ELA: Opposition ramping up pressure on Harper Government

Yesterday, the fight to save the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) took another step forward as Liberal Fisheries and Oceans Critic, Lawrence MacAulay, submitted a motion to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that calls on the Committee to begin immediate study of the ELA. The motion asks the Committee to examine the contributions of ELA research to public policy, and discuss the repercussions of terminating this essential federal science program and its team of high-calibre freshwater scientists.

Since Fisheries & Oceans Canada informed its ELA science team on May 17, 2012 of plans to shutter the ELA in March 2013, federal opposition parties have repeatedly asked the Conservatives to overturn their decision. Unfortunately, this call for the Harper Government to reconsider this ill-advised decision has fallen on deaf ears.

In the last five months, a total of 18 questions regarding ELA have been raised during Question Period in the House of Commons by NDP MPs Craig Scott, Laurin Liu, Niki Ashton, John Rafferty, Francois Pilon, Kennedy Stewart, Megan Leslie, and Pat Martin; Liberal MPs Ted Hsu, Francis Scarpaleggia, and Kirsty Duncan; and Independent MP Bruce Hyer. The MPs want to know want to know why the government is abandoning so many years of investment in building a unique, world-class research institution. Sadly, these questions have been continually sidestepped by Conservative MPs in the House of Commons.

In addition, a total of six questions regarding the Government’s termination of the ELA have been placed on the House of Common’s Order Paper by NDP MPs Robert Chisholm and Megan Leslie, and Liberal MPs Lawrence MacAulay and Ted Hsu. The MPs want to know what assessment led to the termination of the ELA, and who led such a review. They are also curious of the liability that would rest on the government for transferring the site to a 3rd party, not to mention the economic burden of the remediation that would be necessary to meet the criteria agreed upon in the Canada-Ontario Memorandum of Agreement. The Government has 45 days to respond to these questions.

A petition that calls upon the Government of Canada to recognize the importance of the ELA to the Government’s mandate and to reinstate funding for the ELA program and its staff  has been tabled, to date, a total of 37 times in the House of Commons.  Twenty-one MPs – from ridings across the country and from different political parties (NDP, Liberal, and Green, with the notable exception of Conservative) – have tabled petitions, and many more will in the months to come, as over 24,000 Canadians have signed this petition.

As we draw ever closer to the March 2013 closure date, the opposition parties are really ramping up the pressure on the Harper Government. Today, MP Laurin Lui hosted a NDP Breakfast Meeting with the Coalition to Save ELA at Parliament Hill. On Thursday, an all-party Breakfast Meeting on ELA for MPs and Senators is being hosted by Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia. Thankfully, the opposition parties, along with the Coalition to Save ELA, are working hard to ensure this issue won’t die quietly.

A summary of statements regarding ELA on the public record of Canada’s House of Commons are available on-line at: http://saveela.org/resources/.

For more information, check out these links:

From left to right in photo: Mylène Freeman (MP, NDP), Craig Scott (MP, NDP), Lauren Liu (MP, NDP), Dr. Yves Prairie, (Professor, Université du Québec à Montréal), Diane Orihel (Director, Coalition to Save ELA), Dr. Jules Blais (Professor, University of Ottawa).

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