1st Session, 41st Parliament – September 26, 2012

Hon. Maria Chaput:

“Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

The federal government announced last May that it will be ending operating funding for the Experimental Lakes Area research facility, ELA. By doing so, the government will be abandoning years of investment in research which helped ban phosphates and combat acid rain and which could help us further understand the effects of human activity on fresh water ecosystems. The council of the Rural Municipality of Taché in Lorette, Manitoba is one of the participants, and it strongly supports the research being conducted by that facility.

Consider, honourable senators, that it costs just $2 million a year to operate, and I say “just” $2 million to operate because $2 million nowadays is easily spent if one thinks about the amount spent on the pavilion and the lake during the G20 summit. Therefore, considering it costs just $2 million a year to operate, could the federal government reconsider its decision to end the operating funding?”

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):

“I believe the honourable senator asked me a similar question before we took the summer break, and I must report to her that my answer to her then remains the same now. We have made a decision. The Experimental Lakes Area will be ending as a federal facility. Our government has boosted investments in science in a way that will get results and there is all kinds of evidence of that. Therefore, the answer that I give today remains exactly the same as the one I gave previously.”

Senator Chaput:

“Honourable senators, I understand that the Minister of the Environment acknowledged last week that the research done at ELA is invaluable, yet the government is still going ahead with this cut with the hope that other organizations will take over the management of the program.

Although the ELA can be maintained as a federal facility at a low cost, it would be difficult for universities or other academic institutions to take over the program. Why is the government willing to deprive Canadians of this important research and expertise?”

Senator LeBreton:

“Honourable senators, I think I answered that in my first answer. We are not sacrificing expertise. We have actually increased the money in our contributions to science.”

An Hon. Senator: “Oh, oh!”

Senator LeBreton:

Honourable senators can laugh, but the record shows it and, if one would like me to go through the long list again, I would be happy to do so.

The fact is, on the Experimental Lakes Area specifically, the decision of the government is the decision. We have invested significant sums in science, and these investments will of course get good results, and Canadians will not be deprived of the scientific information that we require.”