On Oct. 7, 2015, Ontario passed the Great Lakes Protection Act to strengthen the province's ability to keep the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River clean.
The GLPA will also protect and restore the waterways that flow into them, including Lake Simcoe, which is part of the Great Lakes Basin.
The new act was welcomed by environmental organizations.
In an article on its website, Ecojustice, Canada’s only national environmental law charity, said:
"Three of Ontario’s four Great Lakes are currently in a state of decline; underlying causes include increased stress on this ecosystem from rapid population growth, industrial and residential development, and climate change. Three-quarters of southern Ontario’s wetlands have also been lost because the tools that were in place to protect our waters were not up to the task.
The passage of this urgently needed legislation gives us hope that the provincial government is serious about putting an end to an era of neglect, and is ready to get on with the important task of protecting our Great Lakes."
In a website blog, environmental action group Environmental Defence called the new law "Great news for the Great Lakes!"
Environmental Defence said: "Last year, toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie left 500,000 people in Toledo, OH, and also residents of Pelee Island, ON, without access to safe tap water for a number of days. The Act is a strong step towards protecting the Great Lakes ecosystems for current and future generations."In a news release, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate change said the new act enables the province to address significant environmental challenges to the Great Lakes, including climate change, harmful pollutants and algal blooms.
- Establish a Great Lakes Guardians' Council to provide a collaborative forum for discussing and gaining input on issues and priorities relating to the Great Lakes.
- Allow the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to set environmental targets and enable communities to address local problems.
- Require the establishment of monitoring programs on a number of water quality indices where needed, as well as regular public reporting.
- Require consideration of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in decisions made about the health of the Great Lakes if offered by First Nations or Métis communities.
- Enshrine Ontario's Great Lakes Strategy, the province's action plan on the Great Lakes, as a living document to be reviewed every six years and reported in the legislature every three years.
Protecting the Great Lakes for future generations supports the government's plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in people's talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario's history, creating a dynamic, innovative environment where business thrives and building a secure retirement savings plan.
- The Great Lakes basin is home to 98 per cent of the province’s population, 95 per cent of the province’s agricultural lands, 80 per cent of the province’s power generation capacity and 75 per cent of the country’s manufacturing sector.
- Ontario has 10,000 kilometres of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence shoreline, the longest freshwater coastline in the world.
- Since 2007, Ontario has invested more than $140 million into 1,000 local Great Lakes protection projects that have dramatically reduced the most harmful pollutants, restored some of the most contaminated areas and engaged hundreds of partners and community groups to protect and restore the health of the Great Lakes.