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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Harper the Hypocrite - Enemy of Science and Truth

The Harperites are continuing to do their best to drag Canada to the bottom of world rankings. Under them, although we've been blessed with systems that have so far held our fiscal head above water, we've dropped from the most admired and desired place to live to out of the top ten. He's destroyed our credibility along with his own.

Harper's animosity towards scientific fact that doesn't agree with his simple-minded resource extraction economic plan couldn't be more blatant or visible in the closure and ongoing destruction of the Experimental Lakes Area. Described as a unique scientific resource that draws scientists from around the world like the Hadron Collider, the Lakes offer an real-world laboratory that the Harper government says can be replaced by two indoor facilities with little access to the need water sources. There they go, ignoring fact again. They claim it as a cost-cutting measure when it is a tiny fraction of the country's research budget and could even be run to generate money.

Unfortunately, the Lakes are best at revealing scientific facts about the environment and our affect upon it. To Harper, who uses budgets to remove environmental protections at the behest of big oil and removed DFO's ability to protect the environment of the fisheries it exists to protect, this means it has to go, and quickly. Heis crew don't know what facts are because they are so deep in corruption, lies and their simple-minded utopiabn ideology to recognize them. They don't deal with facts. They shout them down, distract with acusations, and cling harder to their delusions.

As George W. proved, that's the neoconservative neoliberal way.

And just like Bush for America, Harper is the worst leader Canada has had, actually pulling us backwards and downwards in so many ways.

The following is a collection of articles dealing with this blatant attack on truth.

Fisheries Department dismantling summer cabins of scientists at water research facility
Researchers on Lake 658 at the Experimental Lakes Area.
Photograph by: Mike Aporius/Postmedia News , Postmedia News

OTTAWA – With about two weeks remaining prior to a scheduled shutdown or transfer to new management of a world-renowned federal water research facility, the federal government has started to dismantle the summer cabins used by scientists doing field work at the Experimental Lakes Area.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Friday it was doing “minor work” on some cabins in preparation for their removal because they were nearing the end of their life-cycle.

Scientists who are trying to save the northwestern Ontario facility said their peers were informed by the department on Thursday, without advance notice, that it had started removing doors and windows, while emptying furniture and personal belongings in preparation for a demolition at the site, which was home to research that contributed to a North American treaty on acid rain.

“What we’re all kind of shocked about is why this had to happen now and what it means for the potential operator,” said Britt Hall, an associate professor at the University of Regina’s biology department who used one of the field cabins in the past while doing research.

“It just seems like the government is more intent on tearing the place down (rather) than transferring it.”

A spokeswoman for the department, Melanie Carkner, said it was working with the scientists to ensure they can retrieve personal items in the cabins.

“The department continues to prepare the facility for a third-party operator or the decommissioning of the site, pending negotiations with third parties and the province of Ontario,” said Carkner.

The Harper government has estimated it will save about $3 million a year by pulling out of the facility, near Kenora, Ont. Plans to pull out of the site were first announced following Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s 2012 budget.

The area has records that go back about 50 years in studies of a variety of air and water quality issues, including the impacts of industrial pollution and climate change. But scientists who have worked there in recent decades say existing research could lose its value and usefulness if the government fails to find a new partner, or proceeds with plans to stop its funding for the site on March 31.

“When that record stops, there’s no replacement,” said Carol Kelly, a veteran scientist who has done research at the area since 1978. “It’s the longest record in Canada and if you start the same kind of measurements somewhere else, you’re starting from zero. You won’t have anything to compare the new measurements to.”

Under an existing agreement with Ontario, scientists say the federal government could also be faced with decontamination costs in the tens of millions of dollars if it is forced to shut down the site.

Environment Canada also had ongoing research at the site that contributed to work on acid rain, smog, clean air and mercury contaminants among other issues, Environment Minister Peter Kent was told in recent briefing notes.

As dismantling begins, shuttering of research station called a 'travesty'

The federal government says it is still trying to find a buyer for the world-renowned freshwater research station in Northern Ontario that it is closing at the end of this month, but it has already sent in a crew to start taking down buildings.

The doors of the old sleeping cabins at the 45-year-old Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) are being ripped off, the appliances are being taken away, and the personal belongings of researchers are being removed.

The news of the work came as a shock to scientists who rely on the decades of data that have been obtained at the ELA, the one-of-a-kind outdoor laboratory that has informed the world about the effects of contaminants such as mercury, acid rain and phosphorus.

Roberto Quinlan, a biology professor at York University in Toronto, said he was even more surprised to learn that the scrapping of ELA buildings was being done without the knowledge of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Winnipeg-based United Nations think tank that is the only group known to be discussing the possible takeover of the facility.

“I have confirmed that IISD knew nothing about the work that is being done on these cabins,” said Dr. Quinlan, who is on the executive of the Society of Canadian Limnologists – Canada’s aquatic research community. “If the IISD doesn’t know that this is going on, then this brings into serious doubt the government’s sincerity to actually transfer the facility over to another operator.”

The IISD, which has kept its negotiations with the government behind closed doors, did not respond Friday to requests for comment. There have been many questions about whether that group, or any other, is willing to assume what could be tens of millions of dollars in liability for the eventual remediation of the area.
A spokeswoman for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Friday that no demolition was being done that day. “Minor work is, however, being carried out on some cabins as they near the end of their life cycle and are prepared for eventual removal,” she said.

The cabins are the only accommodation for scientists and their families – some choose to bring spouses and children if they are going to be there for long periods during the summer – and were being lived in until just a couple of months ago.

The Fisheries Department says it wants nothing more to do with the ELA, arguing that the research does not fit with its core mandate. By ending its funding of the station, the government will save $2-million a year.
But the scientists say the decision to shut down the ELA has more to do with ideology than economics and that it will do incalculable damage to their ability to preserve the quality of this country’s most valuable asset – its water.

Since the closure of the research station was announced last May, the government has rejected most requests by reporters to visit the ELA. But The Globe and Mail toured the facility late last fall without official sanction.

The laboratories were still functioning with a skeleton staff, and equipment – boats and docks and motors – was being stored in the expectation that it would be put back into service this year. But there was a distinct aura of gloom.

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield will not discuss the Experimental Lakes Area. When The Globe asked for an interview this week, his department replied: “We are respectfully declining your request.”

Greg Rickford, the local Conservative MP, also refused to talk about it but sent a statement saying: “Our government is currently in the process of negotiations for the transfer of the Experimental Lakes Area to an appropriate third-party stakeholder. The negotiations are confidential, however, we are optimistic there will be positive results.”

Scientists are not convinced. “It’s a complete travesty,” said John Smol, a biology professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. “The fundamental work for the understanding of all these problems that affect everyday lives of Canadians, but also the rest of the world, has come from foundation science coming from there.”

Maggie Xenopolous, a biology professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., travelled to the ELA two weeks ago to put boats in a lake and to prepare for another season of testing for her experiment on silver nanoparticles – tiny particles of silver being added to clothes that are ending up in watersheds.

Dr. Xenopolous was well aware that her trip could ultimately be a wasted effort and that she will be barred from the ELA as of April 1.

“It has been really stressful, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “Since this [closure] was announced in May it has just been a roller-coaster for all of us at Trent because we can’t do the whole lake experiment unless we are able to go out there. There is no other place where we can do it.”

In fact, the research station that has made Canada a world leader in the science of fresh water for decades could continue for another summer if the federal government would just cover the cost of basic supplies like gasoline and food.

The biggest part of the $2-million required to keep it running goes to the Fisheries Department scientists and technicians who work at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg, where ELA data is analyzed. Under union rules, they could still be at their jobs and receiving their paycheques more than a year from now – whether there is work to do or not.

The station will remain under federal control through the summer. But it will be a shadow of its former self. Instead of bustling with scientists, it will be patrolled by a security guard – the former station manager – whose job will be to keep people out.

David Schindler, the environmental scientist who first envisioned the Experimental Lakes Area and who was its director between 1968 and 1989, said he first realized the station was in jeopardy when Joe Oliver, the Natural Resources Minister, began referring to environmentalists as radicals who were trying to destroy the Canadian economy.

