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Sault launches pitch for new Canada Water Agency

A final decision on the location for the new agency won't be made until 2022 but between now and then the government will engage in a consultation process and MP Terry Duguid has said he will keep in touch with the city.

The first pitch for Sault Ste. Marie to host the federal government’s new Canada Water Agency in the city has been made.

Ward 5 Coun. Corey Gardi and Mayor Christian Provenzano held a virtual meeting with Sault MP Terry Sheehan and MP Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, last week.

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Sheehan organized the meeting, giving Gardi and Provenzano an opportunity to put Sault Ste. Marie on the map as a community that wants to host the new Canada Water Agency.

Gardi said the meeting went well.

“We made him a little more familiar with Sault Ste. Marie and why we believe this would be an appropriate location. We talked about a lot of support we have from a number of community partners and more than anything, he knows we’re interested,” Gardi said.

Provenzano said they learned the federal government is still very early in the process about choosing a location to house the agency.

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In fact, he said, the ministry is still working on the agency’s mandate.

“The point we made is that we are interested in hosting the agency and partnering and we want to stay engaged and follow along with the process and jump in when the location issue is on the table,” Provenzano said.

A final decision on the location for the new agency won’t be made until 2022 but, between now and then, the government will engage in a consultation process and Duguid has said he will keep in touch with the city.

“I thought it was very positive. The mayor and I walked away believing it was a very good meeting and MP Sheehan was very helpful as well and agreed to work with MP Duguid on the file,” Gardi said.

Also important in the presentation was the argument that Sault Ste. Marie is at the heart of the Great Lakes and with other research agencies here, the location is ideal.

Gardi said he also believes that Duguid was interested in the work being done locally with Truth and Reconciliation with the area’s Indigenous and Metis communities, and specifically the actions of Algoma University.

“Any information that I’ve read regarding the Canada Water Agency is that the federal government wants to ensure Indigenous consultation and Indigenous government will be a real part of the agency, especially with water governance,” Gardi said.

Provenzano said the city won’t stand idly by until a decision is made. Instead, it will stay engaged and looks forward to the release of a paper expected to be released in May discussing the consultive period.

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“We will review it and discuss it again with the federal government at some point,” Provenzano said. “We will not sit passively and wait for 2022. We want to stay engaged, learn what the mandate of the agency will be and make the case for it.”

Sheehan also remains on board with the project and will continue to keep it on his radar.

A follow-up plan will include developing a team to review the agency’s mandate and develop a formal proposal when the timing is right.

Gardi said he will continue to work on that plan over the next few months and continue to pursue the effort with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, letters of support are continuing to arrive to the city, some from organizations that Gardi has reached out to and others that have arrived unsolicited.

A number of letters of support for the pitch have been compiled by Gardi and Provenzano in an effort to get the federal government’s attention on the community’s desire to host the new agency.

That support includes the unsolicited support of the St. Mary’s River Bi-National Public Advisory Council.

The Invasive Species Centre, RAIN and other organizations have also offered support, along with Algoma University, Lake Superior State University’s Centre for Freshwater Research and Education, Sault College’s National Environment Program, the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority and both the Batchewana and Garden River First Nation communities.

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Sault Ste. Marie is not the only community lobbying to be the home of the Canada Water Agency. Interest has also been sparked by communities in Saskatchewan, but a process to determine the best location has not yet begun.

During the Speech from the Throne last fall, the federal government announced it wants to establish a new Canada water research agency. Since that time, Gardi has been lobbying the federal government to set up that agency in Sault Ste. Marie, at the centre of the Great Lakes, on a major transportation hub and on the International Border.

Sault Ste. Marie is also home to well-established research facilities, including the Invasive Species Centre, Great Lakes Forestry Research Centre and Ontario Forestry Research Institute. It can also create synergies with Lake Superior State University, Algoma University and Sault College.

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