A Great Lakes Protection Act for Ontario

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Last week, I attended the announcement of a new Great Lakes Strategy by Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley. The setting was perfect: blue sky, Lake Ontario shimmering, the Toronto Islands as background, and even the Ministry’s Great Lakes research vessel was anchored nearby.

The Act and strategy aim to address some of the biggest problems facing the Great Lakes. Among the strategy’s foci are: water quality; beaches, coastal wetlands and biodiversity; and sustaining economic activity.

A number of factors, including population growth, loss of green space, invasive species, and an increasingly complex chemical soup, made worse by climate change, are combining to put stress on the Great Lakes.

The environmental groups immediately threw their support behind the initiative. For example, Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, said:

“The government’s proposed bottom-up approach to identifying problems and solutions based on local input and involvement is efficient and inclusive. I am also pleased to see that this Act follows the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s advice to bring multiple Ministries together to address cross-cutting issues.”

“The government’s proposed bottom-up approach to identifying problems and solutions based on local input and involvement is efficient and inclusive. I am also pleased to see that this Act follows the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s advice to bring multiple Ministries together to address cross-cutting issues.”

The links between healthy Great Lakes and the Greenbelt are important, as the land and water intertwine where millions of people live. Moreover, public opinion polls reveal that over 33% of Ontarians sense that protecting our water is the most important benefit of the Greenbelt, over and above local food at 16%. And some of my colleagues have even been known to rename it the ‘Bluebelt’.

In my conversations with water experts, they point out that to protect the Great Lakes, it’s necessary to protect much of the land around it. After all, they say, sustainability is about maintaining the relationships and interconnections between land and water. So, now I (somewhat) jokingly opine that the Greenbelt should be expanded from Lake to Lake to Lake.

Burkhard Mausberg
CEO

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