Great Lakes Protection Act
Bill or Act:
Great Lakes Protection Act
Summary of Proposal:
The proposed Act is enabling and would give the province new tools to take targeted action to improve water quality, and protect coastlines, beaches and wetlands, with the overall intent of helping to attain Great Lakes that are drinkable, swimmable, and fishable.
If passed, the proposed Act would provide authority to take action in a variety of ways:
-Establish a Great Lakes Guardians' Council to provide a forum for Great Lakes Ministers, municipal representatives, representatives of First Nations and Métis communities, and representatives from environmental organizations, the scientific community, industrial, agricultural, recreational and tourism sectors and others, to identify Great Lakes priorities for action, propose projects, potential financial measures and partnerships, and help to facilitate information sharing and discuss matters related to setting targets, development of initiatives and inter-jurisdictional agreements.
-Require that Ontario's Great Lakes Strategy be maintained, reviewed at least every 6 years, and reported on periodically. Ontario's Great Lakes Strategy sets out environmental conditions, goals, a summary of actions taken, and priorities for future action on the Great Lakes.
-Enable the Minister of the Environment, in consultation with other Great Lakes Ministers, to set Great Lakes targets. These targets would help achieve the purposes of the proposed Act and would support implementation of Ontario's Great Lakes Strategy.
-Following local discussion, provide authority to take targeted action on priority areas through geographically-focused initiatives. These initiatives could address priority issues such as excessive algae, protection of important Great Lakes habitat, or coordination of efforts to improve beaches. Initiatives could build on existing work, combining and aligning resources and coordinating efforts from different partners in Great Lakes protection.
The proposed Act would allow flexibility regarding what priority issues are addressed, where to target action, how to address priority issues, and who should address them. These initiatives could be developed through a collaborative process by the Government of Ontario or by another public body (such as a municipality, a conservation authority, a source protection committee, or others prescribed by regulations). Consultation would be required on both a proposal for an initiative and draft initiative. Both proposals for initiatives and the initiatives themselves would be subject to the approval of Cabinet prior to implementation.
Initiatives would be required to contain either a legally enforceable policy (such as one that affects government permits and approvals) or a proposal for a shoreline regulation (please see #5 below), or both. The initiatives could also include policies that would be voluntary (such as programs to coordinate efforts, promote good stewardship, pilot new programs, promote best management practices, facilitate research, and encourage education and outreach).
-Provide authority to make a shoreline regulation, within an area covered by a geographically-focused initiative, to regulate activities that may affect the ecological health of the Great Lakes such as disposal of invasive species or damage to sensitive shoreline areas. Any shoreline regulation contemplated under the proposed Act would be consulted on and would move forward only after careful assessment and consideration of options and impacts.
February 26, 2013
Comments Due Date:
April 26, 2013