The value of water is lost on this government

If you recall the reason given for cancelling the mandatory long-form census, it was that people were complaining about it.  Ultimately, it became known that there had been only three complaints made to Canada’s Privacy Commissioner for the period covering the previous two censuses.  The minister in charge then told us how one complaint was enough to warrant action.  It is increasingly clear however, that sentiment is employed on an issue by issue basis.

Take, for example, the cancellation of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in last spring’s budget.  Since the announcement we have seen all manner of people rush to ELA’s defence. Thousand of Canadians have signed petitions and contacted Members of Parliament on the issue.  The public opinion is loud and on a veritable one-way street but is falling on suddenly deafened ears at the cabinet table.

Scientists argue the lakes are a key component for our understanding of Canada’s precious freshwater resources and ecosystems.   They point to valuable knowledge the lakes have given us including revolutionary discoveries on the effects of acid rain, hydroelectric dams, and the use of phosphate.  They tell us the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area will bring a sudden end to many long term studies.  How research designed to look at particular phenomenon over years or even decades will be abandoned in a heartbeat.  The government claims it is saving money, but that answer doesn’t hold water. 

Couple this with dramatic changes to the Fisheries Act that strip habitat protection from the legislation’s reach and the government appears either uncaring or calculated on issues related to the health of our fresh water systems.  Critics say these decisions are part of a larger Conservative desire to weaken Canada’s environmental regulatory framework. They claim it is part of an agenda designed to pave the way for pipelines and tailing ponds based on lax standards that are uninformed  by good science.

New Democrats are listening to these voices and continue to make the case for the ELA in parliament.  Despite the warning of prominent scientists and nearly 20,000 signatures supporting the ELA, the government refuses to budge.  They won’t even address the issue in question period and appear to have thoroughly made up their minds and in the process, showing how short-sighted their economic management is.

It is widely accepted that the value of freshwater is only rising.  That should be enough motivation to conserve the riches we already have.  Our water is like a national investment with the potential to grow provided we protect it.  To abandon research aimed at understanding this resource and any potential threats to it or benefits from it is not the mark of a government taking a long view on economic matters