2. Background

2.1. Program Profile


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 implementation). These three components 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) (see Annex A for more details about these agreements). Reporting on the GLWQA includes the program’s contribution to the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conferences, hosted by ECCC and the United States (US) Environmental Protection Agency. Work within the Great Lakes program area encompasses policy development, issue management, work planning, reporting, coordination of science and monitoring, and the development, implementation and analysis of agreements, plans and initiatives (described in more detail below).

ECCC works with the US, federal, provincial, state, and community partners as well as with the public to improve Great Lakes water quality. This includes implementing Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMPs) that have been developed for each of the Great Lakes. Among many other initiatives, these partners work to deliver Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) that guide restoration and protection efforts in key Areas of Concern (AOCs) — “hot spots” that have been designated as the most severely degraded areas within the Great Lakes.Footnote 1 

Specifically, the Great Lakes program implements RAPs and LAMPs intended to improve environmental quality and achieve the vision of a healthy and prosperous Great Lakes ecosystem. It uses funding from GLAP to restore beneficial use impairments in AOCs, and implements contaminated sediment remediation projects with funding from the Action Plan for Clean Water. Funding from GLNI is used to determine phosphorus targets and identify possible actions to reduce levels that contribute to harmful algae. The program also develops action plans and strategies to address evolving and historic issues of emerging concern in the Great Lakes (e.g., species and habitat protection, chemicals of concern, and climate change impacts).

Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative

The Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative (GLNI)Footnote 2 is intended to advance the science to understand and address the complex problem of recurrent toxic and nuisance algae in the Great Lakes through a coordinated approach, and to help Canada deliver on key commitments under the 2012 GLWQA. The Initiative focuses on Lake Erie, the smallest and shallowest of the Great Lakes and the most susceptible to nearshore water quality issues. The science and policy approaches developed through the Initiative are expected to be transferable to the other Great Lakes and other bodies of water in Canada.

The Initiative targets five priority areas:

  • establishing current nutrient loadings from selected Canadian tributaries;
  • enhancing knowledge of the factors that impact tributary and nearshore water quality, ecosystem health, and algae growth;
  • establishing binational lake ecosystem objectives, phosphorus objectives, and phosphorus load reduction targets;
  • developing policy options and strategies to meet phosphorus reduction targets; and
  • developing a binational nearshore assessment and management framework.

GLNI received a total of $28.7 million in funding from 2011–2012 to 2015–2016. Funding was extended for 2016–2017, with $3.1 million announced in Budget 2016.

Great Lakes Action Plan

The Great Lakes Action Plan (GLAP) is a vehicle for the federal government, with ECCC as the lead department, to act to restore AOCs around the Great Lakes area and fulfil Canadian commitments under the GLWQA. GLAP has consisted of five phases to date,Footnote 3 starting in 1989–1990. For Phase V (2010–2011 to 2014–2015), the Government of Canada announced $8 million per year in ongoing funding for GLAP.

Activities supported by GLAP V include

  • remedial actions – remedial actions within AOCs, consistent with the mandate of the Department, typically administered through contributions from the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund (GLSF);
  • science – assessment and monitoring of beneficial use impairments (BUIs); and
  • engagement/governance activities.

Action Plan for Clean Water (Great Lakes Sediment Remediation)

Under the Action Plan for Clean Water, in Budget 2007 the Government of Canada committed more than $96.9 million over eight years (2008–2009 to 2015–2016)Footnote 4 to act on water pollution issues in Canadian freshwater systems in the Great Lakes, Lake Simcoe and Lake Winnipeg basins. For the Great Lakes portion ($48.9 million),Footnote 5 a primary goal is to improve water quality by removing or containing harmful pollutants in priority areas of the Great Lakes. ECCC has devoted funding from Canada’s Action Plan for Clean Water to remediate contaminated sediment in Great Lakes AOCs.Footnote 6 

The GLAP (described above) funds the assessment, design and development of sediment remediation plans to lay the foundation for the sediment remediation itself. These Remedial Action Plans have been established for each of the AOCs to assess the nature and extent of beneficial use impairments (BUIs)Footnote 7 and to develop strategies to restore beneficial uses, thus ultimately leading to the delisting of the AOC.

The Great Lakes Sediment Remediation Projects (GLSRP) are intended to provide funding for the implementation of contaminated sediment remediation plans in eight Canadian AOCs on the Great Lakes.Footnote 8 Under the terms and conditions of the GLSRP, contribution funding for sediment remediation is cost-shared under the mechanism of the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund (GLSF). The terms and conditions of this fund require that federal funding cover no more than one-third of the total project cost. There was limited work on the implementation of GLSRP projects in the evaluation timeframe from 2010–2011 to 2014–2015. The sediment remediation project in Jellicoe Cove in the Peninsula Harbour AOC was implemented in 2012–2013. Another major project at Randle Reef in the Hamilton Harbour AOC was funded and the implementation stage began in 2015–2016.

