The fight to stop Highway 413 isn’t over – it’s just beginning.
Despite running on a platform to pave over a chunk of the Greenbelt and thousands of acres of prime farmland, the re-elected Ontario government can’t start building Highway 413…yet.
That’s because just over a year ago, the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change designated Highway 413 under the Impact Assessment Act. That means the project has to go through a Federal review process, and until that process is completed the province cannot start constructing the highway.
This gives those of us who care about climate, nature, and the health of communities some hope…and some work to do.
Federal Impact Assessment Process
Let’s take a look at the next steps in the Impact Assessment Agency’s process:
- Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, which proposed the construction of the highway, must send the Impact Assessment Agency a full proposal for Highway 413.
- After a review period, the Impact Assessment Agency will ask the public and impacted communities for input during a comment period.
- The Agency will take these comments into consideration and decide whether a Federal Impact Assessment of Highway 413 is necessary.
- If it decides an Assessment is necessary the Agency will then determine how extensive it will be. The assessment could be a quick and simple analysis by the Agency itself or an in-depth procedure led by a Review Panel which would include public hearings.
If the Agency decides an Impact Assessment is necessary, the actual assessment could take two to five years to complete.
Why do we need a Federal Assessment?
The crux of the problem is that the Ontario government has been weakening environmental legislation over the last four years and isn’t interested in safeguarding nature, protecting communities, or reigning in climate change.
Shockingly, the province is attempting to “streamline” its own assessment process for Highway 413 to allow construction to begin before the provincial assessment is completed. If this attempt is successful, we would be left with no meaningful assessment because the project could proceed before a final report about impacts is produced. The province is also trying to exempt highways less than 75 kilometers from Environmental Assessments. If this proposal goes through, the new rule would apply to Highway 413, which would mean that the project wouldn’t go through any assessment at all.
That’s why the Federal government has to step in and conduct a proper assessment.
The Federal assessment is also necessary because some of the highway’s impacts fall under Federal jurisdiction. The project would increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, negatively impact federally-listed species at risk, and could have adverse effects on the traditional territories of Indigenous communities, including on their archaeological and burial sites.
These are factors the Federal Impact Assessment Agency is obligated to take into account.
What can we do?
The Impact Assessment Agency is also obliged to consider “public concern” related to the “adverse effects within federal jurisdiction”.
That means we have an important opportunity to send information and concerns to the Agency for its review. This can include municipalities, Indigenous communities, organizations, farmers and business owners along the route, and all other concerned residents.
It was thousands of Ontarians that sent in comments to the Impact Assessment Agency that helped convince the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change to designate the project under the Impact Assessment Agency in the first place.
We can raise our voices again to ensure Highway 413 is subjected to the most vigorous assessment possible (with a Review Panel).
Send an email to Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault to let him know that you expect him to ensure a full Federal Impact Assessment of Highway 413 is conducted.
We can then also follow up with you to let you know when the Impact Assessment Agency opens its comment period so you can send comments directly to the Agency as well.
We still have a good chance to stop this destructive and unnecessary highway. Let’s make sure we have our say!