Posted on May 3, 2021 (updated: May 4, 2021)

Federal government fails to designate Bradford Bypass project for environmental assessment

Wetland in the GTA
Wetland in the GTA - CC0 Public Domain

Environmental and community groups concerned decision leaves important wetlands and endangered species vulnerable 

TORONTO, ONT./TRADITIONAL TERRITORY OF THE HURON-WENDAT, THE ANISHNAABEG, HAUDENOSAUNEE, CHIPPEWAS AND THE MISSISSAUGAS OF THE CREDIT FIRST NATION – The proposed Bradford Bypass project will not receive a federal environmental assessment, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson said in a decision released today.

Environmental and community groups are disappointed, expressing concerns about the potential environmental impact of the project and the precedent today’s decision sets.

The Bradford Bypass will cross and potentially contaminate the groundwater in the Holland Marsh, one of the most productive specialty crop agricultural areas in the country. The project will also lead to the removal of approximately 39 hectares of wildlife habitat and large areas of important wetlands. 

Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, represented by a lawyer from Ecojustice, requested a federal assessment of the Bradford Bypass on February 3, 2021. That letter was supported by 20 local resident and environmental organizations. A petition opposing the project received 18,000 signatures.

Laura Bowman, Lawyer, Ecojustice said:

“The provincial process lacks credibility due to the gutting of environmental assessment laws and policies in recent years. Our clients will continue to hold the province and the federal government accountable to protect fish, wetlands, wildlife and species at risk under the remaining laws. It remains to be seen if the public will ever get access to key information about whether the Bypass is needed and the full extent of the environmental impacts that could occur.”

Claire Malcomson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition said:

“There are virtually no studies supporting claims made by the province that they are going to take care of Lake Simcoe and the local environment. It’s a farce. All the same, we encourage people to insist on studies and facts in their comments to the province. It’s what Ontarians should expect of their government: evidenced-based decision-making and transparency.” 

Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of  Simcoe County Greenbelt Alliance said:

“We will continue to work with an increasing number of concerned citizens, planners and experts in the field who concur that the Bradford Bypass is not in the best interest of the general public.  It is in the best interest of developers who want to cash in on their land speculation and sprawling subdivisions, but that’s not who we represent.”

 

Background:

The Bradford Bypass, also known as the Holland Marsh Highway, is a proposed access freeway located in Simcoe County and York Region in Ontario’s northern Greater Toronto Area. 

The highway will cross the old bed of the ancient Lake Algonquin through what is now the Holland Marsh, one of the most productive specialty crop agricultural areas in the country. It will also lead to the removal of approximately 39 hectares of wildlife habitat and large areas of important wetlands. The highway would potentially cause severe stormwater and groundwater contamination.

An environmental assessment conducted for the project in 1997 was superficial and did not consider cumulative effects, climate change, or detail the impacts on natural heritage, migratory birds, fisheries, First Nations cultural heritage or discuss air pollution.

In the mid-2000s, the project was shelved as being incompatible with growth planning under the Provincial Places to Grow Act. Twenty-four years later, the project was resurrected and in July 2020, the Ford government proposed to exempt the Bradford Bypass from completion of any EA updates, including the original conditions of approval. 

On February 3, 2021, environmental and community groups, represented by Ecojustice, jointly requested the federal government conduct federal environmental assessments (EAs) the Bradford Bypass. These groups included Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

The groups cited the significant impact on federally protected endangered species, migratory birds and aquatic life that will be caused by these highways, along with their associated increase in carbon emissions and the strong local opposition to these projects all meet the conditions for federal EAs.

Since coming into office, the Ford government has repeatedly failed to consult Ontarians and either clawed back or outright bypassed environmental laws. The Ford government has made major changes to Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act, the Planning Act and other environmental laws without consulting Ontarians as required by the provinces Environmental Bill of Rights.

About:

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is a lake-wide member-based organization, representing 27 groups in the Lake Simcoe watershed, that provides leadership and inspires people to take action to protect Lake Simcoe. 

The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is a diverse coalition of 40 organizations from across Simcoe County and the province calling on local and provincial leaders to better protect our water resources, green spaces and farmland through smart growth and sustainable policies including expansion of the Greenbelt into Simcoe County.

For media inquiries

Zoryana Cherwick, Communications Specialist | Ecojustice
1-800-926-7744 ext. 277, zcherwick@ecojustice.ca

Margaret Prophet, Executive Director | Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition margaret@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca, 705-718-1383

Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director | Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition
rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com, 647-267-7572

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