Ontario’s future is closely linked to the health of the Great Lakes. Those waterbodies feed our farms, quench our cities’ thirst, fuel industry, and form the backdrop for our social lives.
So it was pretty exciting when Waterkeeper Mark Mattson stepped into the Ontario legislature on October 7, 2015 to witness the passage of the Great Lakes Protection Act.
We’d presented to an all-party committee earlier this fall, suggesting that more needs to be done to ensure everyone can “swim, drink, and fish” on the Great Lakes. That theme runs throughout the legislation, and dates back to the first background report in 2012.
“We must act to protect the Great Lakes where they are in decline, restore them to good health and ensure that the water is drinkable, swimmable and fishable for future generations to come.”
That’s not a surprise. The idea that the Great Lakes must be swimmable, drinkable, and fishable for our communities to prosper has nothing to do with politics.
As the Opposition’s environment critic noted:
“There was one deputation that I was taken with; it came from Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. I just want to quote part of the submission that was included with it. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper said, ‘You should not pass the act just because environmentalists support it. You pass the act because it is the smartest investment in the province’s future that a government can make.’”
When we saw the final bill, we realized it was stronger than the bill that had been sent to committee:
The committee closed the loophole that could have allowed governments to dodge deadlines for reviewing the Great Lakes Protection Strategy and filing progress reports.
- They ensured the law can be used to eliminate microplastic pollution.
- They promoted better data-sharing between government, other institutions, and individuals.
- Those are important changes that show how scrutiny and consultation can make good ideas even better.
With the passage of the Great Lakes Protection Act, the real work can begin. The framework is there. It’s up to government, business, and citizens to give it meaning and force now.
Official Records for 7 October 2015
Hon. Glen R. Murray: We have a number of guests in the gallery today who are here for the third reading of Bill 66. We have, from the Earth Rangers, who will be here shortly, a group of children: Tovah Barocas, Amy Cross, Lisa Martin, Metta Martin, Tammara Tucker, Emily Tucker, Darlena Green, Catherine MacLean and Elizabeth MacLean; Mark Mattson from Lake Ontario Waterkeeper; Hilda Swirsky from the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario; Kevin Rich and Jim Pimblett from Ducks Unlimited; Bob Duncanson from the Georgian Bay Association; Mark Fisher from the Council of the Great Lakes Region; Tim Gray and Natalija Fisher from Environmental Defence; and finally, Nancy Goucher from Freshwater Future.