Some Great Days for the Great Lakes in Canada
For two hectic days in mid-November, over 25 advocates representing environmental and conservation interests, municipalities, business, and industry came together in Ottawa for the second annual Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Parliament Hill Days. Organized by Freshwater Future, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the Council of the Great Lakes Region and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, delegations met with over 30 legislators and policy makers including Members of Parliament, Senators, policy advisors, and senior officials with key government agencies.
We came to Parliament Hill to deliver a common message: Canada needs to up its game on protecting and restoring the health of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River—because doing so is the key to developing sustainable and resilient communities and economies in a region that holds 20% of the world’s fresh water.
Our proposal to decision makers in Ottawa is squarely focused on addressing this need. Inspired by the US Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, we are calling for development of a Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Collaborative Strategy (GLSLCS) as a mechanism to get the most out of existing investments, and to ensure that much-needed future funding increases are driving impacts that make the waters more swimmable, drinkable, and fishable.
Our message resonated with decision makers from across party lines—and certainly seems to have struck a chord with the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. Last Friday, just days after our Ottawa meetings, the Minister came to Toronto to publicly announce the Government of Canada’s investment of $44.84 million in its Great Lakes Protection Initiative as part of the $70.5 million allocated for freshwater protection in its 2017 Budget.
These investments—which will be rolled out over the next five years—signal that the federal government recognizes the vital importance of a healthy Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ecosystem to people’s lives and livelihoods. But much more will be needed to address legacy problems, deal with existing challenges, and respond to emerging threats. This is why we will continue to work with our partners to champion a Canadian Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Collaborative Strategy in the days and months to come.