The Great Lakes are vitally important to the Province of Ontario. 98% of Ontarians live in the Great Lakes basin where most of our economic, agricultural and social activities take place. The lakes themselves are a direct source of drinking water for the majority of Ontarians.
The Province of Ontario has worked collaboratively for decades to protect Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health and is guided by the vision of Great Lakes that are drinkable, swimmable and fishable for generations to come.
Today, new challenges are overwhelming old solutions. Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy (December 2012), provides a road map to help protect the Great Lakes. To support these efforts, Ontario has negotiated a new draft Great Lakes agreement with the Government of Canada – the 8th Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) since 1971.
COA is a principal mechanism through which Ontario and Canada coordinate their work to address their respective and shared commitments to protect the Great Lakes.
The 8th COA will be finalized after the governments of Ontario and Canada have received input from the public, First Nations and Métis, and the broader Great Lakes community. It is expected that the 8th COA will be signed in summer 2014.
This posting includes:
- Background on the 8th COA and associated Great Lakes initiatives
- A description of the 8th COA
- 8th COA draft text (see link under Additional Information)
Canada-Ontario Agreements on the Great Lakes
The 7th COA was signed in 2007. It was extended twice (to March 2011 and to June 2012) to allow time for the Government of Canada to negotiate amendments to the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). COA assists Canada in implementing its commitments under the GLWQA. The 7th COA expired on June 24, 2012 and could not be extended any further due to federal statutory limitations.
Ontario and Canada started formal negotiations of the 8th COA in June 2012. During the period between COAs, Ontario and Canada through an exchange of ministerial letters continued their collaborative work on priority actions to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
Ontario has negotiated an agreement that will support implementation of Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy. Canada has focussed on aligning commitments with the 2012 Canada-U.S. GLWQA. Throughout the negotiations, Ontario and Canada have been committed to engaging the Great Lakes community, including First Nations and Métis, in the development of the 8th COA. The 8th COA is comprised of a Framework Agreement and 14 Annexes.
Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy
On December 17, 2012, the province released Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy. The Strategy itself includes a commitment to negotiate a new COA with Canada and has formed the basis for Ontario’s position through the negotiation of the 8th COA. Priorities for future action to achieve Ontario’s vision are described around the following six goals:
- engaging and empowering communities
- protecting water for human and ecological health
- improving wetlands, beaches and coastal areas
- protecting habitats and species
- enhancing understanding and adaptation
- ensuring environmentally sustainable economic opportunities and innovation
Under goal 1, the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund is providing modest grants to community groups to undertake projects that help people clean up their corner of the Great Lakes.
Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA)
The purpose of the GLWQA is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes. The GLWQA was recently amended and entered into force on February 12, 2013.
2. The 8th COA
Provincial signatories to the 8th COA will include the Ministries of Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Food, and Rural Affairs.
The Agreement will remain in force for five years.
The proposed 8th COA consists of a Framework Agreement and Fourteen Annexes.
Each Annex specifies:
- Goals for the Great Lakes specific to the subject of the Annex, and that, in the opinion of the Parties, are the long-term articulation of what both Parties will strive to achieve;
- Results that the Parties will pursue in order to contribute towards the achievement of the stated goals; and
- Commitments each of the Parties will deliver jointly or separately for the duration of the Annex in order to contribute to the achievement of the stated goals and results.
Annex 1: Nutrients
This Annex takes an integrated approach to reduce excess nutrients and to reduce harmful and nuisance algal blooms. It includes a commitment to conduct watershed studies and implement on the ground actions in rural, urban and agricultural landscapes.
Annex 2: Harmful Pollutants
This Annex guides cooperative and coordinated actions to reduce or eliminate releases of harmful pollutants into the Great Lakes basin. It includes commitments to strengthen spill prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Annex 3: Discharges from Vessels
This Annex ensures that discharges from vessels do not adversely impact the Great Lakes.
Improving Wetlands, Beaches and Coastal Areas
Annex 4: Areas of Concern
This Annex aims to restore water quality and ecosystem health in Areas of Concern (AOCs) and includes the goals of completing priority actions for delisting in five AOCs – Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River, Bay of Quinte and St. Lawrence River and making significant progress in the other remaining AOCs.
Annex 5: Lakewide Management
This Annex advances restoration, protection and conservation of the Great Lakes through collaboration among jurisdictions and with the Great Lakes community on a lake-by-lake basis. It includes initiatives and lake specific priority actions to address current and future threats to beach quality.
Protecting Habitat and Species
Annex 6: Aquatic Invasive Species
This Annex ensures cooperative and coordinated efforts to reduce the threat of aquatic invasive species to Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health. It includes a commitment to understand and respond to the potential for new or expanded ranges of Aquatic Invasive Species in the Great Lakes.
Annex 7: Habitat and Species
This Annex continues efforts to restore, protect and conserve the resilience of Great Lakes native species and their habitats. It includes a commitment to conserve priority habitats using a variety of tools, including collaborative initiatives.
Enhancing Understanding and Adaptation
Annex 8: Groundwater Quality
This Annex supports efforts to gain a better understanding of how groundwater influences Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health, and identifies priority areas for future action. It includes a commitment to assess the state of groundwater science as it pertains to Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health.
Annex 9: Climate Change Impacts
This Annex continues to build understanding of climate change impacts and advance the integration of this knowledge into Great Lakes adaptation strategies and management actions. It includes a pilot assessment of the vulnerability of the impacts of climate change on a municipal water treatment plant in southern Ontario.
Annex 10: Science
This Annex enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of Great Lakes science activities through planning, cooperation, coordination and communication. It includes undertaking targeted, issue-specific reviews and assessments of key threats and emerging issues of concern to the Great Lakes as required.
Promoting Innovation and Engaging Communities
Annex 11: Promoting Innovation
This Annex creates long-term, environmentally sustainable economic opportunities that improve water quality and ecological health and contribute to the well-being of the Great Lakes community. It includes working with companies to commercialize their new technologies in the water sector/market.
Annex 12: Engaging Communities
This Annex empowers communities by providing opportunities for individuals and groups to enjoy and help take care of the Great Lakes. It includes helping school boards, school administrators and teachers to become aware of opportunities to use the Great Lakes as a context for teaching and learning.
Annex 13: Engaging First Nations
This Annex reflects the interests and important role of First Nations as participants in the restoration, protection and conservation of the Great Lakes. It includes collaborating with First Nations in the delivery of the Agreement and opportunities to collaborate with First Nations on traditional knowledge.
Annex 14: Engaging Métis
This Annex reflects the interests and important role of Métis as participants in the restoration, protection and conservation of the Great Lakes. It includes collaborating with Métis in the delivery of the Agreement and opportunities to collaborate with Métis on traditional knowledge.
The Framework Agreement has 12 Articles which describe the purpose, principles and administration of the Agreement. Oversight of the Agreement will be entrusted to an Executive Committee, consisting of Regional Director Generals and Assistant Deputy Ministers or most senior level representatives from all departments, ministries and agencies of the Parties who are responsible for leading or supporting one or more commitments in any of the Annexes.
The implementation of the Annexes of the Agreement will be entrusted to a Management Committee, consisting of the federal and provincial leads for each Annex, as well as director or managerial level representatives from all departments, ministries, and agencies of the Parties who are responsible for leading or supporting one or more commitments in the Annexes.
A link to the 8th COA is found in the Additional Information section of this posting.