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Speech

Speech for
The Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P.
Minister of the Environment
to announce 2012-2013 projects under the
Great Lakes Sustainability Fund on World Water Day
Niagara, Ontario
March 22, 2013

It is a pleasure to be here in Niagara today on United Nations World Water Day, a day when we are encouraged to reflect on the importance of our water resources globally, and how to protect them. Each and every day, water lies at the centre of our physical and economic well-being whether it be fresh drinking water or transportation and recreation opportunities like the storied Maid of the Mist here in Niagara Falls.

Protecting water quality and ecosystem health is essential to the prosperity of millions of Canadians and Americans who live and work along the Great Lakes. These lakes form the largest system of fresh surface water on earth, providing approximately 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water. They are an ecosystem that supports more than 3,500 species of plants and animals, and fishing and shipping industries that inject more than $7 billion annually into Canada's economy.

Clean water is a priority for the Government of Canadaand our investments and programs continue to tackle the complex and interconnected challenges facing our treasured Great Lakes.  

For example, since 2006, the Government of Canada has announced $538 million for wastewater infrastructure in the Great Lakes watershed, including over $379 million for wastewater treatment projects. The $8 million per year in funding for the remediation of Areas of Concern through Canada’s Great Lakes Action Plan has been made permanent. 

Economic Action Plan 2011 provided new funding ($16 million) to address the re-occurrence of toxic and nuisance algae in the Great Lakes, while Budget 2012 brought significant investment ($17.5 million) to protect Canada's Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp. 

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is “Water cooperation,” and I don’t believe there is a better example of water cooperation than the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Last fall, we worked with the United States to enhance and update this historic 40 year old agreement. I was pleased to travel to Washington to sign on to our renewed commitment to joint stewardship of our shared fresh water resource.

Great Lakes Sustainability Fund

One of the key elements of the agreement is the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund.

Indeed, we are here today to celebrate the tremendous work that partners all around the Great Lakes Basin are doing to restore this crucial resource. I’m especially pleased to highlight that, in the past year, our Government has contributed $3.3 million to 57 Great Lakes clean-up projects through our Great Lakes Sustainability Fund.

The Great Lakes Sustainability Fund’s goal is to help advance actions to restore the health of Canada’s Areas of Concern, which are degraded geographic zones within the Great Lakes Basin. The Fund supports community‑level projects that restore the environment through fish and wildlife habitat restoration, contaminated sediment remediation, landowner stewardship, and control of pollution from municipal wastewaters and rural runoff.

Since 1989, the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund has supported more than 900 partnered projects to improve water quality in Areas of Concern. The Fund will support up to one-third of the cost of restoration projects. In doing so, the Fund has leveraged nearly $400 million from the public and private sectors towards restoring fish and wildlife habitats and populations, managing toxic contaminated sediments and improving municipal waste water quality.

To date, thanks to strong collaboration and funding provided by the Government of Canada and our many partners, environmental conditions have been restored in three Canadian Areas of Concern. Two more have been designated as areas in recovery—meaning all actions have been completed but time is needed for the ecosystem to recover.

We continue to make significant progress in the remaining 14 Canadian Areas of Concern. Locally, the goal is to complete all of the actions needed to clean-up and delist the Niagara River Area of Concern within the next five years.

Working toward that goal, it gives me particular pleasure to tell you a little more about the work being done in the Niagara River Area of Concern. I’m very proud to highlight that through this year’s investment in the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund, the Government of Canada has provided more than $350,000 for four remediation and clean-up projects in the area.

This includes $245,000 for awater quality and habitat improvement program managed by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. Through this program, fencing to keep livestock out of creeks has been installed, wetland and woodland has been restored, and water quality monitoring has been undertaken to help identify nutrient sources and amounts.

Conclusion

The Harper Government is committed to delivering a clean and healthy environment for Canadians, and is taking real action to ensure that Canada’s communities and families can thrive in a healthy environment.

Great progress has been made, but we all know the job is not finished. We need to keep working together, governments, community groups, researchers and citizens, to ensure that we sustain these Great Lakes for future generations.

Thank you.