Transport Canada probes LaPierre's work on P.E.I. bridge
Moncton academic who falsified credentials was on scientific team that assessed Confederaton Bridge
Transport Canada has launched a review of disgraced Moncton academic Louis LaPierre's involvement in an environmental impact assessment of the Confederation Bridge.
The former University of Moncton professor, who has admitted he lied about his academic credentials, was part of a team that studied the environmental effects of building the bridge, which connects Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick.
"While we understand that Mr. LaPierre’s involvement in the environmental assessment processes for the bridge was limited, we will be reviewing our files and will conduct appropriate follow ups based on our findings," Transport Canada said in a statement on Friday.
"At this time, we continue to have a high level of confidence that decisions made were based on science as a result of the many studies that were conducted by a wide range of people that had all the appropriate credentials," the statement says.
"Transport Canada understands that maintaining trust in our environmental assessment process is of foremost importance, which is why we will be conducting our review and conduct any follow ups as necessary."
The statement does not indicate exactly what LaPierre's contributions were on the Fixed Link Environmental Review Committee.
But Dr. Irene Novaczek, a marine biologist who worked on one of the committees at the time, says LaPierre was a well-known and respected academic at the time.
Even if his contributions were limited, they would have had some impact, said Novaczek. LaPierre was someone people looked to and depended on for marine biological information, she said.
LaPierre was given a professional service award from Jacques Whitford Environmental Limited for his contributions on the bridge committee, according to his biography on the federal government's Institute for Environmental Monitoring and Research website.
The Maritime Fishermen's Union supports the review of LaPierre's role, saying it's necessary.
I believe that these circumstances unfortunately question the justification of many of these conclusions.- Christian Brun, Maritime Fishermen's Union
"To review these conclusions to see which ones would have been affected by Mr. LaPierre's knowledge or expertise," said executive secretary Christian Brun.
"I believe that these circumstances unfortunately question the justification of many of these conclusions."
Fishermen had concerns at the time that the bridge would harm the industry.
Brun says the area of the Northumberland Strait around and near the bridge is the only place in Atlantic Canada that hasn't seen exponential lobster catches since the bridge opened.
"This area is still extremely problematic," he said. "You've got to ask the question, what impact has the bridge had on habitat, on water quality, on capacity of larvae to survive."
The curved Confederation Bridge, at eight miles long, is the longest in the world covering ice-covered water.
It opened to traffic in 1997, after four years of construction.
The bridge replaced a ferry service, providing year-round access to the mainland.
It is operated by Strait Crossing Bridge Limited.
Review follows resignations from several positions
On Sept. 18, LaPierre resigned as the head of the Energy Institute formed to study shale gas development in New Brunswick, as well as from other positions he held.
The resignations came after LaPierre admitted he had misled people about his academic credentials.
He had purported to hold a PhD in ecology from the University of Maine. However, a report on Radio-Canada earlier in September questioned that, with the University of Maine indicating it had awarded LaPierre a master's degree, but not a doctorate.
LaPierre then stated his doctorate was awarded by Walden University in Minnesota, in association with the University of Maine. Officials at Walden confirmed LaPierre received a PhD, but it was in the field of education, not in a scientific field.
LaPierre remains a member of the Order of Canada, which is the highest civilian honour in the country, designed to recognize significant achievements and remarkable service.
Only five people have ever been removed, all of whom were convicted of a criminal offence. A sixth person resigned his appointment over professional misconduct.