Health of Manitoba waterways just as crucial election topic as economy, says advocate

·3 min read

An organization advocating for the health of Lake Winnipeg hopes that when federal candidates come calling and seeking votes in the coming days and weeks, that Manitobans make it clear that the health of the environment and of this province’s largest lake are topics that must be top-of-mind.

“I know candidates and voters are going to want to talk about the economy, and the pandemic, and health care, but ultimately water is the most precious resource we have on this planet, and we’re fortunate to have an abundance of lakes here in Manitoba,” Gordon Campbell said over the phone on Friday morning from his Lester Beach cottage.

“Unfortunately our lakes are under constant attack by the impacts of changing land use, waste disposal, hydroelectric power generation, shoreline development, and other human uses of water.”

Campbell is one of the members of the Coalition to Save Lake Winnipeg, (CSLW) an organized group of Manitobans who own cabins and properties along different areas of Lake Winnipeg.

The coalition is now asking Manitobans to ask any federal candidate who seeks their votes a number of specific questions about what can be done on the federal level to address the health of the lake, while also addressing larger issues of environmental sustainability and climate change.

In a Facebook post by Campbell on August 25, he urged Manitobans to discuss the major environmental issues currently facing Lake Winnipeg with candidates, including the ongoing issues of algae bloom growth, and of invasive zebra mussels.

“Over the next weeks candidates in Manitoba’s 14 federal ridings may be contacting you to request your support,” Cambell said in his post.

“Engaging the candidates in a conversation about water and how they will support sustainable practices for the health of Manitoba’s waterways will highlight the need for this to be a priority for government attention. You can ask your candidates to look beyond their party’s plan to consider the needs of our province and the waterways they can protect.”

Campbell said he believes the two most pressing issues for Lake Winnipeg are currently the algae blooms and the zebra mussels.

Campbell knows the extent of the zebra mussel issue first-hand, as he is one of many volunteers at Lester Beach, which sits about 15 km north of Grand Beach, who spends summer mornings cleaning the thousands of zebra mussels off of the shores of the beach, just so beachgoers can be comfortable.

He said the mussels also “clear out the lake,” leading to clearer water, which allows sunlight to penetrate deeper and support more algae growth.

And Campbell said he has known the extent of the algae bloom issue for years, as every summer the water in the lake on some days can turn a bright green because of the blooms, and when it’s like that he said it is not safe for swimming or any activities.

Campbell said CSLW has also prepared a list of four specific questions that they will send to each candidate in all of Manitoba’s federal ridings, and are hoping to get a response from candidates by September 10, ten days before the planned September 20 election.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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