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Speech

Speech for

The Honourable Peter Van Loan, P.C., M.P.,
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

On behalf of the Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P.,
Minister of the Environment

Announcement of the Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay
Clean-up Fund

Jackson’s Point, Ontario

January 7, 2013

Thank you and good morning.

I am pleased to join you here on the shore of Lake Simcoe to announce another important step forward in Canada’s Federal Action Plan for Clean Water.

Canada is home to roughly seven per cent of the planet's renewable freshwater.

Water is an essential natural resource. It also defines our nation’s landscape from the Great Lakes, to the mighty rivers like the St. Lawrence in the east, to the Mackenzie in the north-west, and to the thousands of other waterways at all points in between.

The Government of Canada’s commitment to freshwater resources

Through the Federal Action Plan for Clean Water, our Government is moving forward to deliver clean water for Canadians, and protect the health of our vast water resources and ecosystems. The work includes fighting blue-green algae in our lakes, rivers and streams, collecting water quality data, and monitoring the scientific characteristics of Canada’s watersheds.

Today, under the Action Plan for Clean Water, the Harper Government is pleased to announce $29 million in new funding over the next five years to continue our support to clean up Lake Simcoe.

We have found that the lessons learned through research, information collection and innovative approaches in and around Lake Simcoe can be applied to the entire region. So we have expanded the scope of the new fund to include the south-eastern portion of Georgian Bay. As a result, federal funds will encourage projects in and around the Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay watersheds.

The Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-up Fund will continue to improve conditions for aquatic species and habitats to help restore populations of native fish and wildlife. Projects will also address nearshore toxic and nuisance algae growth caused by excess phosphorous.

The Fund will also contribute to economic growth and jobs in this region’s vibrant tourism and recreation industry.

Investment in freshwater resources benefits local and regional economies

As you know, Lake Simcoe is the largest inland lake in southern Ontario outside the Great Lakes system. More than 400 000 people depend on the lake for drinking water. The lake’s tourism industry generates more than $200 million a year.

However, Lake Simcoe’s ecosystem health has suffered from excess phosphorous and low oxygen levels and we’ve seen adverse effects on the populations of coldwater fish. 

South-eastern Georgian Bay also has a vibrant recreation and tourism industry. It features the UNESCO designated Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. Like Lake Simcoe, high levels of phosphorous from urban development and agriculture can lead to toxic algae growth, pose threats to water quality, and degrade the aquatic ecosystem.

The first five-year $30 million federal Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund successfully leveraged an estimated $28.5 million from non-federal sources, and supported 160 community-based projects. These projects reduced phosphorous discharges to Lake Simcoe by an average of three tonnes per year, and consequently improved conditions for fish and wildlife.

Specifically, projects accounted for the installation of more than 20,000 metres of fencing to keep approximately 1300 livestock away from waterways. Another example--people planted over 72,000 native trees/shrubs/grasses to stabilize shorelines and reduce phosphorous runoff.

In addition, several municipalities benefited from retrofits to storm water ponds using engineered wetlands and innovative technologies.

We’ll build on this success with the 2012-2017 Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund.

Waters from Lake Simcoe flow into South-eastern Georgian Bay through Lake Couchiching and the Severn River. Environmental improvements will help protect and restore Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay for generations to come.

Support from the Fund will focus on projects that reduce phosphorous, enhance research and monitoring and improve the conservation of aquatic habitats and species.

As I mentioned earlier, this fund is part of the Government of Canada’s comprehensive Action Plan for Clean Water. The Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund supports the Government of Canada’s commitments under the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Canada and the United States recognize the urgent need to manage phosphorus concentrations and loadings that are contributing to algae problems. A key objective of the newly amended 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality agreement is to reduce the occurrence of toxic and nuisance algal blooms that degrade drinking water quality, impair fish spawning, and adversely impact commercial and recreational fishing, swimming, tourism and overall enjoyment of the Great Lakes.

Projects in and around South-eastern Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe will complement action that the federal government is supporting to address environmental challenges in our Great Lakes. In October, my colleague, Environment Minister Peter Kent announced a four-year $16 million Great Lakes Nutrients Initiative. This initiative will target the complex problems of toxic algae, water quality and ecosystem health, with a specific focus on Lake Erie, where the algae problem is currently the most serious.

The Action Plan for Clean Water also includes initiatives to clean up contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. A second phase of work to clean up Lake Winnipeg, which the Prime Minister announced this past summer, is another initiative under the federal Action Plan for Clean Water.

Through these investments in monitoring, science, and projects to clean up problem areas, we are building partnerships to protect our fresh water for current and future generations of Canadians.

Conclusion

The Action Plan funding that I have announced today underlines the federal government’s firm commitment to improve water quality in the Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay regions.

We are confident that projects supported by the new fund in the next five years will help improve prospects for economic growth and jobs in the recreational and tourism industries that rely on our most precious natural resource in this part of the country.

Thank you.