Advocating for Reintroduction of the Great Lakes Protection Act
Published On: 22 October 2014
The Great Lakes Protection Act (the Act) was first tabled in 2012 as Bill 100 by the Ontario Liberal Government, as legislation to implement goals and objectives outlined within Ontario’s ‘Great Lakes Protection Strategy’. The Act was reintroduced in 2013 as Bill 6, and died on the order paper at this past spring 2014 election following considerable revision from its original form through the process of reading and review by Standing Committee.
Kathleen Wynn’s re-elected government is now presented with the decision of whether to reintroduce the Great Lakes Protection Act that the Ontario Liberal Government has so strongly advocated for over recent years. If the Act is re-tabled, the majority Liberals are faced with a choice in direction to either reintroduce the Act as it was left with the Standing Committee, or take this opportunity to table a revised version of the Act, incorporating recommendations previously advocated for by engaged stakeholders and researchers.
In an effort to develop a more thorough understanding of what a decision to reintroduce a Great Lakes Protection Act might mean at the implementation level, I completed a decision impact assessment exploring the Great Lakes Protection Act (Bill 6 version) specifically from the view as to what impact implementation of the Act may have for the geographical area of the Georgian Bay Littoral Biosphere Reserve (GBLBR).
(See link below to ‘Backgrounder’ section for information on the last active version of the Great Lakes Protection Act, an introduction to the Georgian Bay Littoral Biosphere Reserve and threats facing it, and the decision impact assessment)
The last-active (Bill 6) version of the Great Lakes Protection Act (GLPA) would provide an improvement over current legislation with notable benefits to the GBLBR. Current legislation does not offer any regulation toward ecosystem or ecological services protection, unless specifically linked to more easily quantifiable economic contributors such as a specific fish species integral to a recognized fishery (federal Fisheries Act). As explored within the decision impact assessment (link included) The GLPA in its dying form, would still have fallen far-short of providing adequate protection for the Great Lakes Basin overall, including the Georgian Bay Littoral Biosphere Reserve (GBLBR).
Major shortcomings of the Bill 6 version of the GLPA consistently identified by various stakeholders and researchers who were invited to participate in review of the Act have included:
- A lack of dedicated funding for research focused initiatives
- Limited funding for Geographically Focused (restoration) Initiatives – grant amounts minuscule in comparison to the scale of Great Lakes issues.
- An exclusive focus on localized (geographically specific) areas and issues, at the exclusion of many of the watershed and sub-watershed scaled issues that are facing the Great Lakes Basin
- No requirement for the Minister of Environment to set measurable targets toward achieving the goals of the Act
It is my personal view that the majority Liberal Government lead by Premier Kathleen Wynne should immediately begin work on a revised version of the Great Lakes Protection Act for reintroduction to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Revisions to the Act must include more meaningful funding initiatives, an additional purpose toward addressing ‘watershed basin’ scaled issues, and a clear, tangible approach to support for the advancement of related Science (the fourth stated purpose of the Act). Most importantly, established performance measures and identified targets toward achieving each of the Act’s stated purposes must be included.
Such an amended Act would provide meaningful support and protection for the Great Lakes Basin and simultaneously address many of the threats that the Georgian Bay Littoral Biosphere Reserve is facing.
List of References
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (Gord Miller). Serving the Public: Annual Report 2012/2013. Toronto, 2013.
Ministry of the Environment. “Ministry Program Summary, The Estimates, 2014-15.” 2014.
Ontario Ministry of Environment. “Results-based Plan Briefing Book 2012-13.” 2013.
Photography from the Georgian Bay Littoral Biosphere Reserve by Dr. Robert Berdan and Karl Berdan: http://www.canadiannaturephotographer.com