Province’s blinkered approach to Holland Marsh Highway calls for federal intervention
By Jack Gibbons, Chair, Lake Simcoe Watch
The Ford government is roaring ahead with its plans to build the Holland Marsh Highway and it is not going to let any concerns about environmental or community impacts stand in its way. We need a federal environmental assessment to protect our health, our lake and our communities.
In early October, the provincial cabinet passed an order allowing this poorly thought-out highway to proceed without an environmental assessment. In other words, the Ford government is not interested in knowing what the environmental impacts of this project will be or even how they could mitigated – from the destruction of wetlands to an increased flow of road salt into waterways feeding Lake Simcoe – and it doesn’t want to even think about alternatives to paving over more of our vanishing green space.
It’s not 1950 anymore. Building highways while ignoring impacts on nature and our climate is not just nostalgic – it is completely irresponsible. That’s why Lake Simcoe Watch is joining with the David Suzuki Foundation and more than 60 other organizations – from concerned farmers to impacted communities – to ask the federal government to step in and conduct a proper assessment of this highway plan.
As it is, the Ford government doesn’t even know what this highway will cost to build and has made it clear it is taxpayers throughout Ontario who will foot the entire bill. Of course, the bill in terms of climate impact, damage to nature and biodiversity, harm to Lake Simcoe and to human health could be be far greater than the billions the government plans to spend paving over farmlands, forests and wetlands.
The Ford government has justified its unwillingness to examine these impacts by relying on a 24-year-old provincial environmental assessment – an unfinished study done when most people had still not grasped the critical need to address climate change or the critical services that natural areas provide, from clean air to clean water to protecting species at risk, like the Red-headed woodpecker (pictured above).
It is unfortunate that we have to call on the federal government to step in and act as the responsible body on this project. If the Ford Government truly believed the project could deliver the benefits it claims without severe environmental impacts, it would not be concerned about allowing a closer examination. But given the province’s refusal to do so, the federal government is fully justified in intervening given the impact on everything from climate to fisheries to species at risk, concerns that are fully within federal jurisdiction.
Please contact federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and ask him to order a federal environmental assessment of this project to protect our lake, our health and our communities.
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