The Ontario government has proposed a Great Lakes Protection Act, strategy, and support for local actions.

Already, several groups have commented on the news.

“Protecting the Great Lakes is not just a ‘nice’ thing to do; it’s absolutely necessary for our social, economic and environmental well being,” said Don Pearson, general manager of Conservation Ontario, the organization that represents Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities.

“Despite efforts to date, which are often the result of coordinated support from a wide variety of sources including municipal, provincial and federal governments, there are still significant challenges to address.  These include invasive species, beach closures resulting from contaminated runoff, algae blooms affecting drinking water and public health, and climate change impacts.  This announcement is evidence that the Ontario government cares about the Great Lakes and we’re pleased to see that,” said Pearson.

“There are many organizations in Ontario who are working hard to implement important stewardship and monitoring programs that address local watershed challenges and how they impact conditions in the downstream Great Lakes,” Pearson added. “It’s good to see that support for this work will continue.”

On May 9, the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) produced a statement of expectations (pdf here) for a Great Lakes Protection Act, in collaboration with Ecojustice, Ducks Unlimited, Environmental Defence, Great Lakes United, and the Sierra Club of Canada.

In a release, Ecojustice’s Rick Smith said that he feels the collective advice to the government has been heard. “We are looking forward to seeing all party support for an important Act to restore the Great Lakes, a huge economic engine, and the drinking water of 37 million people,” he said.

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“The government’s proposed bottom-up approach to identifying problems and solutions based on local input and involvement is efficient and inclusive,” said CELA’s  Theresa McClenaghan. “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.”

According to The Canadian Press, the act would establish a Great Lakes Guardians Council, chaired by Environment Minister Jim Bradley and including other ministers, municipal representatives, First Nations members, people from the agriculture sector and scientists. Bradley says the council would identify provincial Great Lakes improvement priorities and direct resources.

The act would also establish a Great Lakes Community Action Fund, which would provide $1.5 million in the first year to community groups for projects that would benefit the lakes.

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