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Bill 7 and moving toward a "no net loss of wetlands" policy

Tuesday May 22, I spoke on Bill 7 in the Manitoba Legislature.   It deals with the provincial approach to surface water and to wetlands.  My comments are below:  
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, a few comments on this legislation. We're in support of the move to a no-net-loss-of-wetlands approach. It was one, as I mentioned earlier, that I brought in an amendment to implement in about 2005, so it's only 13 years later and, finally, we're getting it. So I thank the minister for that.
      The Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) has raised some concerns about the mechanism. I think we'll wait and see how it  works and we'll–we may have to address that later  on, but, for the moment, at least we have the no‑net-loss-of-wetlands policy.
      I believe we will need to use satellite images as a way of monitoring this. There are now, I'm sure, approaches using automated tracking of satellite images in which it would be fairly easy to monitor changes in wetlands and be able to compare, year on year, what's happening. So I think that's going to be important in being able to follow it. Once you have the satellite tracking, then it will be fairly easy to move in and enforce the regulations and the rules.
      The recommendations of Dimple Roy at IISD and of Dr. Alexis Kanu of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation for changes to the phosphorus recommendations which would have allowed easier and faster removal of phosphorus by the North End treatment plant at the City of Winnipeg could have been considered. We are now many, many years late in terms of addressing the North End treatment plant and getting the phosphorus removed. There were people who are very knowledgeable who talked about how, with the political will and with the right approaches, we could have removed phosphorus probably in the period between 2005 and 2010, and here we are 10 or 15 years almost, later, and we're still not there. And that's still the biggest source of phosphorus going into Lake Winnipeg, so it's time to get that done.  I was a little disappointed that the minister didn't give the precise time when it's going to be achieved, but I look forward to hearing that shortly.
      One of the things that the Ducks Unlimited submission talks about is the potential and importance of wetlands to to be major reservoirs of stored carbon and being able to use this fact to mitigate climate change. I think it's going to be very important to invest in the research so that we can accurately account for the storage of carbon. And, in that way, once we can account for the storage of carbon accurately in wetlands, then we can potentially give farmers carbon credits for storing carbon.
      And I think that until we reach a point where we can monitor and know accurately the carbon content of wetlands, then we are going to be short of an important ingredient, an important tool, that will provide an incentive for farmers to maintain wetlands, or to put in water storage areas, new wetlands.
      I've been talking for almost 20 years about the importance of adding additional water storage so that we can protect ourselves better from floods and from droughts. And clearly the optimum time to protect ourselves from droughts is to put that water storage in when it's wet years so that we have the water stored in dry years. And now we are, so far, in a dry year. We'll have to wait and see how the rest of the year turns out, and the next few years, to know whether we're going to be into a dry cycle and whether, in fact, we are going to have difficulties on the drought side. And it would be important to be able to protect ourselves better in years of drought, and we should be actively investing in the storage of waters to protect ourselves. And, once again, having the tools, including the carbon storage research, so that we know what's actually being accomplished, and the carbon credits process, so that farmers can get credits, would be important in being able to move that forward.
      So there are, as I've pointed out, some things that could be improved here, but it's a–an important step forward, and so, from a Liberal perspective, we'll be supporting this bill.
      Thank you.


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