The St. Lawrence Hydrographic System, including the Great Lakes, drains more than 25% of the world’s fresh water reserves, according to Environment Canada. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
Several Quebec organizations are uniting so that Greater Montreal can host the headquarters of the Canadian Water Agency (CEA), an organization the Trudeau government has promised “to find the best ways to ensure the safety, hygiene and good management of our waters.”
In 2019, Ottawa committed to creating a Canadian Water Agency and, according to the latest federal budget, should be ready by the end of the year.
The Quebec Healthy Water Coalition, which brings together freshwater health advocacy organizations, wants the Greater Montreal area to become the headquarters of the new agency, and over the past few weeks it has been successful in mobilizing various actors across the province.
The City of Laval, the City of Montreal, the Council of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, the Réseau Environnement, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec, the University of Montreal and the University of Quebec at Montreal, to name a few, are supporting nominations from Greater Montreal, according to Dominique Monchamp, one of the initiators of this approach. He is also the Managing Director of the Gaspé Beaubien Foundation.
Montreal is a strategic place
The St. Lawrence Hydrographic System, including the Great Lakes, drains more than 25% of the world’s fresh water reserves, according to Environment Canada, and that’s one reason Greater Montreal is the most suitable place to host the headquarters. The new agency, according to Ms. Moonchamp.
“The St. Lawrence River is really the direct entrance to the Great Lakes, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River are one of the largest parts of fresh water in the world,” Ms Monchamp said, noting that part of the country’s economy “revolves around the Great Lakes region.”
She also noted that Quebec is the first province to adopt a water policy that allows for “watershed management,” which was unique before British Columbia did the same.
“We have really understood, for a long time, the importance of watershed management, just like in Europe, so in Quebec we have special expertise, all universities have research chairs on water, so we are very strong in researching innovations and technologies related to water conservation and we have heads good in Quebec to think about water conservation,” added the General Director of the Gaspé Beaubien Foundation.
According to her, the future Canadian Water Agency will have to play a coordinating role in breaking down regulatory silos in freshwater management and conservation.
“Water is complex and involves several ministries, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of the Environment etc. There is no coordination, everything is done in silos and obviously regional jurisdiction in water conservation, importantly, we have our policy in Quebec. Except that we We cannot manage water in silos, we absolutely have to have a transverse coordination mode because we share the Ottawa River, for example, with another county and the Great Lakes with the United States.”
Therefore, it is essential, she explained, “that the federal government acts as a coordinator within its departments and also acts as a data manager, because no province manages water-related data in the same way.
The Quebec Alliance for Clean Water is asking the government to ensure that the Canada Water Agency is established by the end of the year and that it is independent.
The coalition also wants to renew Canada’s Water Resources Act, which is more than 50 years old, and to guarantee the Water Canada $225 million annually to Health Canada.
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