Bradford Bypass was proposed…

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Bradford Bypass was proposed long before the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, the Places to Grow Act, the Greenbelt Act and updated provincial policies such as the Provincial Policy Statement. These policies require complete communities with a focus on moving people out of automobiles and consideration of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Approvals of projects such as Bradford Bypass are inconsistent with Ontario’s climate change commitments and create harmful land use patters which contribute to water pollution and sprawl.

The need for Bradford Bypass should be re-evaluated in light of reduced vehicular travel demand in light of the COVID-19 shift in transportation patterns towards more individuals working from home. The impacts of Bradford Bypass should be re-evaluated in terms of impacts to the Lake Simcoe Watershed, health impacts, harm to drinking water resources, farmland, archaeological resources and sprawl.

The proposed regulation would exempt the Bradford Bypass from requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act subject to conditions, as appropriate. It is not clear what conditions are contemplated or what conditions are considered “appropriate.”

The Ministry of Transportation would no longer be required to fulfill Condition 4 of the EA Notice of Approval and complete a Transportation Environmental Study Report (TESR) for the preliminary design or a Design and Construction Report(s) (DCR) that would typically be required in accordance with the Ministry of Transportation’s Class EA. This is unconscionable. The Bradford Bypass was approved nearly two decades ago and in a very different planning context.

The details of the route, interchanges, number of lanes, locations of commuter parking lots and other important aspects of the project will likely change. Similarly impacts such as stormwater and groundwater impacts may change significantly given the evolving growth and environmental context of the Lake Simcoe watershed. The need for the project has almost certainly changed, and the policy context for the project has completely changed since 2005.

Although the posting indicates that other aspects of the conditions of approval under the Environmental Assessment Act would remain in force, it is clear that once exempted from the Environmental Assessment Act these would be of no legal significance and not enforceable. The exemption regulation appears to rely on s.39(f) of the Act, which permits the exemption of undertakings and permits “imposing conditions with respect to the exemptions”. However section 38 of the Act was not amended and fails to make it an offence to fail to comply with a condition of an exemption. Therefore I do not have any confidence that these conditions would actually be met.

It seems that the only purpose of the exemption is to prevent the use of mechanisms in the Act that would allow Aboriginal peoples to request a part II order. The fundamental purpose of the exemption seems to deprive First Nations of their rights to information, consultation and appeal of any aspect of the Bradford Bypass and any changes to the project which were not included in the original EA. Otherwise no exemption would be required. The other evidence that the true purpose of this posting is to deprive First Nations of their rights to information and objection is the fact that – according to the posting - MTO would still be required to complete Transportation Environmental Study Reports and Design and Construction Reports – therefore the only aspects of Condition 4 which MTO is being relieved of are the ones involving public consultation and First Nation appeal rights to request a Part II Order, and the frustration of the legally binding nature of the previously imposed conditions.

We are very concerned about the stormwater and groundwater impacts, compliance and effects monitoring, impacts to archaeological resources and the overall land use and sprawl impacts of this project. These are currently addressed to some extent by a number of legally enforceable conditions in the 2002 EA approval for the Bradford Bypass. For example, condition 6 requires a stage III archaeological assessment. Archaeological resources in the area are very significant and this condition is important. There are archaeological sites in the Bradford Bypass right of way which date back thousands of years. The important archaeological sites that would be destroyed by the Bradford Bypass include but are not limited to:
• Two 10,000 year old Indigenous sites
• The 6,000 year old lower landing site which includes both Indigenous artifacts from a historic meeting place at “the landing”.
• An early woodland site
• Sites relating to the original survey of Yonge street.
It is unacceptable that the Ministry proposes to exempt MTO from the legally binding condition to complete stage III archaeological surveys.

Another example is that a stormwater management plan must be prepared in condition 7. This condition is significant because the proposed highway would entail significant additional stormwater pollution which could adversely impact Lake Simcoe and its watershed. The decision to make these conditions unenforceable and exempt the undertaking from the Act which requires them is unacceptable.

That the Ministry feels it is necessary to deprive the public of its right to information and updated plans as well as rights of appeal does not inspire confidence in MTO’s project nor the potential for consultation to address environmental and planning concerns.

The posting claims that the proposed regulation would allow the province “to focus resources on more significant, complex infrastructure projects.” The suggestion that a four-lane new 16 kilometre highway through the Greenbelt, across class I agricultural lands with river crossings in a sensitive watershed – one that was approved before most of the applicable provincial policies were in place – is not significant or complex is absurd.

I do not agree that the proposed regulation is sensible or practical, as claimed in the posting, nor that the environmental impacts are well-understood. The EA conducted and approved in 2002 was poorly done, and there are many outstanding questions about environmental impacts.

I strongly oppose the exemption on the above grounds.