Based in Toronto, I recently completed the Masters of Information (MI) program at the University of Toronto, and am the former Communications Manager at Canadian Business for Social Responsibility and Ontario-based Alterna Savings credit union. I'm long-time believer that businesses of whatever type - co-op, private, public - are critical to the process of social and environmental change. The MI d...
Water, Water, Everywhere in Canada
Canada Water Week is inspiring Canadians to declare their love for their favourite body of water, and events are happening across country to make the health of Canada's water resource top of mind.
Ontario government puts Great Lakes protection back in focus
Water Week seemed to come early in Ontario with the reintroduction of the Great Lakes Protection Act, 2013 to the provincial legislature in February by new premier Kathleen Wynne. The Act had been originally introduced last June, after consultation between the province and stakeholders, but was not passed due to the discontinuance of the legislature and mid-term resignation of the previous premier Dalton McGuinty.
This enabling legislation aims to ensure the lakes are "drinkable, swimmable and fishable", bringing additional focus to the many challenges affecting this precious global water resourcefrom lowering lake levels, to invasive species, to algal blooms/phosphorous loading and drinking water quality, among others. The Act follows on other complementary legislation such as the Canada-US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, 2012 and the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 compelling manufacturing and mining in the province to develop plans to reduce their use of toxic substances.
The protection of the lakes must be shared among many, and the Act also takes a collaborative approach, bringing industry to the table with other Great Lakes Ministers, municipalities, First Nations and Métis communities, eNGOs, scientific communities, agriculture and tourism in a Great Lakes Guardians' Council.
I asked Dan McDermott, Director of the Sierra Club Ontario about their views of the Act as a tool. He is supportive of the concept and happy that the Minister of the Environment in charge with the delivering the Act is Jim Bradley, an Ontario politician who was active in addressing acid rain in the 1980s.
"We have confidence that the act will provide him with the platform to take a more aggressive Ontario stance on issues related to the Great Lakes," said McDermott yesterday. With so many challenges at play, it remains to be seen what will be tackled first, but the Act, when passed, will make the Great Lakes a higher government priority.
Issues to watch:
- Federal/provincial agreement on the Great Lakes: with limited resources on both sides, and different approaches currently, this is still an outstanding challenge according to McDermott.
- Shipping: As McDermott notes, will government stewards of the Great Lakes be eventually forced to make choice between the health of the lakes and shipping impacts?
Love the long showers: personal attitudes still a paradox
Younger Canadians continue to enjoy, albeit guiltily, their long relaxing showers, according to the Royal Bank of Canada's annual 2013 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study. As part of RBC's multi-year Blue Water Project, GlobeScan recently surveyed Canadian water attitudes. Younger Canadians are more likely to feel guilty for negatively impacting the environment (45%) than older Canadians, while also being the least likely to take action by shortening their showers and avoiding watering the lawn in the summer. An interesting data point showing the need for conversion of increasing awareness to actionaction that could be a factor in relieving pressure on the Great Lakes and other freshwater sources.
Check out Canada Water Week events at canadawaterweek.com and see hashtags #canadawaterweek and #canh2o.