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Speech for

The Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P.

Minister of the Environment

Signing of the Amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

Washington, DC

September 7, 2012


Good afternoon!

Let me begin by extending greetings from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Ambassadors Jacobson and Doer; Lana Pollock, American co-chair of the International Joint Commission; Camille Magaud, Secretary of the Canadian Section of the International Joint Commission; Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State; and Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Thank you for joining us at Canada’s Embassy in Washington. In particular, I would like to recognize those of you who have travelled to be here today, as well as our friends who are joining us via webcast to celebrate the signing of the Protocol Amending the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Together, through 40 years of sustained action and partnership, our two countries have demonstrated that positive results can be realized through joint stewardship of this natural treasure. With today’s signing, I look forward to what we will achieve together in the future.

As a Member of Parliament from the Toronto area, which rests on the shores of Lake Ontario, I have the privilege of spending time on our Great Lakes. However, my experiences here have taught me that you can ask five people to describe the value of the Lakes, and get five different answers.

For some, the Great Lakes are the wellspring of North American industry. An essential ingredient to nourish both our agricultural traditions and our manufacturing base. The economic engine that generates $180 billion in trade between Canada and the United States every year.

Others will describe the Great Lakes first and foremost as a crucial ecosystem stretching for more than 1,600 kilometres along our shared border. A vast reservoir that holds 84 percent of North America’s freshwater resources. A vital source of drinking water for millions of Canadians and Americans.

Still others will be struck by the natural beauty of the Great Lakes, and their stunning array of biodiversity. An unrivalled destination for fishing, camping, canoeing and other recreation activities. And a timeless inspiration for so many musicians and artists — from Gordon Lightfoot to Canada’s beloved Group of Seven.

Of course, they are all right — the Great Lakes are all this and much more. And it is for this reason that our two countries have worked, and will continue to work so diligently to keep them healthy and vibrant.

The successes that we have enjoyed require sustained effort, commitment and cooperation that extend beyond federal governments. From the International Joint Commission… to provinces, states and municipalities… to Aboriginal peoples, industry and non-governmental organizations… and of course, concerned citizens on both sides of the border, who have been so instrumental in stewardship activities. Each of these parties has effectively contributed to the common goals established under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement over the past 40 years. 

In amending the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, our two governments built on the successful model established under the Agreement to engage citizens and scientists on both sides of our shared border.

The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement will help us build on a strong 40-year legacy. It reflects the latest in environmental policy, including provisions related to chemicals, nutrients, ship pollution and scientific research. And this Agreement addresses — in a more comprehensive fashion — the near shore environment, aquatic invasive species, habitats and the species that depend on them, and the impacts of climate change.

The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement will provide renewed guidance for the restoration and protection of a precious natural resource. And it will help us, together, to work towards our ultimate goal: preserving the Great Lakes for present and future generations of Canadians and Americans.

On that note, I am pleased to announce that Canada and Ontario have begun negotiating a new Canada-Ontario Agreement, which will detail how we will work with partners to put the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement into action over the next five years.

Partnership is what it’s all about. Indeed, joint stewardship of the Great Lakes is a cornerstone of the relationship between Canada and the United States. We’ve shown that, by working together, we can make a difference. And today, we’re committing ourselves to building on all those achievements.

So whether you see the Great Lakes as a treasured natural resource… a critical source of safe drinking water… a shared transportation route… or the foundation of billions of dollars of trade between our two nations, the Agreement we’ve just signed will help preserve and enhance all the values that the Great Lakes have to offer.

Thank you.