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ARCHIVED - Government Response to Proposed COA
I - General Comments and Questions
Support for COA: Many of the comments received indicated support for the overall and/or specific aspects of the draft Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Comments of support were also provided to related government initiatives such as the recent Canada Gazette publication of the Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and for Dangerous Chemicals, and the Canadian National Ballast Water Database.
Response: The first COA was signed in 1971 and has been renewed six times, most recently in 2002. COA outlines how the governments of Canada and Ontario will cooperate and coordinate their efforts to improve environmental quality of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Each time COA has been renewed it has been revised to ensure it remains relevant to the environmental challenges in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. COA has evolved from having its initial focus on nutrients and water quality, resulting in waste-water infrastructure upgrades, to a broader ecosystem approach.
Stakeholder and Aboriginal Community Participation: Many commenters raised the issue of stakeholder and Aboriginal community participation in the implementation of COA and planning for future Great Lakes initiatives. A variety of possible approaches were suggested.
Response: Stakeholder and Aboriginal community participation is a cornerstone of COA and essential to the successful implementation of the Agreement. Canada is committed to the implementation of COA through an open and transparent manner incorporating stakeholder opinion and advice, as reflected in Article III. Key elements of COA including the Remedial Action Plan process in AOCs, the lakewide programs, the Binational Toxics Strategy and the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference already incorporate and promote extensive opportunities for the public.
Consistent with Article VI of COA, Canada will continue to work with stakeholders to explore ways to enhance participation in implementation and future planning. Canada and Ontario will consult further with municipalities, industries, non-government organizations and others on the best means to enhance effective and efficient stakeholder participation.
Similarly, Canada will continue to work with Aboriginal communities to explore ways to enhance participation in COA implementation and future planning and will consult further with Aboriginal communities on the best means to enhance effective and efficient participation.
Collaboration and Capacity Building: A comment was made recommending enhanced collaboration and capacity building with organizations such as Conservation Authorities, Municipalities and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.
Response: Accomplishments in the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem to date could not have been made without the support of all levels of government, industry, communities, Aboriginal peoples and environmental groups.
Conservation Authorities, municipalities, industry, non-governmental organizations, Aboriginal communities and individuals are engaged at the community level through the Remedial Action Plans process in support of Areas of Concern, in assessing and restoring ecosystem health on a lake scale though the lakewide programs, and in reducing Harmful Pollutants which threaten the health of the Lakes through the Binational Toxics Strategy.
COA contains new commitments to increase awareness and stewardship actions (Annex 3, Result 1.1 and 1.2) through enhanced collaboration among a broad range of stakeholders.
Changes to the Agreement: In addition to minor edits, a number of comments were received providing suggestions for specific revisions of the various goals, results and commitments throughout the draft Agreement.
Response: These recommendations are valuable in a number of ways, but do not necessarily require revisions to the Agreement. Rather, many of the comments will inform the implementation of the Agreement over the next three years. Others speak to the enhancement of Great Lakes programs and initiatives and these will be valuable concepts to explore further in collaboration with the Great Lakes community.
COA Linkages to Other Great Lakes Initiatives: A number of questions were received about COA's link to other Great Lakes initiatives and programs, such as the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (and its current review), the State of Lakes Ecosystem Conference and the International Joint Commission's Upper Great Lakes Study.
Response: COA commits Canada and Ontario to work together in a cooperative, coordinated and integrated fashion with each other and with others in the Basin.
COA's implementation contributes to meeting Canada's obligations under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). A commitment has been made to consider the recommendations and results of GLWQA review when conducting a COA review in 2009 (Article X).
Many government-supported initiatives such as the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy, State of the Lakes ecosystem reporting and the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC) help support COA commitments. SOLEC for example, brings together information on indicators and has been identified to be one of the vehicles to report publicly on the state of each lake (Commitment 3-1.1b). Information and expertise resulting from SOLEC is relevant to other COA commitments such as adopting meaningful indicators and reporting on the status and trends in water quality and aquatic ecosystem health (Commitments 4-2.2a and b).
The Upper Great Lakes Study is a separate initiative managed by the International Joint Commission (IJC) with support from Canada and Ontario. Science and monitoring information developed under COA will be made available to the IJC for use in the Upper Great Lakes Study.
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999: It was questioned why COA is under CEPA 1999.
Response: The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) is an important part of Canada's federal environmental legislation aimed at preventing pollution and protecting the environment and human health. A key aspect of CEPA 1999 is the prevention and management of risks posed by toxic and other harmful substances. This aspect encompasses COA goals, results, and commitments that address harmful substances. Thus Section 9 of CEPA 1999 must be respected.
Polluter Pays: A commenter suggested that existing regulations should stipulate that companies that are convicted of polluting pay fines to relevant environmental non-government organization.
Response: Specific environmental regulations are determined through processes other than COA.
Action-oriented and Measurable Agreement: Some comments suggested that in order to achieve the vision of the Agreement that more of the goals, results and/or commitments should be "specific, measurable, accountable, results-oriented and time-based".
Response: Most of the challenges and stresses in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem are long-term and require a long-term commitment to action. The Agreement articulates what each level of government, either together or separately, will undertake to achieve the identified results and commitments under each of the goals. The Agreement reflects goals, results and commitments that are achievable over its duration by aligning, where applicable, many national and regional programs. Every effort was made to articulate commitments in a manner which is specific, measurable, accountable and results-oriented, and performance indicators will be adopted and used to evaluate and communicate on progress.
Responsibility for the Great Lakes: One commenter noted that it is the Government of Canada's responsibility to ensure strong protection of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin through legislation, enforcing existing legislation, and developing and funding programs to address emerging threats and remediate the waters of the Basin.
Response: The Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem is a shared resource and a shared responsibility. Given the shared jurisdiction for the environment, the federal and provincial governments must work together, and with others including municipalities and conservation authorities to conserve, restore and protect the Great Lakes Basin.
COA is an important mechanism outlining how the governments of Canada and Ontario will cooperate and coordinate their efforts to improve environmental quality of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, and to ensure the two governments are working an integrated fashion with each other, and with others in the Basin. Canada will continue to explore ways to enhance how the Great Lakes community works together.
New Vision and Program for Great Lakes: Comments were received expressing the desire for a new vision and new initiatives for the Great Lakes.
Response: COA contains a high-level vision of a healthy, prosperous and sustainable Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem for present and future generations. COA will ensure coordinated action between Canada and Ontario toward this vision by addressing existing and emerging issues. As the Great Lakes are shared waters with the United States, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) guides the actions for both countries toward common basin-wide objectives. The current review of the GLWQA provides an opportunity to consider the future vision and new initiatives for the Great Lakes.
Great Lakes Governance: A comment was received encouraging the governments to undertake a comprehensive assessment of Great Lakes governance. A comment was received that the Government of Canada should establish a "Great Lakes Coordinating Office" to enhance the profile of the Great Lakes in the federal government. A commenter recommended that COA be signed by the heads of the respective governments of Canada and Ontario.
Response: Great Lakes governance is being examined through the review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
Environment Canada plays a lead role in coordinating federal efforts to restore, protect and conserve the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, and serves as Canadian Chair of both the Binational (Great Lakes) Executive Committee and the Canada-Ontario Agreement Management Committee.
Federal ministers who are signatory to the Agreement represent Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada.
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