Canada and Ontario continue to improve the Great Lakes



    TORONTO, March 16 /CNW Telbec/ - The Governments of Canada and Ontario
are building on the accomplishments of the current Canada-Ontario Agreement
Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA) to continue to improve and
protect the Great Lakes, their waters and their ecosystem.
    To demonstrate this commitment to continued cooperation, Federal
Environment Minister John Baird and Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten
today released a draft COA for 2007-2010 for public comment that commits the
two governments to continue to work together in the Great Lakes Basin.
    Specifically, the new agreement will clean up Areas of Concern, eliminate
or significantly reduce harmful pollutants and protect and restore the basin's
biodiversity. In addition, two new areas of special focus that will benefit
from enhanced cooperative work in the Great Lakes Basin are understanding
climate change impacts, and protecting the Great Lakes as a source of drinking
water.
    "Continuing the cooperative work under the Canada-Ontario Agreement
reflects our commitment to pursue practical, results-oriented solutions to
reduce pollution and improve the health and well-being of Canadians," said
Minister Baird. "The quality of our water is essential to the economy and the
health of our aquatic ecosystems."
    "The Great Lakes are a precious and vital resource for millions of people
in Ontario and one of the most biologically diverse regions in Canada," said
Minister Broten. "This agreement will allow us to continue to deal with the
issues facing the Great Lakes, including protecting the aquatic ecosystems and
to help us deal with challenges ranging from threats to our drinking water to
the impacts of climate change."
    The COA will enhance awareness and stewardship of the Great Lakes by
promoting greater involvement of COA partners and stakeholders in implementing
the agreement and promoting the sustainability of Great Lakes communities. The
coordination of monitoring, research and information-sharing will also be
improved.
    The current five-year COA expires this year. The renewed three-year COA
will contribute to meeting Canada's obligations under the Canada-U.S. Great
Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which is currently under review by both
countries. A new COA beyond 2010 would reflect the outcomes of that review.
    In the coming weeks, the two governments will look for ways to involve
the Canadian Great Lakes community over the next three years in developing a
vision for the longer-term future of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem.
    Both governments are seeking public input on the draft COA. The deadline
for written comments is May 16, 2007. The Agreement is available on
Environment Canada's website at: www.ec.gc.ca/CEPARegistry/agreements. It is
available through Ontario's Environmental Registry at www.ebr.gov.on.ca under
the EBR number 010-0063. The provincial comment period begins today while the
federal government's comment period begins March 17, 2007 when the Notice of
Intent is published in the Canada Gazette, Part I.

    For more information on COA and the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem please
visit: www.on.ec.gc.ca/greatlakes.

    (Disponible en français)

    
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              CANADA-ONTARIO AGREEMENT SHOWS RENEWED COMMITMENT
                   TO THE HEALTH OF THE GREAT LAKES BASIN

    A renewed Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin
Ecosystem (COA) for 2007 - 2010 reflects the commitment by Canada and Ontario
to restore and protect the health of the Great Lakes Basin.
    The draft COA released today for public comment will enable the Government
of Canada and the Ontario Government to continue coordinated work with other
partners. This includes addressing Great Lakes issues by reducing pollution
entering the Basin, cleaning up degraded Areas of Concern and restoring and
protecting the biodiversity of the ecosystem.
    Both governments agree to focus on understanding the impacts of climate
change on the Great Lakes, ensuring water is safe for everything from drinking
to recreation and improving our knowledge of the state of the ecosystem.
    The two governments intend to work with the Great Lakes community,
including businesses and industries, non-government organizations,
municipalities, conservation authorities and Aboriginal communities and
organizations to implement the COA.
    The draft 2007-2010 COA builds on previous agreements and will replace the
current five-year agreement which expires on March 22, 2007. The renewed
three-year COA will contribute to meeting Canada's obligations under the
Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement which is currently under
review by both countries. A new COA beyond 2010 would reflect the outcome of
that review.
    Observable improvements have been made to the health of the Great Lakes
Basin ecosystem, following the signing of the first COA 36 years ago:

    - Since 1971, there has been a significant reduction in nutrient loadings
      resulting from the reduction of phosphorus which improved water quality
      and assisted in the recovery of the fisheries.
    - There have been major reductions of persistent toxic substances
      including 89 per cent of high-level PCBs since 1993, and 86 per cent of
      mercury and 89 per cent of dioxins/furans since 1988.
    - Increased populations of sentinel species such as the osprey and the
      bald eagle signal the improved health of the ecosystem.
    - In the past decade, significant progress has been made in cleaning up
      problems in the 17 most degraded Areas of Concern in Canada's portion
      of the Great Lakes. Two have been fully restored (Severn Sound and
      Collingwood Harbour) and one has been identified as an Area in Recovery
      (Spanish Harbour).

    While progress has been made in restoring and protecting the health of the
Great Lakes, they continue to show stress from human activities. The renewed
COA proposes to maintain momentum in shared priority areas, as well as
recognize new areas that will benefit from enhanced cooperative work.
    The 2007 - 2010 COA will commit Canada and Ontario to work on priorities
that include:

    - Further initiatives to restore and protect environmental quality on
      Canada's 15 remaining Areas of Concern, five of which are shared with
      the United States.

      Canada and Ontario aim to complete priority cleanup actions for an
      additional four Areas of Concern so that they can be recognized as
      "Areas in Recovery" or be removed from the list altogether, while
      making significant progress in restoring environmental quality in the
      many others.

    - Working toward the virtual elimination of persistent toxics and
      reduction of other harmful pollutants.

      Canada and Ontario intend to reduce the release of persistent
      bioaccumulative toxic substances, air pollutants and releases from
      municipal wastewater. A new program for the sound management of
      chemical substances will be developed and the understanding of sources
      of pollutants, what happens to them in the lakes and their impacts,
      including risks to human health, will be improved.

    - Working toward lake and basin sustainability

      Canada and Ontario plan to work with the broader Great Lakes community
      to enhance awareness and stewardship of the Great Lakes and promote
      their sustainability. Lake-specific pollutants will be addressed and
      efforts will be undertaken to conserve and protect biodiversity and to
      reduce the threat of the introduction of aquatic invasive species.
      Canada and Ontario will also recognize two new areas of special focus:
      understanding the impact of climate change in the Great Lakes Basin and
      protecting the Great Lakes Basin as a source of drinking water.

    - Coordinating monitoring, research and information

      Canada and Ontario will continue to improve the co-ordination of
      scientific monitoring, research and information for tracking and
      reporting on environmental change. This includes sharing data and
      information with other members of the Great Lakes community.

    The signatories

    Negotiations for COA are led by Environment Canada for the Government of
Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for the Province of
Ontario. The federal signatories to the COA are the Ministers of Agriculture
and Agri-Food, Environment (including Parks Canada Agency), Fisheries and
Oceans, Health, Natural Resources, Public Works and Government Services, and
Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
    Ontario's signatories are the provincial Ministers of the Environment,
Natural Resources and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Other Ontario
ministries involved in setting priorities for a renewed COA are Public
Infrastructure Renewal, Municipal Affairs and Housing and Health and Long Term
Care.
    




For further information:

For further information: Eric Richer, Press Secretary, Office of the
Minister of the Environment, (819) 997-1441; Media Relations: Environment
Canada, (819) 934-8008, 1-888-908-8008; Anne O'Hagan, Office of the Ontario
Minister of the Environment, (416) 325-5809; John Steele, Ontario Ministry of
the Environment, (416) 314-6666

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Environment Canada

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Ontario Ministry of The Environment

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