Lab Canada

Lifeline to ELA from Ontario government

Toronto, ON – Ontario’s premier Kathleen Wynne has announced that her government is working collaboratively with the federal government, Manitoba’s provincial government and other partners to keep the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) operational in 2013 and ensure sustained longer-term operations.

She says the Ontario government will provide operating support and work toward an agreement with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and other partners so that the important science conducted in the ELA can continue.

The Experimental Lakes Area was established in 1968 and is located near Kenora, ON, in the Lake of the Woods watershed.

Owing to its remote location in Northwestern Ontario, the ELA provides a real-world laboratory in which researchers can isolate the effects of specific pollutants on aquatic ecosystems. Over the past four decades, research conducted at the ELA has provided the scientific evidence-base on the environmental effects of acid rain, phosphorous and other pollutants that has informed policy within Canada and around the world. With new pressures like climate change, and poorly understood emerging environmental contaminants such as chromite, nanoparticles and endocrine disrupters, the logic for a research station like ELA is very strong.

However, on May 17, 2012, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced that the federal government was cutting funding for research and operations in the ELA on March 31, 2013.

“Ongoing research at the Experimental Lakes Area has produced decades’ worth of continuous data. Ensuring this important information continues to be collected will help us identify emerging threats to our environment and understand critical changes in ecological communities over time. I look forward to working with the federal government, the Government of Manitoba and other partners to keep ELA operating,” says Ms Wynne.

President and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Scott Vaughan, issued a statement to say his organization welcomes the commitment to help save the ELA.

“Premier Wynne’s commitment to the ELA is encouraging and we look forward to working with the province and the federal government on a plan that enables IISD to take over the operations of this extraordinary facility,” he says. “What is special about the ELA is that it takes research out of the lab and right into the environment-so the ELA presents a rare opportunity for research, perhaps unique in the world,” he adds.

More information about the ELA is available from the area’s website and the Coalition to Save the ELA, a nonpartisan group of scientists and citizens dedicated to raising awareness and support for the ELA. The coalition has organized numerous events in the past year to raise awareness about and to protest the funding cuts, including petitions, public events and a mock funeral procession from the Ottawa Convention Centre to Parliament Hill last July.