Masse Writes to Urge the Federal Government to Sign new Canada-Ontario Agreement with Respect to Great Lakes
October 11th, 2013 - 10:03am
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of the Environment
House of Commons: Confederation Building, Room 458
Dear Minister Aglukkaq,
I am writing you to express my concern of the expiration of the most recent Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Ecosystems (COA) and the subsequent delays in the negotiations for a new COA. With a new version of the COA over a year late, I would ask that you inform me of the current status of the negations and urge you and your ministerial colleagues responsible for these negotiations to commit to a draft COA made available for public consultation by the end of this year.
As I am sure that you are aware, a COA Respecting the Great Lakes Ecosystems has existed in various capacities since 1972, with updated agreements in 1976, 1982, 1986, 1994, and most recently in 2007. In some cases a previous version of the COA was extended to avoid its expiry before a new agreement could be reached. This was the case in March of 2011, when the 2007 COA was extended until June 24, 2012.
On March 24, 2011 your predecessor, the Honourable Peter Kent wrote to the Ontario Minister of the Environment to confirm an extension of the 2007 COA throughout the negotiation period of the new agreement. In this letter former Minister Kent stated “in our view, there should be no gap between the expiry of the existing agreement and the commencement of a new one”. Furthermore, in a letter dated June 15, 2012 former Minister Kent wrote to the Ontario Minister of the Environment to purpose that negotiations for a new COA begin immediately. Over a year has passed since this correspondence and the 2007 COA agreement has long been expired.
Since the expiration of the COA, Canada has entered into an amended Binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), known as the Great Lakes Water Quality Protocol of 2012, which came into force in February of 2013. However, Canada’s implementation of the 2012 protocol is hindered by the delays in drafting a new COA and I remain concerned that important initiatives outlined in the protocol are at risk without a new COA.
For instance, the first annex of the 2012 protocol focuses on Areas of Concern, such as the Detroit River, which flows between the cities of Detroit and Windsor. According to the most recent protocol, the restoration of the beneficial uses of the Areas of Concern is addressed through the development and implementation of a remedial action plan (RAP) for each area. It is crucial that a COA exist to allocate funding towards the continued implementation of the RAP respecting the Detroit River and develop a long term approach for this area. With no current COA, implementation activities are delayed and receive only piecemeal funding. The United States has already identified priorities for 2012 and 2013 for implementing its commitments under the 2012 protocol through their Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which prioritizes addressing Areas of Concern like the Detroit River.
While the United States is developing practical solutions to fulfill its commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Protocol of 2012, Canada is lagging behind due to the delays in developing a new COA. Again, I would request that you please update me with the status of the negotiations and commit to making a draft COA available for public consultation by the end of 2013.
As the new Official Opposition Critic for the Great Lakes, I look forward to working with you on this and similar issues over the upcoming parliamentary session. I would like to thank you, in advance, for considering this request.
Brian Masse MP