We in Ontario have been blessed in so many ways that we sometimes overlook how fortunate we truly are.
Our proximity to the Great Lakes is a case in point.
Containing one-fifth of the world's surface freshwater, Dr. Val Klump of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences says it's a misnomer to call the Great Lakes "lakes." He says it's more accurate to call them "inland seas."
Given their vast relative size, he makes a good point.
Throughout our history, Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario have been critical to our economy and the development of two countries: Canada and the United States.
They have been important commercial shipping lanes, a source of fish for food, a place for recreation, and have helped to create a climate that makes the Niagara grape and wine industry possible. Most importantly, they are a source of safe drinking water for millions.
Each of the Great Lakes is a complex eco-system which requires ongoing study and effective international management.
Threats to the Great Lakes have included pollution, unsafe run-off and discharge, invasive species like the sea lamprey and the zebra mussel, overfishing, and large-scale diversion proposals. Overconsumption could also be a problem, as the lakes are naturally replenished by just 1 percent of their volume annually.
We must continue to confront these challenges, work together with our neighbouring states, provinces, municipalities and government agencies, and protect the Great Lakes.
While we need concerted cooperation, we do not need new layers of bureaucracy which duplicate what we already have and do little but re-study what we already know. We can do more by enforcing existing laws and regulations, and holding governments accountable.
With increasing world-wide concern about climate change and the need to protect the long term future of abundant and safe water, we should all be aware of how important the Great Lakes are to our quality of life, and how important they will continue to be in the coming years.
Earlier this month, I was privileged to attend the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus 2016 Annual Meeting, which was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There I joined elected state and provincial colleagues from the Mid-West area for a discussion of Great Lakes issues and concerns.
I learned a "Great" deal, and also made a joint presentation to the conference on Ontario's experience with aquaculture (sometimes known as "fish farming") with a representative of the State of Michigan.
While the Ontario Legislature is currently in summer recess, my staff and I continue to work on your behalf in our Wellington-Halton Hills Provincial Riding Office.
In addition, I look forward to our many summer events and celebrations. Enjoy a safe and fun summer!
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott welcomes your comments. He can be reached at 1-800- 265-2366. His website address is www.tedarnottmpp.com.