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NEWS: Ontario affirms it will develop a Great Lakes Protection Act

In the Ontario government’s Throne Speech yesterday, it stated, “Your government also knows that Ontario’s wealth is not just economic — it is found in our abundance of natural beauty and resources, and we all have a duty to protect it. That’s why your government will follow through on its goal to become the continent’s water innovation leader by 2015 and work with environmental experts and community groups to develop and introduce a Great Lakes Protection Act.”

The Council of Canadians welcomes the commitment to the Great Lakes noted in yesterday’s Throne Speech. We believe that the Great Lakes must be recognized as a commons, public trust and protected bio-region. We intend to work with the Ontario Legislature to ensure that these critical principles are reflected in the new Great Lakes Protection Act.

On October 6, Ontario elected a Liberal minority government led by Dalton McGuinty. The Liberals won 53 seats in the 107-seat legislature, while the Progressive Conservatives took 37 seats and the NDP 17 seats. During the election, the Liberals promised to “defend Ontario’s precious water resources for future generations with a Great Lakes Protection Act and launch a fund that will reduce water pollution and make our beaches cleaner.” They committed $52 million to the clean-up.

The NDP promised to “designate a Minister responsible for the protection of the Great Lakes and establish clear objectives and legislation to ensure that decisions by all Ministries protect the quantity and quality of the Lakes.” They also said they would “not proceed with any approvals for the transport of radioactive steam generators on Ontario’s roads and waterways until a full provincial environmental assessment has been conducted.”

The Progressive Conservatives spoke about protecting several rivers and generally about water quality, but made no specific promises about the Great Lakes.

The Council of Canadians encourages the Ontario Legislature in this session to stop the proposed shipments of radioactive waste on the Great Lakes. The previous Liberal majority government in Ontario had not issued a provincial permit required by Bruce Power to proceed with the shipments, but neither have they called for an environmental assessment on the matter. The permit granted by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to Bruce Power to ship radioactive waste on the Great Lakes expires on February 3, 2012. The permit effectively expires sooner than that though because the shipments would need to pass through the Welland Canal which closes in the winter months (generally January-March) when the ice or weather conditions become a hazard to navigation.