Skip to content

Canada commits $420 million for Great Lakes environmental work during Biden visit

OTTAWA — The federal government has committed $420 million in funding over 10 years to preserve and restore waters of the Great Lakes.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden take part in a meeting on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Friday, March 24, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — The federal government has committed $420 million in funding over 10 years to preserve and restore waters of the Great Lakes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement Friday during the visit of United States President Joe Biden, who earmarked $1 billion over five years to improve those freshwater ecosystems in 2021. 

"Our ongoing co-operation on issues such as trade, security and the environment reflects a strong commitment making life better for people on both sides of our shared border," Trudeau said in a release.

The money is to be focused on cleaning up a series of pollution hot spots. Three in Lake Superior and four in Lake Ontario are in Canadian waters, while another four are in waters shared by both countries. With three sites already remediated, it's part of the Canadian government's plan to clean up 12 of the 14 worst sites in the lakes by 2030. 

Funding will also go to efforts to stop harmful algae blooms generated by agricultural run-off, as well as preventing harmful chemicals from entering those waters, which represent 20 per cent of world's surface freshwater and provide drinking water for 40 million people. 

The government's goal is to reduce phosphorus going into Lake Erie from Canadian sources by more than 200 tonnes within 15 years.

Environmental groups on both sides of the border welcomed the announcement, but called it a down payment on what needs to be spent. 

"It's a good first step," said Andrea Dube of Freshwater Future. 

She said environmentalists have called for Canada to match the American funding.

"We're getting half of that, which is still significant. But in terms of what's at stake for Canada, it isn't enough."

She singled out algae blooms in Lake Erie and emerging toxins, such as perfluorooctane sulfonate, as areas where Canada needs to pay more attention. 

Still, Mark Mattson of the group Swim Drink Fish said the funding quintuples Canada's environmental commitments to the Great Lakes. 

"The announcement is really significant," he said in a release. 

The funding was also welcomed south of the border.

"Commitments like these are a critical down payment in ensuring that the Great Lakes are brought back to health and can sustain a way of life for the millions of people who rely on them both in Canada and the United States," said a release from Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2023.

The Canadian Press