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Coalition launches Lake Simcoe Protection Plan

'Kids have an important place in this work. They make us happy, and they are the future,' says Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition executive director

SUTTON, ON – What better time to shine a light on Lake Simcoe than Water Week? The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and many volunteers hosted an event on Saturday, in co-operation with members of the Georgina Island First Nation, to get more people involved in the Coalition’s campaign to “Protect Our Plan." 

Becky Big Canoe, local Water Protector from Georgina Island First Nation, and a Board member of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, says, “My Elders' directive is to do everything I can to protect the water, and that's what I'm doing. For us at Georgina Island, Lake Simcoe’s health is a daily concern.” Ms. Big Canoe closed the formal presentations with a blessing of the water.

The event featured live banner painting of iconic water protector stencils, to be offered to municipal councils around the lake. Versions of this First Nations artwork was available for sale and for kids to paint, too. Other activities included a speakers’ corner, I Love Lake Simcoe photo booth, kids’ nature-based activities and crafts, a “wish wall,” information about the lake’s health, and Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition member groups’ information tables. About 80 people came out to learn, play, socialize and to support the coalition.

“In order to build a community of environmental leaders, we need to involve future leaders in the community organizing work we do. Kids have an important place in this work. They make us happy, and they are the future,” says the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director Claire Malcolmson.

The event was the campaign launch for Protect Our Plan (POP!). The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is raising awareness about what the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan does, and how it could be improved during its legislated statutory review this year on its 10th anniversary. The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition spearheaded Campaign Lake Simcoe in 2005, a partnership with Environmental Defence and Ontario Nature to get the Lake Simcoe Protection Act (2008) and Plan (2009). The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition was reinvigorated late in 2018 by Malcolmson and a new Board of Directors, so that a well-organized citizens group could focus on the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan Review.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is asking the province to release the Lake Simcoe 10-year comprehensive monitoring report as soon as possible so that future management decisions are based on the latest science. The group is also asking that the Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee and Science Committee be engaged now in preparing for the LSPP Review.

The Lake Simcoe Protection Act says that the province must review the LSPP every 10 years, and in so doing, must consult with Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee and Science Committee, municipalities in the watershed, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, and public bodies that could be affected. Members of the public must also be given an opportunity to participate in the review.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s priorities for the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan review are:

  1. Develop sector-specific interim targets to achieve the 44 tonnes per year phosphorus loading target of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. Measure, monitor and adapt through an improved Phosphorus Reduction Strategy;
  2. Protect 40 per cent of the watershed’s greenspace, using a variety of tools, to achieve the high-quality natural cover target of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan;
  3. Add the Lake Simcoe Climate Change Adaptation Strategy policies to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan in order to reduce phosphorus loads, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and increase natural cover;
  4. Maintain nutrient load caps on Sewage Treatment Plants;
  5. Promote partnership with First Nations in implementing the LSPP by funding a position under the direction of Lake Simcoe’s First Nations, to identify LSPP policies that require more thorough First Nations involvement, input, and/or Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

"Along with our member groups and supporters, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition looks forward to working with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks on setting a course for Lake Simcoe that recognizes and addresses the threats to the lake's health," Malcolmson said.