Bruce Hyer says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is murdering science.
The independent MP on Thursday spoke out against the federal government’s plan to close Northwestern Ontario’s Experimental Lake Area, saving taxpayers $2 million a year.
Hyer said Canadians need to wake up to the Harper agenda.
The ELA, located southeast of Kenora, is a freshwater research station operated under the auspices of the Departments of both Fisheries and Oceans and the Environment. It consists of 58 small lakes and watersheds, and has been open since 1968.
Hyer is worried this is just the beginning.
“It isn’t just the ELA,” Hyer said at city hall, after a noontime news conference put on by the Coalition to Save ELA.
“There have been hundreds and hundreds of scientists laid off by Environment Canada. Stephen Harper doesn’t believe that climate change is human caused and isn’t doing anything to stop it. And his real agenda, besides power and control for himself is to pump oil out of Canada as fast as he can.”
Hyer challenged Kenora MP Greg Rickford to stand up to Harper and fight for the ELA, which resides in his riding.
“I guess I can kind of understand why Mr. Rickford is afraid to buck Mr. Harper, but he should do it anyway. It’s the right thing to do. He should be standing up for his constituents. People in Kenora riding and Northwestern Ontario want the ELA to be refunded.”
None more so than Diane Orihel, who called Thursday’s news conference and spoke passionately about the work that’s been conducted there.
Backed by Environment North and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, Orihel said a number of communities in the region, including Thunder Bay, have passed resolutions calling on Ottawa to reinstate the ELA program.
“There’s no other place like it in the world,” said Orihel, a visiting scientist at the Freshwater Institute. “It’s the only place in the world where scientists can conduct experiments on whole ecosystems. This is the most powerful tool scientists have for understanding the impacts of human (interaction) and industrial development on our fresh water and fish populations.”
She pointed to experiments being conducted on chemicals found in household detergents as just one reason why people in Thunder Bay should care about an outdoor laboratory located six hours away.
ELA scientists have also addressed regulations for air pollution related to acid rain, helped design reservoirs to minimize greenhouse gases and examined the impacts of sewage-based hormones on fish health.
The closure is scheduled for 2013 and Orihel is hoping an online petition, which can be found at heep://saveela.org can help convince the government to reverse its decision.
“I’d like to believe in democracy … If enough municipalities pass resolutions asking upon the government to reconsider its decision, it may well listen.”
About $1.2 million of the funding from Ottawa is for scientist and support staff salaries, with $600,000 used for operating costs.
Rickford was not immediately available on Thursday for reaction to Hyer’s comments.