A bold new report was released earlier this month by the Great Lakes and St Lawrence Collaborative. The Action Plan 2020-2030 for the Future of the St. Lawrence calls for an investment of $100 million per year over 10 years by the federal government to better protect the Saint-Laurent region, its quality of water and the health of its residents from the impacts of climate change and toxic substances.

“The people and communities along the St Lawrence River are facing unprecedented challenges to their homes, business and core infrastructure. A coordinated response by all governments to take action today will protect our communities tomorrow,” says Michelle Morin Doyle, chair of the Great Lakes St Lawrence Cities Initiative. “The U.S. Government has created a national program, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, that provides financial support directly to Great Lakes communities. We in Canada need a comparable program to protect this incredible resource.”

The plan was initiated by five organizations in Quebec and Ontario and co-led by Jean Cinq-Mars, former Commissioner for Sustainable Development of Quebec, and Gord Miller, former Ontario Commissioner of the Environment. The work, undertaken over a nine-month period with the involvement of 80 experts, stakeholders and First Nations representatives, resulted in 12 key recommendations to address four challenges facing the Saint Lawrence river:

  1. Repeated flooding, coastal erosion and the vulnerability of communities along the Saint Lawrence as a result of climate change;
  2. Loss of nutrients like phosphorus used in agriculture that contribute to the growth of harmful algal blooms and the creation of areas of hypoxia;
  3. Bacteriological contamination from untreated wastewater and agricultural sources that pollutes beaches and reduces public access to the St. Lawrence;
  4. The release of toxic substances and other harmful and emerging pollutants into the St. Lawrence, Quebec’s principal source of drinking water.

Great Lakes Summit May 1, 2019 Group
(photo credit: Quinn Corkal)

Among the 12 recommendations, the collaborative calls on governments to provide municipalities with technical assistance and outreach to assist them with adapting and building resiliency to impacts associated with climate change. The plan also recommends a significant improvement to wastewater treatment infrastructure to more effectively remove nutrients and toxic substances. Furthermore, the plan acknowledges the need for farmers to ensure their competitiveness in food production while at the same time better protecting water resources.

“Our government is committed to protecting the St. Lawrence River. Its basin contains a population of nearly five million Canadians and abundant biodiversity. However, it now faces many challenges – including warming waters and declining biodiversity caused in part by climate change,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Our government is committed to meeting the zero net emissions target by 2050 and ensuring the conservation of Canada’s land and oceans. I look forward to reviewing their 12 key recommendations to help protect this important ecosystem for generations to come.”

To read the complete plan, click here:

Saint Lawrence Reports

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