Citing the Ontario government’s poor track record on endangered species protection, as well as the need to address First Nations’ concerns and respond to the imperatives of the climate crisis, Environmental Defence Canada is urging Ottawa to conduct a full environmental impact assessment of Highway 413.
The proposed 52-kilometre Highway 413 (and twinned transitway) that will run north of Toronto, connecting the York, Peel, and Halton regions, may seem like a “done deal,” given that Premier Doug Ford recently won re-election, writes Environmental Defence Programs Director Keith Brooks, in a recent op-ed in the Toronto Star.
But given the proposed route for the highway crosses the Humber and Credit Rivers, both critical habitat for the western chorus frog, a tiny fish called the redside dace, and the rapids clubtail dragonfly, all three of which are federally listed as species at risk. So Ottawa may—that is, should, writes Brooks—have the final say about whether the project goes ahead.
Citing provincial Ministry of Transportation documents obtained through an access to information request, The Narwhal and the Star say the Highway 413 route would have an impact on 11 species at risk, “including two central to a federal environmental review that may delay the controversial project.”
Pointing to Ottawa’s legal responsibilities under the Species at Risk Act, and Ontario’s “poor track record on endangered species,” Brooks writes that “federal intervention is essential.”
The 413 would also run through the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and the Huron-Wendat Nation, both of which have asked for a federal environmental assessment, Brooks writes. The Huron-Wendat say they have “ not been adequately consulted and accommodated by Ontario” over concerns that archeological or burial sites sacred to the nation may be disturbed by 413 construction, Brooks writes, and the nation fears this failure to consult will continue. “Ottawa had best take that seriously.”
Finally, there is the climate crisis. “Highway 413 would add an additional 17 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050—the year Canada is aiming to be carbon neutral.”
Observing that Ford “campaigned as a changed man, ready to rethink and reassess,” Brooks adds, “perhaps in the face of the weight of evidence and a massive public outcry,” he will rethink his support for Highway 413.
Failing that, “Ottawa has the authority and responsibility to ensure Highway 413 gets a thorough environmental review at the very least. They need to take that responsibility seriously.”