Environmental experts fret over possible cuts to Great Lakes funding

In honour of World Water Day local environmental experts gathered in Windsor Wednesday to discuss the challenges in protecting the Great Lakes.

`Canada has a very major role to play and so far I would give it an 'F' on a report card`

The Great Lakes play a vital role in the weather and climate of Ontario. (NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.)

Environmental experts in Windsor for a World Water Day conference expressed concern Wednesday night over bilateral stewardship of the Great Lakes basin and U.S. President Donald Trump`s proposal to slash funding.

"The engagement with the public by the government on Great Lakes issues has been less than we think it ought to have been over the last four years or so," said Matthew Child, a physical scientist with the International Joint Commission.

Budget proposals drafted by the Trump administration could see $300 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative slashed by 97 per cent. Ontario mayors have sounded alarm bells over the possibility and Child shares their concern.

"We will see how the budget will play out on the U.S side but it is certainly worrisome," said Child.

Child credited the provincial government for its focus on cleaning up pollution hot spots and said it had achieved some success elevating Great Lakes issues to the national stage.

Doug Haffner, senior research chair for the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, said he was unimpressed with the federal governments attention to Great Lakes issues.

"We do possess six of the largest lakes in the world... So Canada has a very major role to play and so far I would give it an 'F' on a report card," he said. "We need a global institute for large lakes."

Haffner said there needs to be a better connection between science and policy. He suggests a new model of governance could be beneficial when supporting the Great Lakes as Canada does not currently have a national water policy.

Both researchers said public conversations, like the one held Wednesday at the University of Windsor, are key to promoting the long-term health of the Great Lakes basin.

"Ultimately I think the future, I am hoping, is a bright one but it is going to take continued dedication, diligence, funding and other resources to make that happen," said Child.