Federal funding of the Ontario Line and Canada’s commitment to sustainable infrastructure development

Petition: 453

Issue(s): Environmental assessment; Federal-provincial relations; Governance; Human/environmental health; Transport

Petitioner(s): A Canadian organization

Petitioner location(s): Toronto, Ontario

Date received: 7 May 2021

Status: Completed - Response(s) to petition received

Summary: This petition expresses concern over potential environmental, social, and health impacts associated with Metrolinx’s Ontario Line rail project in Toronto. The petition states that the rail project is earmarked to receive $5.1 billion in federal infrastructure funding. The petition focuses on the planned expansion of the existing rail corridor from 3 to 6 lanes of tracks for approximately 2 kilometres through the Leslieville neighbourhood in Toronto, which it maintains will increase the number of trains from about 150 trains a day to 800 or more by 2030. The petition argues the anticipated impacts of the project include the loss of parks, rail safety concerns due to minimal setback distances, and community health risks from exposure to excessive levels of noise, vibration, and pollution, including carcinogenic diesel exhaust.

According to the petition, Ontario legislation is allowing this project to proceed without a proper provincial environmental assessment and the local community is not being properly consulted. The petition asserts that Metrolinx’s environmental assessments will not look at the cumulative effects created by the various transportation projects in the existing rail corridor, nor will Metrolinx’s assessments consider impacts on human health. The petition argues that the proximity of the project to existing residential, business, and recreation uses within the Leslieville area and the consequences of the project on the area warrant a federal impact assessment of the Ontario Line.

The petition asks for details on the federal government’s role in this project, given that it is slated to receive federal funding. Specifically, the petition seeks details on the oversight role of the Government of Canada in ensuring that large infrastructure projects receiving funding abide by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and provide sufficient opportunity for public consultation. In particular, the petition asks about specific federal actions to promote sustainable infrastructure development as it relates to the Ontario Line. The petition also requests information on the federal funding process and the criteria or conditions that are in place when selecting infrastructure projects to fund. Furthermore, it inquires about Health Canada’s role in addressing the community concerns about public health and safety related to the Ontario Line that the petition states have not been properly assessed. It asks if any contingencies will be placed on federal funding, including whether these alleged health-related factors will be investigated and the local community consulted before a final decision on funding is made.

In addition, the petition asks questions related to buffer zones and rail safety issues as well as the federal position on calls by the City of Toronto and local residents to put part of the Ontario Line underground. Finally, the petition seeks clarification on the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada’s analysis report on the Ontario Line and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change’s decision on 16 April 2021 to not designate the project for an environmental assessment under Section 9(1) of the Impact Assessment Act.

Federal departments/organizations responsible for reply: Finance Canada; Health Canada; Impact Assessment Agency of Canada; Infrastructure Canada; Public Health Agency of Canada; Transport Canada