Short-sighted decision

The Canadian electorate will soon begin to experience the effects of its decision to hand Stephen Harper’s Conservatives a majority government in the last election.

The government correctly believes their majority win gives them a mandate to trim government spending. Nothing else could be expected from the election of a political party committed to fiscal conservatism.

However, freed from the moderating effects of operating in a minority Parliament, Canadians can also expect the government to make the type of curious ideology-based decisions typical of right-leaning governments.

One such decision is the plan (and we use the term loosely) to stop funding and close facilities at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwestern Ontario.

The ELA consists of a series of 58 small lakes near Ontario’s border with Manitoba. It was created in 1968 as a natural outdoor laboratory to study the effects of contaminants on “entire lake ecosystems.” Research from the ELA contributed to understanding the effects of acid rain and was instrumental in helping craft the 1991 Air Quality Agreement between Canada and the U.S. The ELA is a world-renowned facility, considered unique on a planet that is expected to face crisis level issues with drinking water in coming decades.

The government expects the move to save about $2 million in annual operational costs. But opponents of the move project it will cost about $50 million in site remediation costs alone to return the environmentally-sensitive area to its natural state. That’s a pretty long payback term, for a move that provides no benefit beyond the saving of an amount of money that equals about 12.5 per cent of what Harper’s Tories have spent on advertising to promote their own accomplishments through Canada’s Economic Action Plan in the first quarter of 2012 alone.

Yes, the government does have a mandate to deal with the deficit. However Canadians have a right to expect savings will be sought by eliminating waste, not creating more.

Given that, perhaps they should be looking to areas like partisan self-promotion ahead of valuable environmental research, to find their savings.