To the Prime Minister on Closure of Experimental Lakes

Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet – CUSP

Wednesday, October 4, 2012

Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Mr. Harper,

Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet (CUSP) joins the 37 municipalities of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), and the science community of Canada and the world at large, in asking you to rescind your May 2012 decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) research station near Vermillion Bay in Northwestern Ontario.

Your own minister, Conservative MP for Kenora Greg Rickford heralded the unique contributions of the ELA when announcing investment in a new fish lab three years ago: “Such federal investments in science are helping to create a science capacity that will drive Canada’s prosperity and quality of life in the future.”

Indeed, the ELA is known in both scientific and government policy circles as a world-renowned freshwater and fisheries research facility and the only place on the planet where experiments are performed on whole lakes with minimal external influence. Since 1968, this facility has been a natural outdoor laboratory for studying the physical, chemical and biological processes in actual lake ecosystems.

To facilitate the ELA’s demise by burying it in an omnibus budget bill, without a chance for stakeholders to debate the issue is unacceptable. It is an affront to the entire science community, and a deliberate snub to the efforts of ELA researchers who have provided solid science and guidance with respect to many environmental concerns over 45 years: acid rain, phosphates, methyl mercury, greenhouse gases, synthetic estrogen and lately the impact of fish farms and drought, to name a few.

Their work has saved the government hundreds of millions of dollars over many decades by providing incontrovertible data for the development of informed policy and decision-making, resulting in practices which reduce human impacts on the environment, and help ensure the survival of a sustainable and habitable planet for future generations.

The importance of the ELA to the world’s scientific community, in light of such looming realities as climate change cannot be overstated. For example, Experimental Lakes Area studies led by David Schindler documented real ecological change in response to observed short-term climate change. These and other studies led to Schindler and the ELA being awarded the Stockholm Water Prize, the aquatic science equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

The list of the ELA’s contributions is long. The research conducted by teams from Canada and countries around the world has resulted in economic benefits and both national and international attention to our region. The expansion of mining opportunities in Northwestern Ontario will present new opportunities for region- based research. As such, we believe it is vital that the ELA remain in operation.

We urge you to continue funding the Experimental Lakes Area until equivalent or better funding and support is in place, to ensure that this unique aquatic research facility continues its work for decades to come.

Note: CUSP is a Thunder Bay-based coalition of concerned citizens committed to engaged communities, a healthy environment, social and ecological justice, Indigenous rights, and a participatory democracy.


Scott Harris and Dr. Paul Berger
cc Greg Rickford MP Kenora
Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment
Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
John Rafferty, MP Thunder Bay–Rainy River
Bruce Hyer, MP Thunder Bay-Superior North
Diane Orihel, ELA