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Cross-border Great Lakes love

In this week's newsletter, Ontario bureau chief Denise Balkissoon tells us about an exciting new partnership to share even more stories about some lakes that we think are pretty great

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Phillip Solomon, an Anishinaabe fisherman on Gitchigumi (Lake Superior)


If you live in Ontario, you love the Great Lakes. We rely on them for work and play — for drinking water, for keeping plants and animals alive, for transportation, for recreation, for beauty. 

They’re important in the province, but also the region, the country and even the world: collectively, the five lakes and the St. Lawrence River make up the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, containing 21 per cent of all available surface freshwater on the planet. They also support the world’s third-largest regional economy.

Which is why The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau is thrilled to become the fifth member of the Great Lakes News Collaborative, a group of news outlets working together to enhance coverage of the Great Lakes basin. Funded by the Michigan-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the collaborative was established in 2020 and has collectively already achieved a 47-per-cent increase in the number of Great Lakes and water-related stories published by the outlets. 

Although the first four members — Bridge Michigan, Michigan Public, Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Now program and Circle of Blue — are all based in the United States, they understand environmental issues affect people and nature on both sides of the border. We’re all paying attention to the Line 5 pipeline between lakes Michigan and Huron, high levels of phosphorus in Lake Erie and how to protect the lakes from wastewater. Our Ontario bureau already worked with Great Lakes Now, back in 2022, for a story on how ice loss on Lake Superior is affecting Anishinaabe fishing economies and practices.

Like The Narwhal, the members of the collaborative are small non-profit outlets doing big, important work. In 2022, they won the U.S. Water Prize for a series of news articles called Water’s True Cost, on the origins of the water infrastructure crisis in Michigan.
 

Phillip Solomon, a member of Fort William First Nation, holds up a fish while ice fishing on Lake Superior


Being part of the collaborative will enable The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau to increase its coverage across the sprawling north shores of the Great Lakes, which encompasses about 1,900 kilometres along lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario. While Ontario will remain at the centre of our work, we’re over-the-moon to collaborate with a bunch of smart journalists stateside who care about the lakes as much as we do. We’re also amped to do more stories about cross-border conservation efforts, like scientists driving delicate piping plover eggs from an Ontario beach to a Michigan incubator. 

As Kelly House, an environment reporter for Bridge Michigan, points out, protecting the environment often requires action by multiple U.S. states and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. “When it comes to our shared Great Lakes water, issues affecting one part of our region affect us all,” House said. “We’re excited to partner with The Narwhal to give readers a fuller perspective on our region’s most prized natural resources.” 

Nature knows no borders and now, neither does our Great Lakes coverage.

Take care and make a splash,

Denise Balkissoon
Ontario bureau chief

 


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Ontario’s energy showdown

Right before Christmas, Ontario’s energy regulator told Enbridge Gas, which has a near-monopoly over natural gas distribution in the province, that developers, not homeowners, should pay to hook new homes up to natural gas. Hours later, Energy Minister Todd Smith voiced his opposition to that decision in stark terms that left industry watchers taken aback.

Perhaps they all thought we’d forget over the holidays, but nope: as always, Ontario reporter Fatima Syed is here to untangle the province’s complicated energy scene in a way the rest of us can understand.

Check out her story on the showdown between Enbridge and the Ontario Energy Board here


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This week in The Narwhal

Alex Moonias of the Neskantaga First Nation and members of the four First Nations making up the Land Defence Alliance march against mining on their territories, Sept. 2023 in Toronto.
Ontario First Nations want a year-long pause on mining claims. Will the Ford government listen?
By Emma McIntosh
Thousands of online mining claims are being made on the territories of First Nations without their consent — and often they aren’t even told about it.
READ MORE
 
Vancouver street covered in snow, with a sign that reads 'road closed due to snow' in the foreground. The trees, ground, and sky are white. In the centre, a person rides their bike down the middle of the empty snow-covered road during the January 2024 first snow in Vancouver.
Dry January: why a dash of snow and rain can't solve B.C.'s water woes
By Arno Kopecky
READ MORE

 
A large pit filled with water, surrounded by forest in Marmora, Ont.
Ontario needs energy storage. Why is it holding out on two big projects?
By Fatima Syed
READ MORE

 
An illustration of Doug Ford on a bulldozer being steered by a giant hand.
Here's the dirt. How Doug Ford is shaping Ontario's environmental laws in his second term
By Emma Macintosh and Fatima Syed
READ MORE
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What we’re reading


In Atmos, Becca Warner looks at the power of language to connect us with the natural world, and why word choice is critical in telling environmental stories.

In Iqaluit, Emma Tranter reports for CBC North on Nunavut’s newly signed devolution agreement, shifting control over lands and resources from the federal government to the territory — marking the largest land transfer in Canadian history.

Who doesn’t like teamwork? Well, maybe a lot of people, but let’s have a collaboration of our own anyway. Keep your friends well nourished with the latest from The Narwhal by telling them to sign up for our weekly newsletter!

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