Bill to protect and promote North America’s Great Lakes

By MPP Toby Barrett

Building on the work of so many over the years to help promote and protect our Great Lakes – on Dec. 11, 2019 – I introduced an Ontario Private Member’s Bill to enhance the promotion and protection of North America’s Great Lakes.

As explained in the proposed legislation, “The Bill amends the Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015 to change its title to the Great Lakes Protection and Promotion Act, 2019 and to add the promotion of tourism and other economic activities in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin that respect the ecological health of the Basin as a purpose of the Act.”

Ontario Bill 166, referred to as The Great Lakes Protection and Promotion Act, is a means to an end – to continue to raise awareness of the possibilities and potential of North America’s Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

My goal is to work to develop a collaborative action plan and framework to serve as model for all interested Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin agencies, jurisdictions, communities, and governments to promote tourism, recreational activities and sustainable economic growth and development while protecting the pristine environment, ecological diversity, and the scenic, cultural, and historical beauty of North America’s Great Lakes.

Our Great Lakes offer landscapes that afford superb recreational and tourism opportunities. This can be a way to assist communities that have lost mining, forestry, industrial, or commercial activity but have the potential to enhance and capitalize on their natural environment for their economic benefit.

Part of the goal is to support a positive traveler experience. For example, improved infrastructure and lodging, enhanced access for recreation, enhanced digital-interpretive opportunities through social media, and digital tools like Google Maps and Google Trail.

The Great Lakes are important to 30 million people for our drinking water, quality of life, jobs and prosperity. Ontario has worked collaboratively with Canadian, US and local partners for half a century to protect and restore Great Lakes and water quality and ecosystem health.

Ontario’s 2012 Great Lakes Strategy outlines Ontario’s economic, social, and environmental priorities for the Great Lakes region, aligning priorities and contributions from 14 Ontario ministries. The strategy is currently under review.

Key amendments proposed by my Private Member’s Bill include:

* Guidelines to determine tourism and other economic activities respect the ecological health of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin

* Plans to create and distribute publicly standardized educational materials on the guidelines

* Plans to promote research to determine what tourism and other economic activities respect the ecological health o the basin

* Plans to promote international symposia to provide education to the public on the guidelines developed

* Programs for government to fund as the Minister of Environment considers appropriate, research or international symposia out of funds appropriated by the government and

* Programs to encourage fundraising from non-government sources to fund research or international symposia.

Boosting travel and awareness of these destinations will help maintain current jobs and create new jobs and economic opportunities, generating a ripple effect throughout the whole region, by protecting and promoting these inland seas.

For more information contact me at

Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk