KENORA, Ont. — The federal Liberal government says it will spend $1.7 million over two years to support a renowned freshwater research station that nearly fell victim to Conservative budget cuts.
The Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario, managed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, allows scientists to conduct research on entire lakes and ecosystems instead of in a lab. Over the last five decades, it has led research in areas such as acid rain and algae blooms.
The facility was nearly closed in 2012 due to budget-cutting by the former Conservative government. The federal Liberals promised during the election campaign to restore funding if elected.
“This funding will allow Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conduct more research related to fish and marine mammals, as well as ecosystems in which they live,” Kenora MP Bob Nault said at the announcement Wednesday, flanked by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.
“It will also help federal scientists learn more about the things that are stressing our oceans, like climate change and pollution.”
The 2012 budget cuts sparked an outcry from scientists across North America and the Ontario government, with the sustainable development institute stepping in to save it in 2014.
Ontario provides up to $2 million a year to the project, while Manitoba has committed more than $6 million over six years to support and advance operating costs.
Wynne said the research done at the Experimental Lakes Area is used by scientists and governments around the world.
“Whether it’s pollution reduction (or) those climate-change strategies to protect freshwater ecosystems, our country has something to offer to the planet.”
Pallister, who was a Conservative MP a decade ago, stopped short of criticizing the federal Conservative government’s funding cuts to the research station.
“Every government has to make difficult decisions … and I think it’s important to be respectful of the decisions that others have made. We obviously take a different approach as a provincial partner in this important exercise,” he said.
Wynne said she opposed the federal cuts from the day they were announced.
“I went into my office and I said to my staff ‘I really think we need to do something about this’,” she said.
“And there was the usual ‘Oh, we don’t want to get involved, can we make a commitment that we can sustain?’ but we got through that very quickly because what we know is that the Experimental Lakes Area is such an important research treasure.”