid rain, and politicians like Ronald Reagan were publicly questioning the scientific basis for the need to take action, it was the ELA under [David] Schindler that worked to provide the irrefutable evidence that lakes were dying. The work went on from 1976 to 2004. As a result of the findings of Canadian scientists, the EPA in the U.S. took action and new international treaties were established.
The “Metallicus” experiment established a link between atmospheric mercury deposits and mercury in fish. That is a vitally important connection to understand given that 80 percent of the lakes listed in the Guide to Eating Ontario Sport Fish are currently under mercury consumption advisories. ELA research on this deadly neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor has been used by the EPA to design new regulations to control the atmospheric emissions of mercury from coal-fired plants.
Harris details the agency's record. But Minister Kent says that its work can be taken up by someone else -- perhaps a university. What is more pertinent is that the ELA has established thresholds for monitoring oil sands development. Harris writes that:
the ELA established the biological and chemical thresholds where acidification becomes problematic. The fact that we can now conduct responsible monitoring in the oil sands is a direct result of invaluable research done long ago in northwestern Ontario. The lion’s share of what governments have to do now is bring in responsible monitoring at the oil sands based on ELA research, not reinvent the wheel.
And, as for the cost savings which will be generated by closing the ELA, Harris notes that:
It is false to use cost savings as the rationale for the cut. Most of the research cost of the ELA are not paid for by government.
The costs of the installation, divided between EC and DFO according to a 2007 Memorandum of Understanding, are embarrassingly modest – $2 million annually, including approximately $650K for operating costs and the balance in salaries.
And here is a truly shameful number. How much do you think each of the four ELA/DFO scientists receives annually to cover their research expenses? Two thousand bucks. Bottom line. Canadians pay ten times more for the PM’s security detail than they do for this world class science facility. They paid ten times more for the celebration of the War of 1812. For the price of a single F-35, ELA’s operational budget could be financed for the next 150 years.
No, the ELA provides evidence that the Harper government's single minded focus on the oil sands is sheer folly. And anyone or anything which provides evidence contrary to Harper government policy must be eliminated.
This entry is cross posted at Eradicating Ecocide.