The Great Lakes are the most epic, majestic, and awe-inspiring bodies of freshwater on the planet. But you don’t have to take my word for it. These facts do all the talking.
The Great Lakes:
- Hold 20 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater
- Are the drinking water source for 80 per cent of Ontarians
- Support a $4.4 trillion dollar economy
- Are home for over 200 species at risk
The list could go on, but here’s the point: There’s nothing in the world quite like the Great Lakes. You would think with all the Great Lakes give us (things like drinking water, economic growth and jobs, recreation and tourism) that governments would be jumping to invest in them. But they are not.
Current plan to save the Great Lakes needs work
The federal and provincial governments have just released their draft agreement for Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health. This agreement is meant to act as an action plan and funding tool to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, it is inadequate and disappointing.
It’s clear upon a quick comparison with the 2014 agreement that both governments are proposing to take a big step away from accountability or any meaningful goal setting when it comes to addressing threats to the Great Lakes and this seems to be part of a growing pattern. In the early 2000s, the agreements had clear goals, measurable outcomes and transparent government action plans. This most recent draft plan, however, almost entirely lacks these essentials.
This draft lists areas for action, and includes ideas for addressing plastic pollution and wastewater contamination. But without ambitious targets, timelines, or any accountability measures how do we know real actions will be taken and how will governments themselves know either?
Governments are asking for the public’s opinions and feedback on this plan and you can do so by sending your comments to the provincial and federal comment portals. It’s important to let them know that, to be effective, the plan must include:
- Ambitious goals that are time-bound and measurable
- A $100 Million per year investment in Great Lakes protection and restoration
- Accountability measures and a commitment to transparent reporting of results of implementing the plan
As fantastic and majestic as the Great Lakes are, they are under serious and growing threats, and they need our help. Every year, harmful and toxic algae blooms grow out of control, 10,000 tonnes of plastic enter the lakes, and habitat loss and invasive species take their toll. Climate change is exacerbating all of these issues, and a recent study reveals the Great Lakes region is warming faster than anywhere else in the U.S.
It’s time for action to protect the Great Lakes
Now is not the time for governments to weaken their ambition on Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health. The lakes need strong action now more than ever. Public consultation on the plan ends September 4. Take action now to ensure the future for the Great Lakes is a healthy and thriving one!