By: Mike Anderson
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ponders his cabinet choices and duly elected MPs prepare for their sojourn in Ottawa, York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson has been busy lobbying for the Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund.
Mr. Davidson was one of six local-area Conservative MPs who penned a letter to Mr. Trudeau in late October, calling on him to re-instate the fund “as soon as possible” and to provide a start date for the money to begin flowing.
“During the recent election campaign, both the Conservative Party of Canada and the Liberal Party of Canada committed to the re-establishment of the Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund,” the letter reads.
“As you know, $59 million was invested from 2007 to 2017 by the previous Conservative Government, until the fund was cancelled in 2017.”
“During the ten years, well over 200 projects were supported. Scientists immediately found evidence the funds were working, as phosphorous outputs were reduced, lake water quality began to improve, native fish species were breeding in the watershed — including fish that hadn’t done so in years.”
Indeed, despite the Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund being a key element of the Conservative platform, the Liberals weren’t above taking a page out of their playbook.
On Oct. 9th, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland pledged $40 million to kick-start the fund at a campaign stop in Barrie.
The announcement — coming just two days before the advanced polls opened — was viewed by Conservative supporters as an attempt to give local Liberal candidates a leg-up in the mainly blue ridings around the lake.
But the gambit failed — all the ridings remained Tory blue.
While Mr. Davidson stresses the environment shouldn’t be viewed as a partisan issue, he fears that the Liberals might now back-track on their promise.
“I want to lay the marker down now and let them know that we’re serious about having the clean-up fund re-instated,” says Davidson. “They came at the 11th hour and made their commitment. So now we want some action. I want to see it in the first budget.”
But, without the hoped-for Andrew Scheer-led Conservative majority, Mr. Davidson and the other local-area Conservative MPs remain on the outside, looking in.
To date, there has been no response to their letter from the PMO.
However, Mr. Davidson remains hopeful that the Liberals will eventually agree that the health of the lake trumps the rancour of politics.
“The increase in urban development, invasive species and other challenges have affected the health of the watershed over the years,” says Mr. Davidson, “We must work together to restore the Clean-Up Fund and make sure Lake Simcoe is protected for future generations.”