Several Canadian mayors visited Parliament Hill on April 3, 2014 to make a case for better protection of the bodies of water for the first ever Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Day. Notable politicians in attendance included U.S. embassy Chargé d’affaires Richard Sanders, federal opposition leader Thomas Mulcair, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, and Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford. A number of members of Parliament from the three major parties also met with the mayors to bring attention to urgent issues facing shoreline communities and the waters of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin.

“Mayors are in Ottawa today to bring a message to the federal government that it is in all our interests to forge a strong partnership amongst all levels of government to provide effective protection to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence,” said Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

Eleven mayors representing communities in Quebec and Ontario highlighted five key challenges facing the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence, including increasing variability of water levels, impacts of climate change on shoreline communities and the need for adaptation support, action on phosphorus runoff into the Great Lakes and the growth of algae blooms, transportation of fossil fuels across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin, and public shoreline access and shoreline infrastructure funding needs.

“Infrastructure investment, particularly focused on climate adaptation, is needed by all shoreline communities,” said Salaberry-de-Valleyfield Mayor Denis Lapointe, member of the Cities Initiative board. “More reliable information on climate projections for the region would also help us plan for future infrastructure needs.”

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The mayors began their day at a reception with Sanders, where they discussed important binational concerns with the Great Lakes, including the degraded condition of Lake Erie as a result of nutrient loadings from urban and agricultural runoff, the safety of cross-border transportation of fossil fuels, and the threat posed by Asian carp.

“Over 100 years of successful binational cooperation to protect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence reflects our strong friendship and shared interests in the region,” said John Dickert, mayor of Racine, Wisconsin and officer on the Cities Initiative board. “Working together, American and Canadian mayors keep our respective governments accountable for protecting this great global freshwater resource.”

Meetings with Great Lakes and St. Lawrence members of Parliament provided mayors with the opportunity to raise regional issues with their federally-elected representatives as well. Kellie Leitch, MP for Simcoe-Grey; Francis Scarpaleggia, MP for Lac-Saint-Louis; Larry Miller, MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound; and Brian Masse, MP for Windsor West met with their constituent mayors that day.

Mulcair also met with the mayors to share his views on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence protection.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of 112 mayors and other local officials that work actively with federal, state, tribal, First Nations, and provincial governments, along with other stakeholders, to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin.  — Kristen Curtis

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