There’s no doubt that there is a new air of optimism in Canada’s environmental community. And with this comes a surge in demand sets for Canada’s new federal government around improving our environmental track record and reputation. The check lists and expectations abound. Early signs of the government’s willingness to reverse decisions by their predecessors offers a signal that a door is more than just unlocked, it’s open and waiting for us to enter.
Early environmental indications were sent last week with the appointment of a new cabinet which profiles infrastructure and climate change--two core priorities for Canada’s freshwater community. It behooves us to draw tighter linkages between the climate and water worlds, in the lead up to and beyond the upcoming Paris climate negotiations (more on this in the weeks to come).
When it comes to federal leadership on the freshwater file specifically, there are a good number of opportunities that align between the new government’s commitments and the Our Living Waters Call to Action for federal leadership, and these could provide the foundations for greater advances to come.
Here are three freshwater priorities of Canada’s new federal government that we at the Freshwater Alliance intend to track, monitor and help amplify support around:
A promise to end boil water advisories in First Nation’s communities across Canada. The freshwater community should rally in support of this pursuit, giving full support for action on ending the decades-old problem that has plagued First Nations communities across Canada.
Invest in green infrastructure projects to reduce risks posed to our drinking water and the health of our lakes, rivers and streams. The opportunity for increased funding for green infrastructure projects was highlighted with the establishment of a new Ministry of Infrastructure. Infrastructure is more than just repairing roads and bridges. It is also about preparing our communities for the new norms of extreme weather events and improving efforts to stop rainwater where it lands, while also repairing aging infrastructure that threatens the safety and security of our drinking water.
Strengthening Canada’s environmental laws. Over the last decade, changes made to Canada’s Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act (now the Navigation Protection Act) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act have posed increased risks to the health of Canada’s fresh waters. The new Canadian government has the opportunity to restore and strengthen provisions within these Acts to realize our shared outcomes for freshwater health across Canada.
We have a significant opportunity to drive this success in each of these elements forward over the next four years. The snowball effect will be profound and could very well set in motion the kind of overflow we want to see – a surge in freshwater activity, protection and leadership in Canada.
Each of these priorities are elements contained in the Our Living Waters call to action for federal leadership on freshwater, which we at the Freshwater Alliance are proud to support.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to join with us in endorsing this important call and staying connected to our growing movement of individuals, organizations and businesses supporting action for freshwater health!
Lindsay Telfer is the National Project Director for the Canadian Freshwater Alliance and is Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for the Our Living Waters initiative.