If it is closed, the ELA can never be duplicated, Dr. Schindler said. “We think there’s a lot of wilderness but, in fact, we’ve got a very crowded landscape already at temperate latitude,” he said, “so you would never be able to get it back.”

Experimental Lakes Area Shuttered By Tories, Scientists Say Move "Unnecessary'

CP  |  By Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press Posted:

OTTAWA - The Harper government is refusing to permit fully funded freshwater research to take place this summer at the remote Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario.

A group of researchers from Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., was told this week they are barred from the site, despite starting their work last summer and spending thousands of dollars on an approved trip to one of the ELA lakes as recently as last month.

Ottawa is currently negotiating with the Ontario government and others to take over the Experimental Lakes Area, which has been conducting world-class science since 1968 into everything from acid rain and climate change to mercury exposure.

The federal government says the decision to close the facility, part of last year's budget cuts, will save it about $2 million a year — although sources say the actual operating cost of the facility is about $600,000 annually, of which a third comes back in user fees.

And although the federal agreement doesn't expire until September and negotiations for the transfer are continuing, a spokeswoman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says no researchers are allowed on the 60 lakes this summer because the facility is no longer a federal operation.

"The government has been very clear that the Experimental Lakes Area will not be operated as a federal facility as of March 31," said Erin Filliter, a spokeswoman for Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield.

For the Trent University group, which was awarded an $800,000 federal research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in 2011, the ban is devastating.

The university is examining environmental effects of silver nano particles, an increasingly common antibacterial additive to clothing.

"This decision is totally unnecessary," said biologist Maggie Xenopoulos. "We have our own research funding."

She said the project, which began with baseline testing on a lake in the ELA last summer and more last month, understood the site's ownership is in flux.

But, said Xenopoulos, the researchers "thought this was a great opportunity for the government to come back and say, 'yeah, we do care about the environment, of course you can go out there — so long as we don't have to pay for you to be out there.'"

"I don't know what they're thinking."

A spokeswoman for Gary Goodyear, the Conservative minister of state for science, suggested the Trent group could continue its experiment at another research facility — although a year's work would be lost.
And NSERC officials said research grants can be renegotiated.

"We've made unprecedented investments in science and research," said Goodyear's spokeswoman Michele-Jamali Paquette. "This government's dedication to science is well known and documented."

An increasing chorus of leading scientific researchers, however, say the Conservative government is divesting the federal government of scientific expertise and research ability.

The Experimental Lakes Area, a world-renowned facility that costs Ottawa a relative pittance, has become a lightning rod for those critics.

Britt Hall, a University of Regina biogeochemist who is a director of a group dedicated to saving the ELA, saveela.org, said she worries Ottawa doesn't actually want the facility to survive.

"If the government was really, really supportive and really committed to making a deal ... why would they close the site for a measly five months when there are people who still want to do research, still want to maintain the integrity of the long-term data that has been going on for 44 years?" Hall said in an interview.
Doug Haffner, a senior Canada Research Chair specializing in Great Lakes environmental health at the University of Windsor, said the value of the ELA increases with every year of additional data.

"It's essential in this world right now that we have a long-term experimental data set," he said. "This is our biggest need under climate-change type scenarios."

"Over time that site is becoming more and more valuable. That seems to be lost in all these discussions."
Canada suffers for lack of a national freshwater policy, said Haffner — a shortfall he blames on multiple governments.

Haffner says such a policy "would actually stop governments from playing the games we're now seeing," which he argues will be costly for the country.

"We have a long history, and a lot of international reputation in water research and water management stems from that (ELA) site," said Haffner.

"If we're seen giving up almost peanuts — in dollars and cents — for that ELA, what you're giving up in reputation on negotiating international water policies, you're giving up a lot."

Jolanta Kowalski, a spokeswoman for the provincial Natural Resources ministry, said the Ontario government is in negotiations with the Harper government.

"There have been discussions between DFO and us around a new operator and also around their responsibilities for cleaning the site up and rehabing it," said Kowalski.

