1999 GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY FORUM
SEPTEMBER 24-26, 1999
LIGHTLY EDITED, VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT
SUNDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 26
Manfred Gershlin, Chair, Bay of Quinte Public Advisory Committee, Ontario
This coming weekend we are having the Public Advisory Committees for the Canadian RAPs meeting in Toronto. One of the speculations and concerns has been about the rumours going around that there is a possibility of making considerable changes to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Many of us in the public advisory committees, for us, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and particularly Annex 2 has been practically the Bible. In that whole process we refer to it practically daily. I had thought that coming here, there would be some sort of indication of what is really going to happen. Is there really going to be a change to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement? What can the IJC, who is the guardian of that Agreement, tell the concerned public in Canada and, I'm quite sure, the United States as well, of what is going to be happening there? We feel that having relied on that document for 14-15 years, and having gotten to know it, and built a lot of our programs around it and developed a lot of faith in that, how can we be sure that what we have come to appreciate about that Agreement is not going to be compromised and is going to ensure that the integrity of this Agreement is maintained and that, I would say, probably hundreds of thousands of people around the basin who rely on that are not going to be disappointed. It's a major concern, and yet, having come here this week, I have not heard anything mentioned except there was a short reference made by the gentleman from EPA, who said in his remarks yesterday, thought that the Agreement had become confusing and was no longer relevant as it had been, that it wasn't as effective. But then, when he took his remarks into another area, but it seems he said enough to continue to make us concerned and feel worried about what's going to happen, and when at the same time, it isn't being presented on the agenda as a major, major issue, if indeed that is going to happen, you leave in the minds of an awful lot of people that there is a hidden agenda somewhere.
If I can respond to you on that ...
Can I finish? Before I leave today and go back to Toronto to talk to the representatives of the public advisory committees at our meeting, that will be one of the questions that I will be asked, What's happening there? You were at the Great Lakes, at the IJC meeting. What did you learn about it? And I'll say that the rumours are there but nobody seems to be talking about it. It's a negative impression, fully recognizing you can always have an ideal situation but if, indeed, there is a debate taking place somewhere or if there is a possibility of opening up the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, I would hope that the IJC would find a way of conveying that to the concerned public around the Great Lakes, and assure us that there is going to be a debate where we will have some sort of real, valuable input. I think that the public is the real guardian of that Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. We have put so effort into ensuring its integrity for 15 years or so. What I would like to leave you with is the idea that there are an awful lot of people in the Great Lakes that are worried about it and, hopefully, you are able to say something to us about it in the near future. Thank you.
I am sorry for interupting you. I thought you were finished. As far as I know, we made a recommendation that the Agreement not be reopened. I heard Mr. Mills speak and I didn't take his remarks the way you did. I do believe he said there is to be some updating of annexes because there are certain things that have been spent in them. That's all I know about it. If you feel that we haven't given you the information, we don't have the information to give you, we'll have to take into consideration the remarks made by him and discuss it amongst ourselves. I don't think there is anything that we can give you that would cause you to have any alarm, nor can I give you any assurances that we won't do anything. We may very well do things, but I can't say something right now to you because we haven't had the opportunity to consider it.
May I just add that I agree with everything that Commissioner Murphy has said but the prominence of concern about this issue at this meeting leaves me to think that there will further discussion at the Commission level about what we might say to government in this regard, but to emphasize that, we did recommend to governments that the Agreement not be reopened.