Ontario and Ottawa come to agreement over Hwy. 413 environmental assessment

The Justin Trudeau government has come to an agreement with Ontario to remove a significant roadblock in the building of Doug Ford’s flagship Highway 413.

A joint consent order, which still needs to be approved by the courts, would cancel an environmental impact study on the proposed highway.

“Ontario and Canada have mutually agreed to resolve this litigation,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation said in a statement to CTV News Toronto.

“As this matter is before the court, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

In May 2021, the federal government determined Highway 413 warranted designation under the Impact Assessment Act, a piece of legislation that gives them the authority to evaluate how climate change may be impacted by the project.

“Throughout the Impact Assessment Process, the agency will collect science and Indigenous knowledge, and receive feedback from the public and stakeholders,” the spokesperson said.

“At the end of the impact assessment process, the agency will make a recommendation on if the project should or should not move forward as planned.”

The government has actively been fighting this process, and in October 2023 went to the courts in an effort to prevent the federal government from using the Impact Assessment Act for both the Highway 413 and Ontario Place. This followed a Supreme Court opinion found that the act was unconstitutional as it encroaches into provincial responsibility.

In a statement, advocacy group and intervenor in the case Environmental Defence said the agreement was “a gross abandonment of federal responsibility” to protect wildlife and people across Ontario.

“At a time when the provincial government has gutted all meaningful consideration of environmental, social and economic values in decision-making, Ontarians have no choice but to rely on the federal government for protection,” they said in a news release issued Thursday.

“Failing to designate the 413 project for a federal Impact Assessment would be a betrayal of what the federal government has said it stands for with regard to climate, housing and the environment.”

The six-lane, 52-kilometre highway has been a major campaign promise of Premier Doug Ford’s since he was first elected in 2018.

Highway 413

The proposed route would travel from Halton to York Region, connecting highways 401, 407, and 410. The province expects the project to save commuters about 30 minutes in driving time when complete, reducing gridlock across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

A report published in October 2022 by Environment Defence identified at least 29 “federally identified species at risk” that will be impacted by the highway. The report also says the proposed highway would cross about 132 streams and rivers, and result in the loss of about 400 acres of “significant natural areas and/or Greenbelt land.”

Local farmers who may lose land or be impacted by the highway have also criticized the plan, arguing their businesses may shutter and the environmental consequences could be dire.


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