SOUTH DUNDAS – As part of a continuing series, The Leader is running a weekly question of the week series to help inform readers about the candidates running for the October 21st federal election in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.
All candidates running to be the new Member of Parliament are given the question of the week, and are limited to approximately 225 words for their response.
Only responses received by the deadline given to candidates are published. The Leader has reserved the right to edit responses for journalistic-style and word count. Many of the questions will deal with specific issues in South Dundas, as decided by the editorial staff of the newspaper. Responses are listed by alphabetical order, by last name.
This week’s question: Water levels along the St. Lawrence River have fluctuated greatly since the International Joint Commission implemented its Plan 2014 control model. In South Dundas we have seen two record-setting high levels in three years which has led to flooding and high water currents; and we’ve seen record-settling low levels that limited property use and caused navigation issues on the St. Lawrence-Seaway. If elected MP, what can you do to strike the right balance between environmental concerns, and the rights and needs of residents and businesses along the water course?
Conservative Party of Canada
A Member of Parliament cannot promise to change the water levels themselves. However, the International Joint Commission should ensure that there are reasonable water levels, at least between Victoria Day and Labour Day. I believe that my experience in municipal government and with Guy Lauzon’s office can be helpful to bring together key partners to make sure our residents are heard. I am committed to improving communication between resident associations, municipal governments, businesses, and federal agencies on both the Canadian and the United States side of the River to work together more cohesively and be united in our concerns to the IJC. Governments on each side of the River do not work as closely as we should to have unified and detailed recommendations to improve the water levels and conditions. Without everyone on the same page, the messages and requests to the International Joint Commission may not be as effective. I would also sponsor and host a “State of the River” summit annually to update residents and businesses on our work and get feedback. Without a doubt, maintaining safe levels of water in all parts of the Great Lakes is complicated. Our approach would not be pitting one region of the River and Great Lakes against each other, but rather ensuring that our area has an equal and strong voice at the table.
Liberal Party of Canada
The International Joint Commission (IJC) which governs the flow of the St. Lawrence from Lake Ontario through our region is comprised of both Canadian and American Commissioners. Their role is to determine the best way to manage the whole of the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence Seaway and the water levels that affect millions of people on both sides of the border. In terms of what a local MP can do, to affect decisions relating to water levels as experienced in South Dundas and elsewhere, is minimal due to the governance of the commission. What I, as MP, would strongly advocate for is changing the decision making process. It has been difficult for individuals/groups/stakeholders to succeed in altering any water level decision. With the impact of Climate Change, water levels will continue to be an annual challenge. As your local MP I will work to open up discussions with the Canadian government and the IJC to review governance and how best to deal with water levels to best meet the needs of all those who live along the river. Obviously wildly fluctuating water levels is having an enormous impact on our riding and how people are able to live and use the river.
Kelsey Catherine Schmitz
New Democratic Party of Canada
First and foremost, it’s important to meet with all impacted residents and create a joint multi-level government committee to ensure we are addressing the issues proactively at all levels, as this issue touches municipal, provincial and federal jurisdiction. I think it’s important that we listen to recommendations from experts like Bruce Burrows and the St Lawrence River Institute team to commission a study into water levels and their causes (environmental, climate change, control of the dam, etc) and develop a water management plan that has both the environment, businesses, and individual people’s needs. This is a complex issue that requires acknowledgement of the impact that climate change has on our region.
People’s Party of Canada
Fluctuating water levels in the St. Lawrence River are a very challenging situation for local residents and businesses. Uncontrollable factors such as higher than usual rain and run-off as evidenced during the spring of 2019 are not possible to predict or control. Plan 2014 is the result of 16 years of study and input from scientists, technicians, public stakeholders, and governments who have built and tested hundreds of evaluation models. Some of the input stems from the economic importance of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Statistics from 2017 indicate that are 181,000 jobs and $26 billion in economic activity in Ontario and Quebec with 230 million tons of raw and finished goods being transported on the Seaway. The Moses-Saunders hyrdo-electric dam creates 1,000 Megawatts of clean electricity. As MP, I will work with the International Joint Commission to make changes to the water level to accommodate the new reality of frequent flooding.
Green Party of Canada
No response was received from the candidate by press time.