"But there hasn't been a proposal put forward to us to operate it, instead of the feds. Right now, that's still a work in progress."

Trent University water scientist worries delay or cancellation will leave questions about nano-materials

Posted: Mar 19, 2013 4:24 PM ET

Last Updated: Mar 19, 2013 9:55 PM ET

A scientist with an $800,000 federal grant will not be able to conduct his research due to the shuttering of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northern Ontario.

Dr. Chris Metcalfe, who was set to contaminate a lake with nanosilver and document its effects on the lake's ecosystem, will have to put his experiment on hold. The grant for Metcalfe, of Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., came from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, a branch of the federal Department of Industry.

"We're currently investing billions if not trillions of dollars in the development of various nano-materials. Why not take a look also at what the potential impacts might be on the environment?" Metcalfe asked.

Trent University students conduct controlled experiments with nanosilver at the Experimental Lakes Area last summer. 
Trent University students conduct controlled experiments with nanosilver at the Experimental Lakes Area last summer. (Lindsay Furtado photo)

 He has already conducted some laboratory experiments and controlled studies in lake water. Nanosilver, an antibacterial technology made up of microscopic silver particles, is added to fabrics used in clothing to kill odours caused by sweating.

This summer's experiment was meant to use a whole lake, and the ELA is the only facility in the world where it is possible to do that. ELA experiments have been instrumental in the study of acid rain and the effects of laundry detergents on fresh water.

"I think what will happen is that there will still be questions about whether nano-materials —and specifically nanosilver —are potentially harmful to the environment or not," Metcalfe said, adding that will put Canadian regulatory agencies at a disadvantage when making rules for the use and development of nano-materials.

Supporters' optimism fading

"The whole issue defies logic," said Britt Hall, director of the Save the ELA Coalition and a biogeochemistry professor at the University of Regina. Her main frustration is dealing with what she calls "the ideology" behind the decision.

The closure of the Experimental Lakes Area freshwater research facility means federally funded research into the environment impact of nanosilver won't go ahead. 
The closure of the Experimental Lakes Area freshwater research facility means federally funded research into the environment impact of nanosilver won't go ahead. (Lindsay Furtado photo)
"It appears as if the government is really just wanting to close the Experimental Lakes Area regardless of the type of impacts that are going to happen either financially or scientifically," she said.
"It does seem almost nasty that they decided to do this now."

Optimism in her group is fading, she added, pointing to the recent confusing story of five cabins at ELA. Initially, it was reported they were being taken down. Now, it seems they are just being renovated.

The government defended its decision to mothball the ELA, despite putting some of its own grant money at risk.

"Our government has put $8 billion … into science and technology here in Canada since 2006 — since the Conservative government took power," Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear told CBC News. He said the money went to new laboratory infrastructure, including state-of-the-art equipment that can be used by all scientists, as well as fellowships and scholarships.

Asked why the government is not able to leave facility open while it searches for another operator, Goodyear replied, "Well, then we'd be having this interview next year, as well. We need to act on these things rapidly."

ELA Funding Cuts

As It Happens

Photo: DanielleGrace/Flickr
Photo: DanielleGrace/Flickr

Last night on the program, we told you about the impending closure of the Experimental Lakes Area, or ELA. The ELA is a world-renowned research facility in northern Ontario. But federal funding for research at the facility will be cut off at the end of March. And that has scientists concerned about the loss of the one-of-a-kind freshwater research station. Dave Canfield is the Mayor of Kenora, Ontario, which is near the ELA. He tells about the effect the closing would have on his community and his hope that someone would be able to save the ELA.

The closure of the ELA came in Question Period in Ottawa today. Liberal Lawrence MacAuley posed a question about the closing and it is answered by Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, who mentioned other facilities in Canada that can do the same research currently done at the Experimental Lakes Area.

Jules Blais is the President of the Society of Canadian Limnologists, which is also referred to as freshwater science. He's familiar with the facilities mentioned by Minister Ashfield. Carol asked about these facilities. He tells us why these places cannot do the same research as the ELA.