highway 413 ontario

Doug Ford's controversial Highway 413 just got closer to reality

The controversial Highway 413 project being pushed along by Ontario Premier Doug Ford just took a massive step forward with an agreement inked between the provincial and federal governments that will pave the way for this much-debated expressway.

Highway 413 is one of two contentious highway projects proposed by the Ford government, planned as an outer suburban ring road with connections to Highway 400, 401 and 407.

Critics warn that the 413 would prove catastrophic to local ecosystems and threatened species, with some arguing that the high-profile project will fail to address congestion issues plaguing the region.

On Monday, Doug Ford earned a huge win on the project's environmental pushback with the announcement of an agreement between Ontario and Canada to work together on assessing and managing issues surrounding federal species put at risk by the project.

The agreement has resulted in a request from these two levels of government to set aside the Highway 413 project's designation under the Impact Assessment Act, which has been granted with an order from the Federal Court.

Ontario's Minister of Transportation Prabmeet Sarkaria said that the new agreement "provides Ontario the certainty we need to move forward with Highway 413," thanking the federal government for "meeting us at the table and collaborating on the environmental protections needed to get the project started."

Sarkaria promised that "in the coming months, we will move ahead with procurement to get shovels in the ground on key interchanges of the project, bringing us one step closer to getting it done."

A joint working group has been formed between the two levels of government through a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Ontario's Ministry of Transportation and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

This group of provincial and federal officials will cooperate to minimize the project's environmental impacts, building upon the province's ongoing environmental assessment process.

"This agreement shows Canada and Ontario's ability to work together while recognizing their shared jurisdiction on matters to do with the environment," said Steven Guilbeault, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

"It also ensures federal interests will be maintained on the protection of species while offering Ontario, in light of the recent Supreme Court's decision, a greater level of clarity around the review process for the Highway 413 project," added Guilbeault.

The announcement follows an October 2023 statement from the Supreme Court of Canada determining that the Impact Assessment Act in its current form is partially unconstitutional and should be focused specifically on areas with federal jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court also ruled that the environment is an area of shared jurisdiction, asking that both levels of government work together in the spirit of "cooperative federalism."

The agreement comes as an interim move in advance of the federal government's legislation to update the Impact Assessment Act in response to these findings, expected to be tabled this spring.

Lead photo by

Stephen Gardiner

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