Earlier this week, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) announced that Terry Duguid, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, will lead basin-wide stakeholder engagement sessions on water quality issues in Lake Winnipeg.

Of the $70.5 million dollars allocated to freshwater protection in budget 2017, $25.7 million is being directed to the Lake Winnipeg Basin Program. Phase II of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative, which is concluding this year, resulted in more success than phase one of the program, including with respect to phosphorus loading.

The first in a series of engagement sessions on the Lake Winnipeg basin’s water quality issues took place this week. Water Canada reached out to Environment and Climate Change Canada to learn a bit more about the process ahead and what some of the desired outcomes are.

WC: How can the provincial and federal governments enhance the work already being done to secure and improve the water quality of Lake Winnipeg?

ECCC: The federal government and the Province of Manitoba have a long history of working collaboratively on water quality issues in the Lake Winnipeg Basin through shared leadership and participation in transboundary water management boards, such as the Prairie Provinces Water Board and the Red, Souris, and Lake of the Woods Boards of the International Joint Commission. The work of these boards will continue to support the development of nutrient objectives of transboundary waterways in the Lake Winnipeg Basin, which is key to implementing nutrient reduction strategies throughout the basin.

Moving forward, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) will work collaboratively with Manitoba and other stakeholders to develop and implement a Lake Winnipeg Adaptive Management Framework that will drive results-based targeting and program decisions for the Lake Winnipeg Basin Program. Science, including that of ECCC, will be used to develop and report on nutrient reduction targets, and grants and contributions funding will support nutrient reduction activities, collaboration, and engagement on the ground. The Lake Winnipeg Adaptive Management Framework will assist in guiding these activities towards highest priority areas.

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WC: Why is it important to engage with stakeholders at this moment in time?

ECCC: Stakeholders have long been engaged on water quality issues in Lake Winnipeg and its basin. There is an opportunity to build, strengthen, and expand collaborative efforts that are already underway in the basin. Stakeholder collaboration with various levels of government has been ongoing throughout the transboundary areas of the Lake Winnipeg Basin through the Prairie Provinces Water Board and the relevant Boards of the International Joint Commission. Stakeholders within the Lake Winnipeg Basin understand that the actions of one jurisdiction or person can affect the water quality of downstream neighbours. Lake Winnipeg is the ultimate downstream neighbour in the Lake Winnipeg Basin. As the effect of excess nutrient loading on water quality throughout the Lake Winnipeg Basin is becoming more widely realized and understood, so too is the understanding among stakeholders that working more closely together will have the most benefits to the lake. Stakeholder-led activities, such as citizen science or water quality monitoring programs and emerging collaborations within basins, signal that stakeholders are already engaged and that there is an opportunity to build on this interest and momentum through support of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Program.

WC: What form will the engagement process take, and what outcomes are these sessions looking to achieve?

ECCC: The engagement process will be multifaceted and will include meetings with stakeholders, webinars and other opportunities to share results from science and stakeholder nutrient reduction actions, and various social media platforms. Stakeholder sessions and social media engagement platforms are intended to increase citizen awareness of water quality issues in Lake Winnipeg and its basin. They are also intended to increase awareness of the actions to reduce nutrient loading in the basin being taken by other jurisdictions, levels of government, non-profit organizations, academia, industry, and citizens throughout the basin. The engagement process is also an opportunity for stakeholders to help identify priority areas for action in the basin and opportunities for collaboration. Increased engagement by stakeholders will build on the collaborative action that is already underway in the basin and ensure greater sharing of knowledge and information.

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