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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

February 09, 2007

New Institute, Director Will Be Strong Voice For Environment

Enhancing the University of Guelph’s leading role in environmental sciences research, teaching and policy support is the goal of a new, major environmental institute being launched this month.

The Guelph Institute for the Environment (GIE) will be headed part time by former federal environment minister and conservationist David Anderson, who also served as president of the Governing Council of the United Nations’ Environmental Program.

The Guelph institute will link critical research on water, food, health and the environment, and connect University research with policy-makers at all three levels of government, said Prof. Stew Hilts, chair of the Department of Land Resource Science and acting associate dean of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences.

“Environmental science is applied science. We’ve got problems to deal with,” said Hilts, referring to such challenges as climate change, loss of species diversity and land-use planning.

The institute will help launch discussions about environmental issues, establish ties with non-governmental organizations. It is also intended to help feed U of G environmental research into policy development at the provincial, national and international levels.

The institute will be launched Feb. 28. To mark the occasion, Anderson will give a public lecture Feb. 28 on “Linking Public Policy to Science: The Challenges” at 5:30 p.m. in Room 1714 of the Lifetime Learning Centre. The lecture is also part of the Ontario Agricultural College’s Public Lecture Series.

As director, Anderson will spend one week each month on campus, working with an associate director and a manager. Anderson said he views the institute as a critical tool for sharing scientific information with policy-makers at various levels. “How does the scientific work get fed into the system? It’s often less structured than you’d expect.”

Referring to more than a decade he spent in the federal cabinet, including seven years as minister of the science-based departments of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment, Anderson said: “We weren’t always working as effectively as we could have with science people from the university community.”

Anderson said he believes Prime Minister Stephen Harper now recognizes that he must reconsider his previous position in light of the “overwhelming consensus” among scientists about the climate effects of human-induced greenhouse gases. “As a policy-maker, you don’t have the political authority or the moral right to ignore the high level of agreement and the clear advice the scientific community has provided.”

Drawing on his wide-ranging political experience and his background in environmental consulting and public administration, Anderson plans to help Guelph take on a stronger role in environmental policy-making. His job, he said, will be “to make contact with policy-makers to ensure that the research done here receives appropriate consideration in the policy process.”

OAC dean Craig Pearson said he’s delighted that Anderson has joined the University and excited about the possibilities for the institute.

First elected to Ottawa in 1968, Anderson established Parliament’s first Environment Committee two years later. In 1972, he switched from federal to provincial politics, winning both a seat in the B.C. Legislature and the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party.

After leaving politics in 1976, he taught at the University of Victoria’s School of Public Administration and spent 17 years as an environmental consultant. Re-elected as a Liberal MP in 1993, he served more than a decade as a cabinet minister in the Chrétien and Martin governments. He spent two years as minister of fisheries and oceans before becoming minister of the environment.

During his five years in the latter portfolio, Parliament passed the Species-at-Risk Act and Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol to the Rio Convention on Climate Change. Anderson chose not to run in the 2006 election.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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