An agreement between the provincial and federal governments will see Premier Doug Ford’s flagship Highway 413 move forward with a joint working group dedicated to minimizing environmental impacts.

In a statement released Monday, officials said that the two levels of government have agreed to a “collaborative process to assess and manage the issues around federal species at risk throughout Ontario’s planning of the project.”

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

“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.”

This “memorandum of understanding” comes after years of back-and-forth between the two levels of government on the Highway 413 project—a major campaign promise of Ford’s that would see a six-lane, 52-kilometre throughway connect Halton and York regions.

Environmental advocates and local farmers have criticized the plan, noting it will compromise crucial land and impact business.

A 2022 report by Environment Defence identified at least 29 “federally identified species at risk” that will be impacted by the new highway and said it would cross more than 100 streams and rivers and result in the loss of about 400 acres of Greenbelt land.

In May 2021, the federal government determined that the highway warranted designation under the Impact Assessment Act, a piece of legislation that gives them the authority to evaluate how climate change may be impacted by the project.

After a Supreme Court opinion found the Impact Assessment Act was unconstitutional, the government has been actively fighting the process for both Highway 413 and Ontario Place.

In March 2024, both governments said they agreed to resolve the court battle through a joint consent order. The designation has now been set aside.


Project has 'some of the strongest (environmental) measures': Minister 

Prabmeet Sarkaria

Speaking with CP24 late Monday afternoon, Ontario Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria said that the new six-lane highway would be build with “appropriate environmental measures in place and following very strict, just like any other highway project in this province, environmental assessment processes."

The Brampton South MPP noted that Ontario is, in fact, not cancelling the environmental assessment for this project, which he said has been underway for 15 years.

Instead, he said that the federal government for the first time ever has stepped in on and has designated the new provincial highway under the Impact Assessment Act.

“We're going to work both with the federal government and also with our existing environmental protections across this province. Like I said, we have some of the strongest measures in place,” Sarkaria assured.

In the end, he said that the Ford government is eager to get this project built and fulfill its promise of getting Ontarians moving faster.

“People of this province elected this government, elected Premier Ford to build Highway 413. We know what's going to save 30 minutes in each direction,” the Minister said, noting in his interview with CP24 that as of Monday the consent order in the court has been signed for Highway 413.

“We want to get shovels in the ground and today Ontarians received that certainty that we can move forward on this project and build Highway 413.”

Sarkaria said the construction of this new GTA-area highway is key for meeting the needs of Ontario’s growing population, noting that over the last two years two million people have come to the province and that this “explosive growth” is expected to continue.

“You know, the people in Milton, the people in Mississauga, Brampton, Vaughan, we see the gridlock every single day trying to get into the city, it's only getting worse and we need to make sure that we build this infrastructure for the next generation,” he said, adding that the provincial government would work with any impacted stakeholders, including concerned farmers, along the 52-kilometre route, to mitigate any impacts.

“We need to build the infrastructure to keep up, but we'll do that while making sure that we're protecting the environment,” Sarkaria vowed.

In a statement, the province's minister of transportation thanked the federal government for "meeting us at the table and collaborating on the environmental protections needed to get the project started."

Highway 413

In Monday’s joint statement, government officials released a few more details about this agreement, saying that a joint working group will be created to “recommend appropriate measures to minimize environmental impacts in areas of federal environmental jurisdiction.”

“The joint working group will leverage collective expertise to protect the environment and ensure impacts to species at risk, like the Western chorus frog and the red-headed woodpecker, and their critical habitats are considered before the project moves into the detailed design stage,” officials said in the joint release.

They further noted the project is still subject to Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act and other provincial and federal protections, including the Fisheries Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and the Species at Risk Act.