The Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) Respecting the Great Lakes Ecosystem is being renegotiated by the federal and provincial governments. This is the governments’ five year workplan, outlining how Canada and Ontario will cooperate and coordinate on actions that will implement the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Protocol and the 2012 Ontario Great Lakes Strategy beyond December 2019.
CELA (and others attending a webinar on Fri, May 31, 2019) learned that the timeline for developing a draft COA has been accelerated, with an aim to have a draft new COA available for mandatory 60-day consultation in early summer.
During the webinar, we also learned that the governments are considering:
- five priorities (roughly the same as the 2014 COA) – protecting waters; improving coastal areas; protecting habitat and species; enhancing understanding and adaptation; and, engaging communities – from awareness to action
- no longer having standalone annexes for science (currently Annex 10) and innovation (currently Annex 11); rather building science and innovation into all annexes
- introducing a wastewater and stormwater annex
And, in addition to bringing forward many of the commitments in the 2014 COA, the governments are considering:
- extending the nutrient annex to Lake Ontario
- including plastic pollution, managing the impacts of road salt use
- focusing on taking action, clearly identifying remaining actions, and making specific commitments to engage communities, First Nations and Métis in remediation of areas of concern
- strengthening engagement on lakewide management
- assessing the vulnerability of coastal wetlands to climate-related impacts and measures for enhancing resilience
- improving understanding of surface water and groundwater interactions
- better understanding of climate change impacts
- using online engagement tools
- opportunities for citizen science and nature-based recreation (building on protected areas programming)
- regularly engaging First Nations and Métis on lake-specific issues, in remediation and de-listing decisions for areas of concern, and regarding fish consumption advisories
If you care about protecting and restoring freshwater and wetlands in the Great Lakes – St Lawrence River watershed, now is the time to let the federal and provincial governments know what your priorities are for the next five year workplan. You can email your feedback to Tracy.Wright@ontario.ca.