Mayors, businesses, NGOs call for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative-like funding in Canada to protect Great Lakes/St. Lawrence

Mayors, businesses and NGOs gathered in Ottawa November 22 to call for a collaborative process to amplify and accelerate Great Lakes/St. Lawrence protection and restoration at their second annual Parliament Hill Days. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence advocates requested that Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna establish an independent panel of stakeholders to undertake a strategic review of federal investments and programs with a view to increase investment and improve programming to protect the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence.

“Despite years of effort by all levels of government, we are not keeping up with the compounding stressors and new threats to the Great Lakes,” said Tony Maas, of Freshwater Future. “We need to up our game to combat the impacts of climate change, agricultural and urban run-off, new chemicals, invasive species and habitat loss.”

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Freshwater Future, Council of the Great Lakes Region, Strategies Saint Laurent, Great Lakes Fishery Commission and other key stakeholders met with McKenna to propose a Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Collaborative Strategy.

“We are inspired by the success of the U.S. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which demonstrated how federal commitment and financing transformed the shorelines and communities of the Great Lakes,” said Paul Dyster, Mayor of Niagara Falls New York and Chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a binational coalition of mayors. “We are committed to working together to achieve the same success here in Canada.”

The groups are proposing the creation of an independent panel of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence stakeholders to undertake a strategic review of federal programs and investments, such as the St. Lawrence Action Plan and the ZIP Program, to meet commitments and priorities identified under existing Great Lakes and St. Lawrence intergovernmental agreements and plans. The panel would then consult with stakeholders on recommended investments and programming. Given their critical stake in Great Lakes and St. Lawrence management, the Governments of Québec and Ontario and First Nations and Metis political leadership would also be asked to participate in this process.

“A healthy Great Lakes St. Lawrence Region is essential for the success of the Canadian economy,” said Mark Fisher, President and CEO of the Council of the Great Lakes Region. “Our global competitiveness and our ability to attract talent rests on protecting our greatest asset—our high quality of life on the shores of the greatest freshwater resource in the world.”

For more information on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Collaborative Strategy, please go to www.glslcities.org/collaborative.

Maritime Editorial