Doug Ford's controversial highway project will endanger several at-risk species
The polarizing Highway 413 project championed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing new criticism after reports that the route connecting the York, Peel, and Halton regions will harm the environment of several species of wildlife considered at risk.
In new findings obtained by the Narwhal and the Toronto Star through an access-to-information request, Ontario's Ministry of Transportation confirmed that 11 different species deemed "at risk" are present along the 52-kilometre highway and transitway project route.
The list includes seven bird species, and one frog, fish, insect, and tree species, respectively.
Scoop alert: Documents obtained by me and @njaved of @TorontoStar show that Ontario has quietly confirmed at least 11 species at risk are living along the planned route of Highway 413.— Emma McIntosh (@EmmaMci) June 29, 2022
Including two central to a federal review of the project. #onpoli https://t.co/KiEy3d0pqW
Three of the species at risk (the western chorus frog, red-headed woodpecker, and a dragonfly known as the clubtail) are protected under federal legislation, and Ottawa has already sidelined the project with further environmental review after identifying "clear areas of federal concern" in 2021.
The Star and Narwhal's collaborative reports suggest that Ottawa could be forced to step in and commandeer the project. With construction already delayed for environmental review, further federal scrutiny could push the project timeline back by years.
When the federal government stalled Highway 413 last year for environmental oversight, it expressed concern around how the western chorus frog and the rapids clubtail species could be in danger. Both live near the proposed route, documents say. https://t.co/yikLC54Hwr pic.twitter.com/zAAopQcvOS— Toronto Star (@TorontoStar) June 29, 2022
The Ontario PC government has touted the project as part of a plan to fight congestion, seemingly unfamiliar with the concept of induced demand and fitting perfectly in with those "just one more lane" memes prevalent on urbanist Twitter.
While the route would also feature lower-carbon options like a transitway for rapid bus travel and electric vehicle charging stations, it has failed to gain any traction with the other parties represented at Queen's Park.
In response to the latest revelations, Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner issued a statement, doubling down on his calls for the controversial highway project to be scrapped.
#Hwy413 will pave over 400 acres in Greenbelt, 2000 acres of prime farmland, & threaten or destroy 75 wetlands.— Green Party of Ontario (@OntarioGreens) June 29, 2022
Now add to Ford's list of destruction - internal govt documents say a min of 11 species at risk live along the route.#StopThe413 #onpoli pic.twitter.com/HqPjXFQt3S
"Ontario Greens have been calling for the cancellation of Highway 413 since it was first reintroduced by Ford because it will pave over 400 acres of the Greenbelt, 2,000 acres of prime farmland, threaten or destroy 75 wetlands, and add 17.4M tonnes of emissions by 2050," said Schreiner.
"Now we know this unnecessary, supersprawler highway will cause even more destruction. Internal government documents show that a minimum of 11 species at risk live along the proposed highway 413 route, with a possibility of dozens more."
Schreiner calls the move to proceed with the highway "reckless" and "short-sighted," adding that the Ford government's "disregard for environmental protections is bad for our climate, economy, communities and quality of life."
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