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Pushing for action to help the Great Lakes

Lakeview Park

Mayors of communities surrounding the Great Lakes, including Oshawa’s John Henry, are calling on various levels of government to take action to protect the world’s largest source of fresh water.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Mayors and elected officials from cities around the Great Lakes gathered at Queens Park earlier this month for the first Great Lakes Day to raise awareness about the threats and issues facing the world largest source of fresh water.

At the top of the list of issues were toxic algae and Asian carp, an invasive species that has found it’s way into the lakes and even Oshawa’s Second Marsh.

Last year, algae was responsible for a four-day shutdown of Toledo, Ohio’s municipal water system and the presence of Asian carp could threaten Ontario fisheries, a $450-million industry.

“We’ve come together to raise the issue about the importance of the Great Lakes,” says Mayor John Henry.

Nearly 20 different officials were at Queens Park to discuss the issues and seek action from the provincial government.

“The health and economic prosperity of Ontarians relies on the Great Lakes,” states Mitch Twolan, the mayor of Huron-Kinloss and chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, in a news release. “When they are threatened, we are threatened. As stewards of the largest body of fresh water on Earth, we must remain vigilant, and that takes both political commitment and resources from all levels of government.”

The Cities Initiative includes more than 100 mayors from Canada and the U.S. who represent more than 17 million people.

Mayor Henry says Great Lakes Day was about taking action and being prepared for issues, tackling them before they can get out of hand.

“It’s much better to be proactive today and deal with it than try and figure out how to deal with it five or six years from now when it becomes a really big problem,” he says

“Every problem needs to start with that conversation and we’ve had very respectful dialogue and at the same time we’re getting our message out and people are listening.”

Also on the table was the environmental damage of microbeads, small plastic balls that are used as a scouring agent in different face washes and creams. These plastics can be flushed into the water system and cause serious impact.