2.2. Governance and Management

Overall accountability for the Great Lakes Program (PAA element 1.3.4) rests with ECCC’s Regional Director General, Ontario. Other parts of ECCC also have significant roles in the management and delivery of this program: Water Science and Technology Directorate (in Science and Technology Branch) is accountable for many science components and groundwater-related issues in the Great Lakes; Chemicals Management Division (in Environmental Protection Branch) is responsible for chemicals of concern in the Great Lakes; and the National Hydrological Service (of the Meteorological Service of Canada) and the Atmospheric Science and Technology Directorate (of Science and Technology Branch) provide scientific support on Great Lakes climate change issues.

ECCC also relies on other federal departments: Transport Canada leads on discharges from vessels into the Great Lakes, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada leads on addressing the threat and impact of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. These federal government partners provide their own resources and are accountable for achieving the objectives of these activities.

Further details on governance and management mechanisms utilized by the Great Lakes program and associated agreements are provided in Annex A.

2.3. Resource Allocation

Details on the program’s expenditures are presented in Table 1. According to available information, total expenditures over the evaluation timeframe were $85.4 million, of which $47.3 million were expenditures of the office of the Regional Director General (RDGO)–Ontario. Most of the remaining expenditures (approximately $35.2 million) were associated with the work of S&T Branch in delivering the science to support the program.

Table 1. Great Lakes Program Expenditures for 20102011 to 20142015

Branch 2010–2011 2011–2012 2012–2013 2013–2014 2014–2015 Total
FTEs 42.7 40 39.4 39 39.2 -
Salaries $3,303,326 $3,261,449 $3,375,343 $3,368,525 $3,379,369 $16,688,012
O&M $1,105,221 $1,293,141 $4,832,457 $2,647,275 $1,897,490 $11,775,584
Capital $28,234 - - - - $28,234
Gs&Cs $3,760,998 $3,602,633 $3,800,810 $3,825,810 $3,805,124 $18,795,375
S&T Branch
Branch 2010–2011 2011–2012 2012–2013 2013–2014 2014–2015 Total
FTEs 50 52 67 63 47 -
Salaries 3,568,318 3,786,786 4,978,702 4,777,007 3,636,529 20,747,342
O&M $1,178,658 $1,950,318 $2,862,844 $3,308,828 $2,912,830 $12,213,478
Capital - - $644,337 $791,983 $638,644 $2,074,964
Gs&Cs - - $20,000 $60,000 $60,000 $140,000
Other Branches*
Branch 2010–2011 2011–2012 2012–2013 2013–2014 2014–2015 Total
Salaries $426,098 $117,132 $293,554 $700,351 $579,515 $2,116,650
O&M $156,649 $146,021 $104,111 $136,412 $237,141 $780,334
Capital - - - - - -
Gs&Cs $15,960 - - - - $15,960

*Other branches include Environmental Protection Branch (total costs of $1,409,914), the Meteorological Service of Canada ($263), Audit and Evaluation Branch ($135,960), Corporate Services Branch ($1,045), and default accounts ($1,365,763).

All Branches
Branch 2010–2011 2011–2012 2012–2013 2013–2014 2014–2015 Total
Salaries $7,297,742 $7,165,367 $8,647,599 $8,845,883 $7,595,413 $39,552,004
O&M $2,440,528 $3,389,480 $7,799,412 $6,092,515 $5,047,461 $24,769,396
Capital $28,234 - $644,337 $791,983 $638,644 $2,103,198
Gs&Cs $3,776,958 $3,602,633 $3,820,810 $3,885,810 $3,865,124 $18,951,335
Total Program Costs $13,543,462 $14,157,480 $20,912,158 $19,616,191 $17,146642 $85,375,933
Branch 2010–2011 2011–2012 2012–2013 2013–2014 2014–2015 Total
Total Program Costs $13,543,462 $14,157,480 $20,912,158 $19,616,191 $17,146,642 $85,375,933

Note: Figures from ECCC’s financial system as provided by Finance Branch, July 17, 2015. Figures for RDGO–Ontario confirmed by program management. For S&T Branch, program management estimated expenditures based on the standard average salary calculation used by the Branch’s Financial Management Advisor for planning purposes because coding of FTEs and salaries to the financial system was not aligned with S&T employees’ actual time spent on the Great Lakes program.

2.4. Intended Outcomes

The diversity of objectives and intended outcomes of the various initiatives undertaken as part of the Great Lakes program have not been captured in a single unified logic model or set of outcomes. Separate logic models with intended outcomes have, however, been developed for the Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative, Great Lakes Action Plan, and Great Lakes Sediment Remediation Projects (see Annex B). This evaluation assessed progress toward the intended outcomes of GLNI and GLAP only (see section 4.3). As there was limited implementation of GLSRP projects in the evaluation timeframe and it was premature to evaluate the achievement of project outcomes, the evaluation focused on the relevance, design and delivery of this program component.

As GLNI and GLAP support the implementation of the Canada–US GLWQA and Canada Ontario Agreement, the assessment of these programs’ intended outcomes by extension speaks to how well ECCC and its partners are responding to related key commitments in the two agreements.

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