January 29, 2007

Ontario invites comments on proposals for COA renewal

The Ontario government is inviting public comments on priorities for the renewal, for up to three years, of the Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA). The province is particularly interested in ideas for addressing threats to drinking water and climate change.

The current COA, signed in 2002, expires this March, and the province is preparing for discussions with the federal government on renewal of the agreement, which provides a framework for co-operative activities to restore, protect and conserve the aquatic health of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. No changes to the framework agreement are anticipated other than setting a three-year term and enhancing it with new priorities, including expanded scope.

"The issues we face in protecting the Great Lakes basin are far broader and more complex than cleaning up specific areas," said Environment Minister Laurel Broten. "We want our plan to tackle long-term problems and we are convinced that public input is essential and valuable to the process."

The first COA was signed in 1971, in advance of the 1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) between Canada and the U.S. Subsequent COAs were signed in 1976, 1982, 1986, 1994 and 2002, reflecting changes in the GLWQA, emerging priorities for Great Lakes restoration and protection, and the need for a broader ecosystem approach.

In addition to proposing a three-year term for the COA, Ontario is seeking comments on possible amendments to existing COA annexes and possible development of new annexes. The current COA has four annexes: the first lists the 15 Canadian Areas of Concern (AOCs), while the other three address harmful pollutants, lake-wide management, and monitoring and information management.

Among the issues that might merit amendment of existing annexes or development of new ones are: reduction of harmful pollutants (including increasing the understanding and awareness of the impacts of new and emerging pollutants from industrial, urban and rural sources); conservation of biological diversity; promotion of sustainable Great Lakes communities; climate change understanding and adaptation as it relates to the Great Lakes basin ecosystem; and protection of the Great Lakes as a source of drinking water.

The policy proposal has been posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry, with comments due by February 18, 2007. The EBR posting may be viewed on-line at www.ene.gov.on.ca/envregistry/029050ep.htm.

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