Feds take over environmental assessment for Highway 413

By Alan S. Hale May 4, 2021

Ottawa has decided to take over the environmental impact assessment of the controversial proposed Highway 413, which would run east from Highway 400 near Vaughan before joining Highway 401 near Halton Hills.

“After careful consideration of the available science, evidence and other relevant information … I have decided to designate this project under the federal impact assessment process,” said federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

The minister said his decision was based on the project’s possible adverse impact on federally listed species-at-risk — such as the western chorus frog, red-headed woodpecker and rapids clubtail — and concerns those impacts cannot be mitigated with “current mechanisms.”

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said she is waiting to see what the scope of the federal impact assessment will be, but is doubtful that one is truly warranted, seeming to suggest that Ottawa’s “newfound concerns” about the species is a pretext.

“As recently as March 2020, the experts at the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada reviewed the evidence and declined to take further action on the GTA West project,” she said, adding the province believes “in the principle of one project-one assessment.”

The decision was welcomed by environmental groups hoping federal intervention will spell the end for the highway. This includes Environmental Defence, which recently released its own report on the project, predicting long-lasting environmental damage.

“This action is necessary due to the Ontario government’s dangerous plan to undermine the environmental reviews of this highway and race to its construction,” stated the group, which made a formal request to Ottawa to weigh in earlier this year.

The project is also controversial on the regional and municipal level: Vaughan, Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon have all withdrawn their support for the mega-highway, as has the Region of Peel. York Region is standing by the project but still wants the environmental concerns looked into more closely.

Separately, reports have tied PC Party donations to landowners along the highway’s route.