Federal Government withdraws 413 environmental assessment requirement

This past Thursday the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario submitted a joint application to the Federal Court to withdraw the federal environmental assessment for Highway 413. The withdrawal means that arguments about the legalities surrounding the Federal Impact Assessment Act will not be clarified by the courts. It also means there will be no opportunity for the court, (and thereby the public) to adjudicate the environmental impacts of building this highway.

“The federal government needs to urgently introduce legislation that updates the Impact Assessment Act and that re-designates the Highway 413 project under it. Revoking the designation before a new Impact Assessment Act is in place was irresponsible and unnecessary,” said Laura Bowman, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice.

The Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR), established in 1994, significantly improved public participation in environmental decision-making according to the Canadian Environmental Law Association. The tools afforded by the EBR have been used to hold government officials to account for their environmental decision-making. Yet over the past four years, the Ontario Government has systematically removed many of the environmental protections that were enshrined in EBR making it more difficult for the public and environmental agencies to raise environmental concerns and to have their case heard.

Beyond the obvious damage the highway would cause to sensitive habitats and natural spaces, highway 413 is an enabler of car-dependent suburban sprawl type development that would undermine Canada’s ability to meet carbon reduction targets. And, as has been discussed in previous articles in this space, sprawl development is not only bad for the environment, it is also economically way more expensive to build, support and maintain. That means taxes on existing households will need to rise to cover the cost.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Environmental Defence provides a comprehensive background summary of the ways the 413 would threaten the quality of life for many Ontarians, make housing less affordable and infringe on areas of federal government responsibility. Both environmental organizations and other groups across southern Ontario are very upset by the governments’ decision. Here is a partial list of organizations letting their MP know how unhappy they are with this decision. Please join them.

  • Toronto Nature Stewards,
  • Toronto Field Naturalists,
  • Pollinator Partnerships,
  • Anglican Church of Canada
  • Stopthe413Now
  • Greenbelt Guardian
  • Burlington Green
  •  Dufferin-Caledon Green Party
  • GASP,
  • Oakville Climate Hub,
  • HACEN
  • Democracy Caledon
  • Green Party of Ontario Burlington riding association
  • Green Party of Canada Burlington riding association

Environmental Defence has set up a simple calling tool to connect you with your Federal MP. The tool will call your phone, connect you with your MP and display talking points to guide your call. Please call today!

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