Just in case your readers missed it, in a move that has been called “politically stupid” and “one that would cause a revolt in other countries”, Greg Weadick, Minister of Advanced Education and Technology, has announced the demise of the Alberta Water Research Institute. The AWRI was formed by former Environment Minister Lorne Taylor and has been heralded for some of its ground breaking water research by internationally respected water scientists. The work of the AWRI will be moved under the auspices of Alberta Innovates, formerly the Alberta Research Council. A close look at the Board of Directors of Alberta Innovates shows former Syncrude CEO Eric Newell, a Senior VP of Petro Canada, a senior director of Agrium, the former CEO of Nexen and a Senior VP of Capital Power. Everybody knows that oil and water don’t mix. This move will do away with the scientific advisory bodies that have been directing water research in this province and putting it into the hands of Alberta Innovates: Energy and Environment Solutions (a crazy combination) Division. It is unclear what kind of water science the Alberta Innovates Board understands. The now former Scientific Advisory bodies read as the who’s who of international water science expertise and some of the research that has been done under their guidance are subjects such as “The Dynamics of Alberta’s Water Supply”’ by a team headed by Jon Fennell, ground breaking work done by Dr. Suzanne Bailey on “Wetland Health: Challenges and Opportunities for Implementing Alberta’s Wetland Policy” and work being done by Dr. Chris Le on safe and secure water supply in Alberta which looks at pathogens and harmful toxins in rural ground water (might be important with all the frac’ing going on in the province). What kind of research are we going to get without the arms-length needed from industry influences? I know for me, I would want those directing water research to be asking the difficult questions. I know for sure, we will never get that kind of navel gazing from the current oil and gas executives that run Alberta Innovates.
What lost opportunity, what a shame!