Government launches Great Lakes Protection Act

Yesterday, before heading off to hang out with magazine people at MagNet, I got a chance to hang out by the water for a bit. Well, it was for a news conference held at Harbourfront in Toronto, but there was lots of sunshine and sparkling water and I could see the islands across the way and I thought, Hmm, it would be so nice to skip out on this and ferry over there, head to the beach and have a nap, maybe have a swim, then another nap. Yeah, that would be good. But I didn’t, because I had more important things to do, like listen to the Minister of the Environment, Jim Bradley, announce the Ontario government’s newest eco-initiative, the Great Lakes Protection Act (the GLPA).

The act was introduced in the legislature yesterday. The government also presented its Great Lakes Strategy, a blueprint for protecting and improving the lakes. The document is a draft and is open to public review for 60 days. Anyone can comment on whether the MOE has set the right priorities, if it has missed any important issues, or any other concerns.

The GLPA, if it is passed in the legislature, will require the government to set up a Great Lakes Guardians Council, made up of 10 government ministers (from the MOE, MNR, energy, tourism and culture, etc.), plus the stakeholders with an interest in the health of the Great Lakes (First Nations groups, municipal representatives, cottager associations, environmental groups, industries, scientists, etc.). This council will act as an advisory panel for the government on how to proceed with protection plans and recovery projects. The act also includes a proposal to establish a Great Lakes Community Action Fund, where community groups (including cottager associations) could apply for grants for small projects along the shores of the lakes.

A number of stakeholders were on hand at yesterday’s conference to support the government’s newest legislation, among them Terry Rees from the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, Bob Duncanson of the Georgian Bay Association, Rick Smith from Environmental Defence, and Jeff Newton, president of Canada’s National Brewers (the leading beer companies, because, after all, most of what we drink when we drink our favourite brewski is Great Lakes water).

The event ended with a photo op of Bradley surrounded by kids from a local school. Then I headed off, looking wistfully across at the islands, and went to a seminar, in a hotel conference room, about how to write a great headline.