SUZUKI: Research shutdown part of government’s enviro-gutting

Water is an important part of the environmental cycle

We can’t live without clean water.

Canada is blessed with an abundance of lakes and rivers and has a global responsibility to manage them well. But if we really want to protect freshwater supplies and the ecosystems they support, we must understand how human activity and natural disturbances affect them.

The world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwestern Ontario has served as an outdoor laboratory for this purpose since 1968. By manipulating and studying conditions in 58 small lakes and their watersheds, scientists there have made many discoveries about the effects of human and natural activity on freshwater ecosystems and fish.

Over the past 45 years they’ve taught us about the impacts of acid rain, mercury pollution, nanoparticles, nitrogen overload, climate change, fish farming, and many other issues.

That’s about to end. The federal government announced it will close the unique facility in 2013. It’s an odd decision, especially considering that it costs just $2-million a year to operate – one-tenth the cost of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s security detail and about the same amount the government spent during the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto to build a tourism pavilion with a fake lake. To make matters worse, it will cost taxpayers $50 million to shut the ELA down.

In an open letter to government, senior scientists point out that “research conducted at the ELA has been instrumental in the development of environmental policy and legislation both nationally and internationally.”

They also note that “ELA scientists have been recipients of numerous prestigious national and international awards, and the scientific output from ELA has been impressive – more than 1,000 scientific articles, graduate theses and books.”

We often hear how Canada “manages” its natural resources, but how can we do that without sound knowledge about the intricacies of the water cycle?

The timing is also odd.

The ELA is being shut down as the government eviscerates laws and regulations designed to protect freshwater and marine habitat and resources with its omnibus budget bill.

Included in the bill are changes or cuts to the Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, and Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and a complete gutting and rewriting of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Changes to the Fisheries Act are especially troubling. Habitat protection has been removed, and the focus has shifted to economically viable and aboriginal fisheries only.

That has some former fisheries ministers worried.

In a letter to the prime minister, Conservatives Tom Siddon and John Fraser and Liberals Herb Dhaliwal and David Anderson wrote, “Canadians are entitled to know whether these changes were written, or insisted upon, by the minister of fisheries or by interest groups outside the government. If the latter is true, exactly who are they?”

It’s a valid concern. Postmedia obtained government documents showing that Enbridge, the company behind the dual Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, lobbied the government heavily before the changes were brought in.

Documents also indicate that pressure from Enbridge was partly responsible for the government’s decision to pull out of a joint marine-planning process on the Pacific North Coast between industry, First Nations, citizens’ groups, and conservation organizations.

One can’t help but notice that many recent cuts and changes are aimed at programs, laws, or entities that might slow the push for rapid tar sands expansion and pipelines to the west and south, along with the massive selloff of our resources and resource industry to Chinese state-owned companies, among others. Any research or findings that don’t fit with the government’s fossil fuel-based economic plans appear to be under attack.

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, for example, warned that failing to address climate change would have both economic and environmental consequences. The government also axed that arm’s-length agency, under the guise of saving $5.5 million a year.

Development is important, but when it’s focused on a single polluting industry, at the expense of other economic priorities and the environment, it doesn’t make sense.

When industry and government go to such extreme lengths to promote a short-sighted and narrow interest, it’s an affront to the democratic traditions that Canadians of all political stripes have built over the years.

www.davidsuzuki.org.

Just Posted

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read