June 12, 2006

McGuinty, Charest sign co-operation protocol, agreements on environment, sustainable development

Individual agreements pertaining to transboundary environmental impacts, forest protection and sustainable development of natural resources are part of a comprehensive protocol for co-operation signed on June 2 in Ottawa by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Quebec Premier Jean Charest. The protocol is the culmination of two years of negotiations by the two premiers and signals a commitment by Ontario and Quebec to work together on shared priorities in key sectors.

The protocol for co-operation, together with an agreement for co-operation and exchanges for francophone affairs, provide the framework for the other sector-specific agreements. These eight agreements address: sustainable development of crown land and natural resources; forest protection; transboundary environmental impacts; transportation; collaboration on emergency management; health care; culture; and tourism. Another accord dealing with labour mobility will promote access for all workers and the construction industry in both provinces, while improving both economies through a stronger flow of skills and capital.

The new environmental co-operation agreement will encourage and facilitate closer working relationships on transboundary pollution issues. It is expected to contribute to more effective, efficient action on issues such as air quality, surface water and groundwater management, and monitoring and reducing contaminant levels in rivers, lakes and waterways.

A highlight of the agreement to promote sustainable development of crown land and natural resources is a commitment by Ontario and Quebec to develop a four-year plan to determine specific joint projects and establish timelines for carrying out those projects. These projects will address areas of mutual interest, including forest protection, sustainable development of public lands, forests and protected areas, management of geographic, land and resources data, and forestry and wildlife resource evaluation.

Under the forest protection agreement, the two provinces have agreed to share responsibility for a protected forest zone boundary area covering a distance of eight kilometres on each side of the Ontario-Quebec boundary. This agreement emphasizes the importance of sharing information, expertise and knowledge to help prevent and suppress forest fires, insect infestations and tree diseases within and beyond the boundary area, and to minimize any potential adverse impacts of such disturbances.

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