Dear Minister Guilbeault:
Re: Bradford Bypass designation request
The NFU-O is an accredited farm organization representing thousands of sustainable family farmers in Ontario and has advocated for farm families across Ontario and Canada since 1969.
The NFU-O believes that the family farm should be the primary unit of food production in Ontario. Members work together to achieve agricultural policies that ensure dignity and income security for farm families, while protecting and enhancing rural environments for current and future generations. The NFU-O collaborates locally, nationally and internationally to research, educate, and share effective solutions that lead to a better world for farm families and their communities.
We are writing to express our concern for the Bradford Bypass highway (400-404 extension link) and to request a federal impact assessment of the highway under the Impact Assessment Act. Our members in the local communities that will be impacted by this highway have expressed a number of concerns including the loss of critical farmland, the impact on existing farms surrounding the proposed highway, the loss of natural habitat areas and impact on species at risk, and the impact on waterways and watershed health in the region.
Our farm members agree that the volume of traffic on regional and rural roads that are shared with local residents and farm machinery is a problem, but paving over prime farmland and environmentally significant areas is not the answer to Ontario’s transportation issues.
The Ontario Cabinet passed a regulation on October 7, 2021 fully approving the Bradford Bypass and exempting it from Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act. The project is set to proceed with minimal consultation, no consideration of alternatives to the highway, and limited studies that will have no impact on whether the project goes forward. The construction timeline announced by the province indicates that construction will begin before these studies are even released despite several municipal requests for a comprehensive assessment of the impacts on Lake Simcoe and associated watersheds.
Our members are concerned about the impact that the increased noise, air pollution, salt and run- off will have on surrounding farms. The farms in this area rely on healthy soils and water sources to produce food for Ontarians. The impacts to the agricultural soils in this Specialty Crop Area, and water systems, such as the Holland Marsh Provincially Significant Wetland, have not been fully studied or understood.
Designating the Bradford Bypass for an impact assessment would demonstrate a precautionary approach to decision-making based on fully understanding the likely or potential impacts on the loss of habitat, loss of farmland, as well as the contamination of nearby waterbodies from storm water runoff, wastewater discharge and spills.
Our members are also concerned about the impacts of climate change on agriculture in the province. The Government of Canada has clearly outlined targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These targets were reinforced at COP26. Since transportation emissions are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario, designating the Bradford Bypass for a federal impact assessment would send a strong signal about your government’s intent to put its climate commitments into action.
The NFU-O urges you to intervene and compel the Province of Ontario to consider alternatives to the Bradford Bypass through a federal impact assessment. Our members have spoken through our grassroots democratic process and are not interested in another highway that would cause damage to environmentally and agriculturally significant areas, and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Thank you for your consideration.
President, National Farmers Union – Ontario