MANITOULIN—Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council (MASC) and Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) will be holding a public meeting on Manitoulin Island concerning the proposed Great Lakes Protection Act on August 23.
As reported in last week’s edition of the Recorder, the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council had requested the MOE hold a meeting on the Island to garner input and opinions from members of the public and this had been granted. However, this meeting was subsequently cancelled, but is now on again.
“Mr. Mantha really stepped in when we contacted him, informing him that the MOE had cancelled the meeting and he wrote the Minister of the Environment (Jim Bradley), which is something we really appreciate him doing,” said Therese Trainor, secretary of MASC, on Monday. “And we are really appreciative that the minister responded positively to Mr. Mantha right away. They both recognize that not having a meeting in the North was a flaw and this needed to take place.”
Mr. Mantha, in his letter to Mr. Bradley, wrote, “I have been contacted by several concerned constituents including the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council Water Committee with regards to the stakeholder engagement meetings for the Great Lakes Protection Act. It has come to my attention that a planned meeting was in the works for Northern Ontario to take place in Little Current.”
“As you know, the Great Lakes border much of Northern Ontario. To host the majority of these stakeholder meetings in southern areas really excludes Northerners from participating,” wrote Mr. Mantha. “There are already meetings planned in Toronto, Windsor, Cambridge and now instead of in Little Current they have chosen Goderich. Given the short distances between these locations it’s more feasible for interested participants to attend one of these meetings. There was a meeting in Thunder Bay, quite a distance from Little Current and Manitoulin, however the MASC was informed after the date in Thunder Bay had passed.”
“It is extremely unfortunate that the Ministry of Environment’s Great Lakes Office has done little to include much of Northern Ontario from having their voice heard at these meetings,” wrote Mr. Mantha. “They had planned the meeting in Little Current for August 23. I believe there is still time to reverse the decision to have yet another meeting in southern Ontario and proceed with the originally discussed Little Current location. I am extremely disappointed in this decision and hope that you will reconsider as the MASC Water Committee would very much like to participate in these meetings and it is extremely important to have Northern Ontarians included in these discussions.”
“The meeting with the MOE on the proposed Great Lakes Protection Act will take place on Thursday, August 23, to get input on the Great Lakes Protection Act strategic report at the Little Current Recreation Complex,” said Ms. Trainor. “We do welcome members of the general public,” but pointed out the meeting is designed for municipal, First Nation and other community-based organizations.”
“This is the place where we can get some answers on our many questions and concerns,” said Ms. Trainor. “One of the things we would like to see resolved is the formation of the Great Lakes Guardian Council, who will be charged with the ability to make recommendations to the government. We want to make sure the North’s voice is heard and the North has a voice on the Guardian Circle, especially since the North has the most shoreline of the Great Lakes.”
“We all agree with making the Great Lakes more drinkable, fishable and swimmable,” said Ms. Trainor. “We’re going to be posing questions and help guide the government on possible things they should be considering.”
“The proposed Great Lakes Protection Act has not yet been approved by the Ontario government,” Ms. Trainor continued. “It has passed first reading and before second reading they will be getting input from the public.”
The meeting next Thursday will see registration take place at 8:15 am. The morning will include presentations by the MOE on the proposed act, protection strategy and funding program. The afternoon sessions will include breakout sessions, followed by a plenary session on key themes of the day.