Protecting our Great Lakes has to be a priority

This weekend the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council will have hosted a meeting of the International Joint Committee (IJC) – the bi-national body between Canada and the United States established under the Boundary Waters Agreement.  The subject matter is the reduced water levels in Lake Huron.   It is expected to be another successful meeting as well as a feather in the cap for Manitoulin Island. 

Earlier that same week, hundreds of scientists rallied on Parliament Hill to protest what they are calling, ‘the death of evidence’.   They were highlighting the way Stephen Harper’s government has cut funding to scientific study and muzzled the remaining scientists that work for the Canadian government.  These scientists believe the work they do is non-partisan and should be seen that way.   The government doesn’t agree and has used communications officers to control the way their findings are publicly reported.

The backlash from the scientific community has been a long time brewing.  The Conservatives have a record that shows they are more interested in the desires of oil company lobbyists than they are in protecting the jobs and findings of federally employed scientists. Their agenda favours the oil sector and to do so has weakened environmental regulations and legislation while silencing many who might provide future evidence that shows the government has been reckless with our environment.

The Conservatives have  critically weakened our census; entirely dismantled the Experimental Lakes Area of Freshwater Institute (the one that studies entire freshwater ecosystems); used federal budgets to change the Navigable Waters Act; entirely removed habitat protection from the Fisheries Act; and severely compromised Environmental Impact Assessment across Canada.

Now, as we discuss the challenges facing our Great Lakes – which are certainly not limited to water levels - we must consider what role scientists will be asked to play in the process.   Ask yourself if you would rather have a biologist provide the facts about a potential Asian Carp invasion, or if you would prefer to hear the point of view of a government spin doctor?  The answer should be clear.  

Discussions like the one held on Manitoulin must be informed by unedited scientific voices if they are to be of any use.  The government has to stop being one-sided on behalf of oil companies and pipelines and remember that Canadians feel our environment is worth protecting.  We certainly wouldn’t like to think that we are running the country into the ground for a few quick bucks today.