On Thursday, August 6, approximately 200 individuals gathered in the Red Hill Valley to celebrate the talents of local writers and musicians and to support a neighbourhood fighting to protect its park. By all accounts, the Red Hill Valley Literary Festival was a successful community event.
That same day, you were in Stoney Creek, where you told the media that your government is committed to constructing the Red Hill Creek Expressway. You stated, "We believe we have had a full environmental assessment and we believe it is in the public interest to proceed."
To be clear: the environmental assessment is not, in fact, over. An environmental assessment begins when a project is proposed and it does not end until well after a project has been completed and its impacts have been monitored and documented.
We are, in fact, in the middle of an environmental assessment on the Red Hill Valley. The 1985 approval was granted with the understanding that there would be no impact on the Niagara Escarpment. The project now includes the largest hole ever blasted in this unique resource. Since 1985, the City of Hamilton was also convicted of Fisheries Act violations in the Red Hill Valley, and required to pay the largest fine ever levied against a municipality.
Waterkeeper - and the public - has never suggested that no environmental assessment took place. Rather, we continue to argue that the province has a very important role to play in ensuring that any project that receives approval under the OEAA only goes forward in a manner consistent with the purpose of the Act: "the betterment of the people of the whole or any part of Ontario by providing for the protection, conservation and wise management in Ontario of the environment."
Last August, Waterkeeper wrote to the Minister of Environment to request that the approvals for the current Red Hill Creek Expressway project be reassessed under Section 11.4(1) of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act. Generally, this section says that the Minister of the Environment can review approvals for a project if there is a change of circumstance or new information.
It is very important to note that the Minister's decision is not a political decision. It is not a decision of cabinet, and it is not a decision that should be made based on party beliefs. The fact that the Liberal government supports the Red Hill Creek Expressway and is willing to commit millions of dollars to see it completed is not at all relevant to this process.
Protestors charged with trespassing have been banned from the Red Hill Valley, yet the city which was convicted of a federal crime against the very same public lands is being granted free reign.
Waterkeeper asks only that all laws are enforced equally, and without bias. Without such diligence, our institutions will become indifferent and decay. This, surely, is not for the betterment of the people of Ontario.
President & Waterkeeper for Lake Ontario Waterkeeper