Annex A – Background on Great Lakes Program

The Great Lakes program comprises three components – the Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative (GLNI), the Great Lakes Action Plan (GLAP) and the Action Plan for Clean Water (Great Lakes Sediment Remediation Projects or GLSRP). These three programs support actions to address commitments stemming from the Canada–US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) and the Canada–Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA). These two agreements and associated governance mechanisms are described in this Annex.

Canada–United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

The Canada–US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, since it was first signed in 1972, has guided and coordinated the efforts of Canada and the US for over four decades in restoring and maintaining the water quality and aquatic ecosystem health of the Great Lakes.

The 2012 Canada–United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (2012 GLWQA), which entered into force in February 2013, commits the governments of Canada and the US to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes. Specifically, the agreement commits the Parties to work toward attaining a series of general and specific objectives in each of 10 priority issue areas, which are described in Annexes to the Agreement: Areas of Concern; Lakewide Management; Chemicals of Mutual Concern; Nutrients; Discharges from Vessels; Aquatic Invasive Species; Habitat and Species; Groundwater; Climate Change Impacts; and Science.

Pursuant to the GLWQA, the International Joint Commission (IJC)Footnote 1 provides advice and recommendations to the Parties related to the quality of the waters of the Great Lakes, assesses the Parties’ progress in the implementation of the 2012 GLWQA, and provides public outreach and education on Great Lakes water quality.

Canada–Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem

Both the federal government and the Ontario government contribute to fulfilling Canada’s responsibility for managing and protecting the Great Lakes. Both levels of government share authority to protect the environment, and are involved in aspects such as water, agriculture, species and fisheries.

Coordination of federal and provincial efforts with respect to the Great Lakes is accomplished through the Canada–Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA). The COA outlines how the governments of Canada and Ontario will cooperate and coordinate their efforts to restore, protect and conserve the Great Lakes and sets out roles and responsibilities among eight federal and three provincial ministries. It is a means by which federal partners interact with the provincial ministries to help meet Canada's obligations under the GLWQA.Footnote 2

A new, renamed five-year Canada–Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health (COA), 2014 became effective on December 18, 2014.Footnote 3 The 2014 COA includes a series of articles that outline the purpose, governance and other administrative aspects of the Agreement, as well as over 270 commitments to be undertaken either jointly or separately by Canada and Ontario over a five-year period, organized into 14 Annexes: Nutrients; Harmful Pollutants; Discharges from Vessels; Areas of Concern; Lakewide Management; Aquatic Invasive Species; Habitat and Species; Groundwater Quality; Climate Change Impacts; Science; Promoting Innovation; Engaging Communities; Engaging First Nations; and, Engaging Métis.

Governance Mechanisms

Governance and management under the GLWQA

In implementing the 2012 GLWQA, which is directly supported by all Great Lakes program activities, Canada and the US work in cooperation and consultation with several partners and stakeholders. Strengthened governance mechanisms were established under the 2012 GLWQA to ensure the right representation and participation in order to achieve the commitments outlined in the Agreement. Engagement of partners and stakeholders occurs through a variety of means, including the following:

  • The Great Lakes Executive Committee (GLEC) serves as a forum to advise and assist the Parties in coordinating, implementing, reviewing and reporting on programs, practices and measures undertaken under the Agreement. The GLEC, co-chaired by ECCC and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), includes senior-level representatives of federal governments, state and provincial governments, Tribal governments, First Nations, Métis, municipal governments, watershed management agencies, and other local public agencies.
  • A formal structure of subcommittees, each with Co-Leads, has also been put in place to engage GLEC member organizations in working binationally to develop and implement actions to achieve commitments for each of the 10 issue annexes identified in the 2012 GLWQA. These committees further engage others, beyond the GLEC membership, in order to undertake specific tasks and activities in support of achieving the commitments in each annex.Footnote 4 
  • A Great Lakes Public Forum is convened by the Parties with the IJC, every three years, to discuss and seek public comments on the state of the lakes and bi-national priorities for science and action to inform future priorities and actions. This Forum also allows the IJC to discuss and receive public input on the Progress Report of the Parties, which was first issued in 2016.
  • A Great Lakes Summit is convened in conjunction with the Great Lakes Public Forum to promote coordination among the Parties, the IJC, the Great Lakes Commission, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.
  • Opportunities for public engagement on specific commitments related to those from the issue annexes are also undertaken.

Governance and management under the Canada–Ontario Agreement

  • COA Management Committee (the COA Executive Committee in the 2014 Agreement): responsible for the oversight and overall administration of the COA. It oversees all federal–provincial work carried out under the Agreement, including activities related to AOCs, and provides direction and decision making for AOC work.
  • COA Annex Implementation Committee (the COA Management Committee in the 2014 Agreement): coordinates development and implementation work planning across multiple Agreement annexes.
  • COA Annex Co-Leads: federal and provincial Co-Leads to oversee the implementation of specific Agreement annexes.

Committees under the Great Lakes Action Plan (AOC-specific)

  • GLAP Workplan Review Team: conducts an annual review of five‑year work plans submitted by federal departments, in consultation with the GLEC.
  • Remedial Action Plan (RAP) committees: maintain working-level links to community and provincial stakeholders and ensure that environmental needs at the AOC level are addressed. Each RAP committee has a federal project lead who reports RAP activities directly to the COA Annex Implementation Committee.Footnote 5

For the development and implementation of Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMPs) for each shared Great Lake, a Lake Partnership, led by the US EPA and ECCC, facilitates information sharing, sets priorities, and assists in coordinating binational environmental protection and restoration activities among the federal, state and Ontario government agencies.

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