Petition calls on government to take action, halt loss of water

LITTLE CURRENT—A petition signed by 3,619 Manitoulin residents, visitors and friends has been presented to a representative for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes, calling on government officials to increase their efforts significantly to halt and reverse the ongoing loss of water from the Great Lakes Basin in general and the Lake Huron/Michigan/Georgian Bay/North Channel Basin in particular.

The petition had been drafted by Mike Wilton, a Dominion Bay resident, who presented a completed binder full of the petitions with the signatures, as well as background on the issue to Glen Cyr, a constituency assistant for Ms. Hughes.

“We put the petition at 26 business and various gathering locations on Manitoulin Island in the spring until September 6,” said Mr. Wilton, in presenting the petitions to Mr. Cyr. “The petition requests the Canadian Federal Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport to increase their efforts significantly halt and reverse the ongoing loss of water. These government agencies should be able to work with US officials to get something done.”

Upon being presented the petition Mr. Cyr, said on behalf of Ms. Hughes, “we’re happy to receive the information and petitions. Carol wants to make sure it is raised in front of the government and we appreciate all the time and effort that (Mr. Wilton) put in to carry out this petition.”

Mr. Wilton said at this time, “Carol can’t promise this issue will be raised in the legislature, first it has to go to a petition committee to see if it is worded correctly to bring forward and then she will present it in front of the government for consideration.”

The petition states, “since 1999, the water level in Lake Huron has dropped four-five feet (150 centimetres) with no sign of rebounding 13 years later. This is far greater than previous fluctuations and has caused immeasurable damage not only to significant aquatic wetlands and spawning areas along the shores of the North Channel, the Manitoulin Island and Georgian Bay, but is causing serious economic and safety concerns to communities in this area, many of which depend in large measure upon tourism, cottaging and boating during the navigation season.”

In a background to the petition, under the headline “Everyone Counts or No-One Counts” based on a statement by Michael Connelly (The Drop), Mr. Wilton explains, “very often at town hall meetings, strong opinions are expressed by articulate individuals. These opinions are often mistakenly interpreted as being representative of all those present.” “Generally, however, there is also a segment of the population present at these meetings who, even though they have strong feelings regarding certain issues, are very hesitant to express themselves publicly,” Mr. Wilton continued. “The result of this may be that the sponsors of the meeting received a biased picture of how the general population feels about the issues being discussed.”

“Perhaps the main benefit of a properly worded petition lies in the fact that it allows all members of society to express their views ‘quietly,’ without having to stand up and risk possible embarrassment in front of their friends and neighbours,” added Mr. Wilton.

“Governments as well as government bodies such as the International Joint Commission would be well advised to seek the opinions of all average citizens since a majority of these are often the people who make up the so called ‘Silent Majority.’

The silent majority spoke when 3,619 Manitoulin Island residents, visitors and friends signed the following petition, stating clearly that they are unhappy with the ongoing water loss from the Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, North Channel and Georgian Bay Basin. 2,119 of these signatures represent Manitoulin Island residents; 1,396 signatures represent concerned ‘off-Island’ Canadians. 104 signatures represent non-Canadians, mostly United States citizens, many of whom live on Great Lakes shores and share our concern over this crisis. All these people speak with a united voice and are respectfully requesting that the Canadian government works closely with the United States government to move forward quickly toward restoring and sustainably maintaining the water levels that existed prior to 1999.”

“While it is acknowledged that large amounts of water are diverted out of the Great Lakes Basin via such engineering works as the Chicago Diversion, it is generally felt that restoration and stability can be achieved gradually through the placement of some form of permanent barriers, together with bottom stabilization, at the mouth of the St. Clair River,” concluded Mr. Wilton. “Water loss at the mouth of the St. Clair River as a result of dredging is roughly more than double that through the Chicago Diversion. The population clearly feels that to allow the ongoing drop in water levels is definitely not acceptable.”

Members of the public wanting to see the signed petitions and the background information can do so as copies are available for perusal at both the Manitoulin West Recorder office in Gore Bay and The Manitoulin Expositor in Little Current.

Tom Sasvari