The governments of Canada and Ontario committed to working together to protect the environment and give Ontario greater regulatory certainty to advance Highway 413.

Through the agreement, both Ontario and Canada have agreed to a collaborative process to assess and manage the issues around federal species at risk throughout Ontario’s planning of the project. At Ontario and Canada’s request, the Federal Court has ordered that the Highway 413 Project’s designation under the Impact Assessment Act be set aside.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, the two levels of government have established a joint working group in which provincial and federal officials will recommend appropriate measures to minimize environmental impacts in areas of federal environmental jurisdiction. This builds upon the province’s environmental assessment process, which is also well underway.

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

As Ontario advances on Highway 413, it is committed to building infrastructure in a responsible way that minimizes environmental impacts. Both Canada and Ontario have robust and transparent regulatory regimes to ensure the environment is protected before major projects are developed.

“Today’s announced agreement provides Ontario the certainty we need to move forward with Highway 413. I want to thank the federal government for meeting us at the table and collaborating on the environmental protections needed to get the project started. 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. Our province is in the middle of a period of unprecedented growth, with gridlock costing our economy upwards of $11 billion every year and we need our infrastructure to keep up. It’s never been more important to build roads, bridges, and highways that drivers rely on,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Minister of Transportation.

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In October 2023, the Supreme Court of Canada issued an opinion that the Impact Assessment Act in its current form is partially unconstitutional and must focus on areas of federal jurisdiction. The Court also confirmed that the environment is an area of shared jurisdiction under the Constitution and encouraged both levels of government to work together in the spirit of “cooperative federalism.” The Government of Canada has since committed to presenting legislation to update the Impact Assessment Act in Spring 2024 and in the meantime has released interim guidance indicating that no decisions to designate projects will be taken.

The Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) welcomed the news.

“The advancement of Highway 413 marks a significant victory for GTA residents, promising not only reduced commuting times, but also enhanced quality of life and bolstered economic growth,” said Nadia Todorova, executive director of RCCAO. “Highway 413 will enhance connectivity between communities, create new jobs, and promote more transportation options for commuters and businesses in this rapidly growing region.”

Featured image: (Government of Ontario)

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