Rickford Moves to Champion Lake of the Woods Region

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KENORA – Greg Rickford, MP for Kenora, is once again championing the interests of Northwestern Ontario. On June 2nd he brought forward a motion to the House of Commons that will ensure the long-term ecological and economic vitality of the Lake of the Woods region. The motion, M-519, gained unanimous support on the floor of the House, and was applauded by members of all parties.

In recent years, the water quality of Lake of the Woods has become seriously compromised due to dangerously high levels of phosphorous. This over-fertilization results in extensive blooms of toxic blue-green algae and is having serious impact on fish habitat, recreational and tourist activities, and source drinking water. This negatively affects over three-quarter of a million people in Kenora, Winnipeg, several First Nation communities, tourist camps, and thousands of rural residences and cottages on the lake and along the Winnipeg River.

The water quality of the international Rainy River system, as well as the entire Lake Winnipeg watershed, is substantially impacted by the water quality of Lake of the Woods. Because this watershed extends into the United States, this is a multi-jurisdictional issue requiring a bi-national solution.

Therefore, Rickford’s motion called upon the governments of Canada and the United States to continue their history of collaboration on transboundary water management. He encourages the parties to submit a reference to the International Joint Commission (IJC), asking them to draft a report providing recommendations for the bi-national management of the international waters of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River system. The International Joint Commission has a long history of assisting the two countries to protect the transboundary environment.

Joe Comuzzi, IJC Commissioner, applauded Rickford’s commitment and perseverance in a recent address at the Lake of the Woods Water Quality Forum, noting that one of his first phone calls as Commissioner was from Rickford on this very issue. Comuzzi stated that Rickford “provided me with very good background information, and I commend him on his knowledge of the file and for the work he is doing in Ottawa to bring this issue to a satisfactory conclusion for all the affected residents in Manitoba, Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario.”

Lake of the Woods is one of North America’s natural wonders, with over 14,000 beautiful islands and 105,000 kilometres of expansive shoreline. Rickford credits the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation for their hard work in advancing this issue. “Todd Sellers and his team have been instrumental in moving this issue forward, and ensuring that stakeholders are informed and engaged. I wanted to help”, said Rickford.

Todd Sellers, Executive Director of the foundation, is delighted to see Rickford’s motion go forward. “We greatly appreciate Rickford’s efforts to champion the cause for bi-national action to protect the water quality of our lake – after all it’s one lake and one watershed shared by two countries.  We are pleased that Greg shares our vision for the future sustainability of our lake based on shared responsibility with international, watershed-based coordination for the long haul,” said Sellers.

Susan McLeod, Executive Director of the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association, is also strongly supportive of Rickford’s motion. Speaking on behalf of the organization, McLeod stated, “we support the efforts of Greg Rickford to refer the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basin to the International Joint Commission for examination and management. It is only with this kind of cross-border collaboration that we can seriously focus on the redemption and protection of our watershed, preserving it for generations to come.”

The full text of the motion is as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, in order to ensure the long-term ecological and economic vitality of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basin, the governments of Canada and the United States should continue to foster trans-jurisdictional coordination and collaboration on science and management activities to enhance and restore water quality in the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River basin, by referring the matter of Lake of the Woods water quality to the International Joint Commission for examination, reporting, and recommendations regarding the bi-national management of the international waters of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River system and the International Joint Commission’s potential role in this watershed, in line with the International Watersheds Initiative.

Rickford looks forward to the vote on this motion once the House returns in the fall. The debate this week was very positive, and he anticipates continuing support from all political parties.