Today, Ontario re-introduced the Great Lakes Protection Act, which is good news. The lakes are one of Ontario’s defining features. They are vital to our environment and our economy. And, with the Act, the province is committing to work to ensure that the Great Lakes are drinkable, fishable, and swimmable for current and future generations.
Here are some of the key reasons we need this legislation.
1. Great Lakes water quality is under threat
Did you know that 80 per cent of Ontarians get their drinking water from the Great Lakes? Yet, the tools currently in place to protect our water are not up to the task. Three out of four of Ontario’s Great Lakes are currently in a state of decline. Satellite imagery shows us that algal blooms are increasing in size and frequency and are poisoning drinking water, especially in Lake Erie. Studies have shown that persistent pollutants, toxic substances, and chemicals of concern continue to build up in the Great Lakes. This is a problem for human health, fish, and wildlife. And the Act will help address this problem.
2. The Great Lakes are vital to our communities and our economy
Aside from issues of drinking water, the lakes are key focal points for Ontario communities. Hundreds of thousands flock to beaches in the summer; many more use the waters for sailing, kayaking, and fishing. In addition, they are the backbone of a thriving tourism industry, and a commercial fishery as well. The Great Lakes are critical to the health of the basin’s annual $4.4 trillion economy.
3. We need new opportunities for stronger community involvement in Great Lakes issues
The bill creates a new tool, called Geographically-Focussed Initiatives, which will allow communities to come together and define how the provincial government can help them address water pollution. This means that the people who live and work near the lakes–the people who rely upon them most directly–will be key players in identifying the best ways to protect the water in their backyard.
4. There is a growing movement of people who want to see strong Great Lakes legislation:
- Municipal support: more than 26 per cent of Ontario’s population lives in communities that have officially and publicly stated their support for a Great Lakes Protection Act through council-approved municipal motions
- A diverse bandwagon: official letters of support have come from representatives of retail, unions, tourism, farmers, nurses and cottage groups
- Grassroots momentum: more than 2,100 individuals have signed letters of support and sent petitions to the Ontario government
If you’re reading this and think that this sounds familiar, you’re correct. We’ve been here before. After four years, two failed bills, and three provincial governments later, the proposed act is back. And it’s stronger than ever. This time, political and community support for the bill means that nothing now stands in the way of it being passed.
What you can do
Join the movement and support clean water. Environmental Defence will be working to ensure political leaders hear from Ontario’s Great Lakes champions. You can help by sharing this blog on social media and tell your friends about the new Great Lakes Protection Act. Also, sign-up for our Water Update e-newsletter, where we will keep you posted on the status of the act and notify you of opportunities to help get the act passed. Get informed about the threats to the Great Lakes and simple actions you can take to reduce your water footprint.