In what’s being viewed as a win for environmentalism, the federal government says it will step in to perform its own environmental assessment (EA) of Ontario’s controversial Highway 413 proposal.
The contentious Highway 413 (GTA West Corridor) project would stretch 60-kilometres through Ontario farmland and protected Greenbelt land, from Highway 401 near Milton to Highway 400 north of Vaughan.
Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has ruled against doing the same EA for the Bradford Bypass, another controversial Ford government highway project.
Critics say the proposed four-lane 16.2-kilometre Bradford Bypass will put the environmentally sensitive Holland Marsh wetlands at risk.
The Ford government have proposed to exempt the Bypass project from the provincial environmental assessment process.
There was an environmental assessment done back in 1997, which the Progressive Conservatives say will allow them to speed up the process and “avoid duplication.”
While environmental groups are disappointed both projects won’t face the same EA scrutiny, they still see it as a win.
It’s estimated that the vehicles using Highway 413 will add up to 700,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, leading to a cumulative total of 17.4 million tonnes of emissions by 2050, which Environmental Defence says is more pollution than the entire City of Toronto emitted in all of 2018.
“Minister Wilkinson has listened to the concerns of local citizens along the proposed path of Highway 413, and the unanimous voice of local governments who supported this request for a federal environmental assessment,” said Sarah Buchanan, Ontario Climate Program Manager at Environmental Defence.
“Impacted people and governments don’t want to see the province spend billions to destroy critical farmland, portions of the Greenbelt, wetlands, forests, and endangered species when experts have told us it will only save an average of 30-60 seconds per trip.”
A National Observer/Torstar investigation found that eight of Ontario’s largest land developers own thousands of acres of prime real estate along the planned route of the 413.
The investigation also delved into ties between the developers and Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.
The Ford government is also facing criticism for appointing retired MPP Norm Sterling as head of the Greenbelt Council. Sterling voted against the creation of the Greenbelt as an MPP in 2005.
NDP environment critic Sandy Shaw told CBC news the appointment is just another example of Doug Ford being completely hell-bent on paving over parts of the Greenbelt.