Health of the Great Lakes is Key to the Economic Future of Ontario
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne recently released her mandate letters to her Ministers, including one to Environment Minister Glen Murray. The letter instructs the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change on their priorities for the next four years. Key amongst these is the development of a new long-term climate change strategy for Ontario. Freshwater Future Canada applauds this direction, and looks forward to seeing how the Ministry will follow through on engaging the public and stakeholders in this discussion. We value local citizen knowledge and grassroots decision-making, and urge the province to capitalize on this valuable resource.
The mandate letter also details action on Great Lakes, a key priority for the Wynne government. Heading this list is re-introducing a strengthened Great Lakes Protection Act, and continuing to fund local community efforts though the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund. We are hopeful that a stronger Great Lakes Protection Act can soon be passed, and urge the province to continue and increase its support of local environmental action by community groups.
We share Premier Wynne’s vision for healthy waters in the Great Lakes, and particularly Lake Erie, which is now critically threatened by algae blooms. The priorities on Great Lakes action include “developing a nutrient target by 2016 to address algal blooms in the Great Lakes and bringing forward recommendations to meet that target”. We would hope that with a four-year mandate and a majority government, the Ministry can move beyond recommendations, to design and implement programs that reduce nutrient pollution. A key priority should be more comprehensive monitoring and public reporting of phosphorus reaching lakes, starting with Lake Erie, and the extent to which we are making progress on targets.
Premier Wynne opens her mandate letters to her Ministers by stating, “growing the economy and helping to create jobs are fundamental to building more opportunity and security, now and in the future. Freshwater Future Canada believes that a strong economy depends on healthy ecosystems and that as joint stewards and beneficiaries of the Great Lakes, we need to protect them in order to protect the jobs and economy they sustain. The Great Lakes are home to tourism, fisheries, industry, and local food production, all of which require a healthy ecosystem to thrive. The state of the Great Lakes is vital to the future of our province.