This could be the beginning of the end of the Ford government’s Highway 413 project as the federal government is taking over the environmental assessment of the controversial proposal.
In a statement, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says after consideration he’s decided to designate this project under the federal impact assessment process.
BREAKING: Federal Environment Minister is stepping in to put the GTA West project under the federal environmental assessment process. This is the @fordnation government’s Highway 413 project #cdnpoli #onpoli pic.twitter.com/bILzAaZT9x
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) May 3, 2021
Wilkinson says his decision is based on expert findings that the highway may cause adverse direct or incidental effects on federally-listed species at risk.
“After careful consideration of the available science, evidence and other relevant information gathered by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, as well as the Agency’s recommendation to designate the GTA West project, I have decided to designate this project under the federal assessment process,” Wilkinson writes.
“… Should the Agency decide that areas of federal concern cannot be addressed and that a federal impact assessment is warranted, we will endeavour to work with Ontario to carry out a coordinated and predictable assessment that Canadians can have confidence in.”
The Ford government now has to submit an initial project description and based on that information, it will be determined whether a full federal impact assessment is required.
Opponents of Highway 413 are on board because the federal environmental assessment is considered to be tougher than the provincial version.
In recent weeks, all GTA cities have come out against the 59 kilometre stretch of pavement proposed to run through Vaughan, Caledon, Brampton and Halton Hills and connect Highway 400 with Highway 401 and 407 interchanges.
Highway 413 has drawn heavy critique from environmental advocates who worry the road will drive up greenhouse gas emissions.
“Ontario is planning Highway 413, a redundant and unnecessary toll highway that would pave over farm, forests, wetlands and a portion of the Greenbelt and cost taxpayers billions,” says Canadian environmental advocacy organization Environmental Defence.
“Building a new highway gets more polluting cars on the road, and usually does nothing to relieve congestion over time. In fact, an expert panel study found the highway would only save drivers 30-60 seconds per trip.”
The organization says Highway 413 would deteriorate parts of the Credit River and Humber River that flow into Lake Ontario – a source of drinking water for millions of GTA residents.
Further, according to a recent report by Environmental Defence, advocates say Highway 413 will make it harder for Ontario to reign in growing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation and meet Ontario’s 2030 climate target of a 30 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.
“The vehicles travelling on Highway 413 would create about 17.4 million tonnes of CO2(e) in cumulative emissions by 2050 under the Business-as-usual scenario.”