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OP-ED: Canada Water Agency applauded by councillors

'Protecting our watershed is too important to waste any more time ... we need all levels of government to do more — and faster,' say councillors
Dave Neeson, a Councillor in Georgina, and Jonathan Scott, a Councillor in Bradford West Gwillimbury, is calling on all levels of government to step up in support of Lake Simcoe. Supplied photo

BradfordToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). BradfordToday received the following Op-Ed from Councillors Jonathan Scott and Dave Neeson

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on the shores of Lake Winnipeg to announce the creation of the Canada Water Agency this week. 

As two councillors who helped spearhead and unite advocacy efforts by municipalities, parliamentarians and environmentalists across our region to protect our watershed, we welcome this step forward. 

The Canada Water Agency will be responsible for administering the Freshwater Action Fund, which our united advocacy pushed to have include Lake Simcoe last year, and which received landmark funding of over $650 million in the 2023 federal budget. Creating a particular agency to administer the funding and oversee efforts to protect our water is an important way to solidify these efforts and ensure there is always an established mechanism to deliver — one that outlasts an individual funding commitment or particular party’s time in office. 

Our hope is that the plan will work to improve water quality and address the impacts of climate change. Specifically, we hope the funds will be used — and put into action quickly — to conserve natural heritage, remediate contaminated sites or older septic beds, restore shorelines, and otherwise fund vital, on-the-ground projects to protect our watershed and the agricultural, recreational and tourist economies that are so central to this part of Ontario. 

And there’s not a moment to waste. 

In 2018, the Lake Simcoe Cleanup Fund expired, after an investment of around $60 million over a decade. The fund was rightly praised as one of the bright spots in the Harper government’s environmental record. Both Liberal and Conservative parties pledged to renew and even expand that funding in the 2019 and 2021 elections. Until the Freshwater Action Fund arrived, those commitments had gone unfulfilled. 

We hope the Freshwater Action Fund’s exact financial commitment to Lake Simcoe will be spelled out soon, and that projects will be funded and undertaken this year; as we said in the lead up to this year’s budget, it’s time to put the money out into the real world and get results. 

To that end, we’d welcome the federal government coming to our region this spring to listen and learn from Indigenous communities, environmentalists, municipalities and conservationists about how the program could best be designed to serve our local needs. 

Of course, there are other funding commitments to the watershed — from over $4 million in federal funding for the Scanlon Creek Nature Centre in Bradford, operating funding from the federal and provincial governments for scientific research and our conservation authorities, and the landmark federal and provincial commitment to funding a $40-million phosphorus recycling facility to help reduce pollution in the lake. 

Indeed, we were grateful to provincial Environment Minister David Piccini for coming to our region earlier this month to meet with environmentalists and municipal leaders about moving that project forward, as well as to hear how farmers are doing their part to steward our land.

Protecting our watershed is too important to waste any more time. It’s an issue we can all agree on — in fact, it might be the one area where Conservative parliamentarians wish the Liberal government would spend more money. 

And, as growth pressures and other environmental threats continue to increase, and particularly in the face of the climate crisis, we need all levels of government to do more — and faster. 

Dave Neeson is a Councillor in Georgina and Jonathan Scott is a Councillor in Bradford West Gwillimbury.