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Living Lakes Canada Gathering: Day Two

Posted on May 24, 2012
Written by Kerry Freek

Speakers answer questions from the community at Red Zone III, part of the Living Lakes Canada Gathering.

Beginning and ending with strong messages regarding the recent announcement that will see the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area–an institution that Dr. John P. Smol of Queen’s University recently called “the best known freshwater research facility in the world,”–Wednesday was a long and exciting day at the Living Lakes Canada Gathering in Winnipeg.

Manitoba’s Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh opened the morning’s proceedings with a strong call to action, saying that while he supports eliminating redundant processes, any federal efforts that degrade the environment have to be “vigorously challenged.”

“It is our collective responsibility to alert Ottawa to its misguided decision,” Mackintosh said. “I believe this decision was made fiscally and not scientifically,” he continued, adding that he had spoken with Ontario Minister of Environment Jim Bradley in recent days about the federal announcement.

In an interview with Water Canada, Mackintosh said that he and Bradley agreed with work together to coordinate efforts to send a message to Ottawa. He also said that he is encouraging the scientific community and grassroots organizers to send letters. “Political pressure can make a world of difference,” he said. “I remain of the view that the federal government does not want to be perceived as anti-science, and that it will want to base environmental protection on sound science. When [officials] are alerted to the importance of the ELA, they will come to the table with more positive options.”

When asked why the facility is important to Manitoba, Mackintosh said that the province has heavily relied on ELA’s work, especially when it comes to understanding and addressing the challenges of Lake Winnipeg. He also mentioned that the facility has put Canada on the map internationally for its leadership in water research. “Many great scientific discoveries about water quality were incubated at ELA. This decision has attracted worldwide scorn and disbelief.”

At the end of an informative and engaging day, which also included lively discussion on the topic of media and communication for science, PhD student Diane Orihel made a plea to save the ELA. Orihel and fellow students have begun a web and mail campaign to save the program.

Water Canada caught Orihel’s speech on video.

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