Re-introduction of the Great Lakes Protection Act Wins Praise from Environmental Groups

Environmental groups ready to work with government to protect the lakes

Feb 19 2015

Toronto, ON — An alliance of environmental groups applauds the Ontario government’s proposed Great Lakes Protection Act, to be re-introduced today at Queen’s Park. The proposed law aims to address some of the biggest problems facing the Great Lakes including water pollution, wetland loss, and algal blooms.

“The Great lakes are an integral part of our province. They are critical for the health of our economy and communities, and are a source of drinking water for 80 per cent of Ontarians,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “With the re-introduction of the Great Lakes Protection Act, the government is giving the lakes the attention they deserve by making sure they are protected for current and future generations.”

Immediate action is required to restore the health of the Great Lakes. Three out of four of Ontario’s Great Lakes are in decline, and 72 per cent of southern Ontario’s large wetlands have already been lost. This is due to increasing stress caused by population growth, loss of green space, invasive species, toxic pollutants and climate change. If not addressed, the quality of Great Lakes’ drinking water and the basin’s $4.4 trillion dollar economy will be negatively impacted.

If passed, the new law would allow government to set science-based targets to address the most severe threats to the Great Lakes, and would empower local groups to develop solutions to protect their community’s water. It would also establish a Great Lakes Guardians’ Council, a collaborative forum for provincial ministers to discuss priorities, financial measures, and share information.

“We’re encouraged by the proposed law’s focus on grassroots solutions,” said Ted Cheskey of Nature Canada. “It creates new tools that can bring local groups together to address specific problems and protect what’s important to them like significant bird habitat and wildlife areas.”

“The government’s proposed bottom-up approach to identifying problems and solutions based on local input and involvement is efficient and inclusive. I am pleased to see that this proposed law will set new targets to improve action on issues such as toxic pollutants,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel to Canadian Environmental Law Association.

For the law to be successful, it needs to first prioritize action on key issues such as wetland loss and algal blooms. It also needs to promote transparent, effective, and accountable decision-making by government and offer more opportunities for public engagement in Great Lakes issues.

“Great Lakes wetlands not only provide continentally significant habitat for large numbers and species of migratory waterfowl, they are critically important to the health, economy and climate change resiliency of Great Lakes communities. Ducks Unlimited Canada commends the Province on its commitment to the proposed Great Lakes Protection Act and the goal of reversing the trend of wetland loss,” said Lynette Mader, Manager of Provincial Operations—Ontario, Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Over the next few months, the organizations will encourage the public to learn about the government’s proposed legislation and participate in the discussion about the future of the Great Lakes.

About the groups:

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier, and prosperous life for all. environmentaldefence.ca

CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ASSOCIATION works to protect human health and our environment by seeking justice for those harmed by pollution and by working to change policies to prevent such problems in the first place. cela.ca

DUCKS UNLIMITED CANADA (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, we partner with government, industry, non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment. ducks.ca

ECOJUSTICE is the country’s leading charitable organization dedicated to using the law to defend Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. ecojustice.ca

NATURE CANADA is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, we’ve helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and the countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, we represent a network of over 45,000 members & supporters and more than 350 nature organizations in every province across Canada. naturecanada.ca

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: 

Jen Mayville, Environmental Defence; (cell) 905-330-0172  jmayville@environmentaldefence.ca
Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence; (cell) (647) 280-9521  skohls@environmentaldefence.ca
Theresa A. McClenaghan, Canadian Environmental Law Association 416-960-2284 ext. 219 Theresa@cela.ca 
Kevin Rich, Ducks Unlimited Canada 705-721-4444 ext. 250 k_rich@cuks.ca
Steve Hazell, Nature Canada; 613-562-3447 ext. 240 | 1-800-267-4088 (cell) 613 724-1908  shazell@naturecanada.ca