Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; Welcomed — but will there be follow through?

Environment Minister Peter Kent signed a newly amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in Washington today. The new agreement is intended to address concerns with invasive species, habitat degradation and the effects of climate change.

“While it is good news to have the updated agreement signed after eight years of negotiations, its success is entirely dependent on effective implementation. The Great Lakes have been so consistently underfunded by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the majority of recommendations from previous joint agreements and action plans have been impossible to implement,” said Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada. “Political strategy rather than jurisdictional responsibility seems to direct the Harper Conservatives’ investments in freshwater lakes. Evidence shows that funding is often directed to areas where Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants votes, including the Lake Simcoe and Lake Winnipeg regions. While it is important to protect all ecosystems, the Great Lakes are critical to supplying water to over 40 million people, and contain 18 percent of the world’s surface freshwater supply.”

Under the 1908 Boundary Waters Treaty, Canada has an obligation to follow through on commitments for protecting the Great Lakes in partnership with the United States. “Neglect for this critical resource has gone on long enough,” said Elizabeth May. “We need to see significant financial commitments behind this new agreement if it is to be successful.”

As Senior Policy Advisor to former federal Environment Minister Tom McMillan, May worked on the previous iteration of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1987. In her years as the Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada, May was also very engaged in all Great Lakes issues.