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Funding needed for Great Lakes Protection Act, says environmentalist

Gail Martin, Independent Editor

The proposed Great Lakes Protection Act is a great idea, but will need some actual funding commitments from the provincial government in order for it to be effective.

That’s according to well-known area environmentalist and political advocate John Jackson, who made a presentation on the pending legislation at the June 28 Chemtura Public Advisory Committee.

Jackson had been invited to speak on the Great Lakes Protection Act (also known as Bill 100), in light of the potential of the act to support projects to improve the water quality in the Grand River watershed, which could include Elmira.

Jackson told CPAC members that the legislation, has passed first reading and is expected to return for more debate this fall.

Jackson noted that the legislation speaks to the need for everyone to be a “Great Lakes guardian,” protecting the lakes from further degradation, and improving their conditions.  The legislation would lend its support to local public bodies such as municipal governments or advisory committees such as CPAC that would work towards these goals.

The legislation would also establish a Great Lakes Guardian Council, to periodically look at issues that require input from experts and stakeholders, on how to address substantive problems in the Great Lakes.

“Those are very good objectives, but one of the concerns I have with this, is that there is not a lot about what the provincial government is actually going to do,” said Jackson.

And while any locally proposed initiative that is approved through the Great Lakes Protection Act will have substantive legislative support, overriding even the Planning Act, in some cases, there seems to be little thought given for any financial support for these projects.

“There’s nothing in the legislation that makes any commitment to resources, and that’s the complaint I’ve raised, and instead it seems to be that these public bodies, these other partners, will somehow take on these tasks,” said Jackson. “So I feel it’s really important for this body or municipality or whoever to really make some input, say, hey, there’s some really good stuff that can happen here, but we don’t have the capacity, the resources to do it.”

CPAC member Sebastien Siebel-Achenbach said that without having any budget attached to this legislation, “I can’t imagine how any of these initiatives will get any momentum.”

“I have the same concern and fear,” said Jackson. “And people need to keep saying that.”

The legislation was posted on Ontario’s environmental registry on June 6, for a period of 60 days of public comment, and public hearings are also expected later this year on the legislation, before it is finally passed.

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