Toronto

Doug Ford government introduces Get It Done Act. Here's what's in it

Premier Doug Ford's government introduced a major new piece of legislation on Tuesday designed to speed up construction of new highways in Ontario by shortening their environmental assessments.

New legislation would shorten environmental assessments for highways, allow quicker expropriations

Doug Ford stands in the Legislature, with several members of his caucus seated around him.
Premier Doug Ford's government has introduced a bill called the Get It Done Act, a title that uses the Progressive Conservative campaign slogan from the 2022 election. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Premier Doug Ford's government introduced a major new piece of legislation on Tuesday designed to speed up construction of new highways in Ontario by shortening their environmental assessments.

The bill, the Get It Done Act, directly echoes the slogan that Ford's Progressive Conservatives campaigned on during the 2022 election. 

Hinted at in three successive announcements over the past week, the bill is a grab bag of legislation, including measures completely unrelated to Ontario's environmental laws, such as freezing the fee for renewing a driving licence.

The bill's heftiest provisions would reduce the timeline for environmental assessments on major infrastructure projects such as new highways and hydro transmission lines, and would allow the province to expropriate land before those assessments are complete.    

"The main intention is to demonstrate our focus on the core mandate we were elected on," a senior government official told CBC Toronto, speaking on condition they not be named to provide insight into internal government strategy. 

The official said the bill would be "focused on keeping costs down and streamlining complex approval processes as we look to build big projects."  

The Ontario government's proposed route for Highway 413 would run through parts of the Greenbelt between the existing 400 and 401 highways in the northern and western parts of the Greater Toronto Area.
The Ford government's new Get It Done Act would speed up the environmental assessments for new highways in Ontario, such as Highway 413. This is its proposed route across the northwestern edge of the Greater Toronto Area. (Hailley Furkalo/CBC)

The changes would add highways to the list of projects that Ontario categorizes as "low risk" and therefore eligible for rapid environmental approvals. The government says this could cut up to four years off the completion timelines for such projects.

Highway 413, Bradford Bypass key objectives of bill

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria made it clear that a key objective in the bill is paving the way for two new highways in the Greater Toronto Area. 

"We're doing everything in our power to accelerate the construction of Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass," Sarkaria told a news conference in Brampton announcing the environmental assessment changes in the Get It Done Act. The news conference was held Friday afternoon, just before the long weekend began. 

Sarkaria introduced the bill Tuesday on the legislature's first day in session since December.

"The Get It Done Act will allow Ontario to accelerate construction of transit, housing and infrastructure projects that we need to support our growing population," he said.

"This bill will also make life more affordable for families and businesses across the province."

Other measures in the bill: 

  • Provisions to require a referendum on any future provincial carbon pricing program.
  • Legislation banning new tolls on provincial highways.
  • Clauses to automatically renew vehicle registrations for owners with no outstanding fines.

CBC News asked Environment Minister Andrea Khanjin why the government is mixing these items into a bill that would significantly change Ontario's environmental assessment laws. 

"This is the government that really wants to get things done," Khanjin replied. "I think everything in the bill complements a growing community and the growing needs of Ontarians."

Marit Stiles holds her hand to her forehead as she sits at a desk in the Legislature.
Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles says it's concerning that the government is 'tinkering around' with the process for approving major infrastructure projects. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Khanjin said that Ontario's processes for environmental approvals have historically been "slow and complex" with "too much red tape."

The bill would also allow provincial and municipal governments to expropriate land for major projects before environmental assessments are complete.

NDP, Greens express concern

"I'm deeply worried about this bill," said Green Party leader Mike Schreiner in an interview with CBC News. 

Schreiner criticizes the emphasis on speeding up the construction of Highway 413, which would run in a 60-kilometre arc across the northwestern edge of the GTA, between Vaughan and Milton.

"The billions of dollars they would spend on that would be better spent in our health-care system, building affordable housing, addressing the crisis in our education system," Schreiner said. The government has yet to say how much the highway will cost.

Schreiner said on Tuesday that the bill should be called "Get It Done Wrong Act."

"It's performative politics at its worst, distracting from the Ford government's failure in addressing the housing crisis and the fact that they've made access to health care worse," Schreiner said.

WATCH | Ontario's new ad campaign is facing criticism as a waste of taxpayers' money: 

Government of Ontario's new TV ad 'It's happening here'

2 months ago
Duration 1:00
This advertisement, paid for by Ontario taxpayers, has aired in prime timeslots, including the NHL all-star game and the Grammy Awards.

NDP leader Marit Stiles said it's concerning that the government would be "tinkering around" with the process for approving major projects.

"This government, they can't be trusted with this kind of thing," Stiles said in an interview at Queen's Park. "Where the government has gone wrong over and over again is not listening to people." 

Stiles said after the bill was introduced that its title is a misnomer.

"This is a sign that the government is not actually getting anything done," Stiles said. "They've spent more time in the last year reversing course and they haven't actually come up with practical solutions that will make life easier for people."

Conservative strategists recently said Ford's government needs to make good on the "Get It Done" promises of the last election campaign to best position him for re-election in 2026. 

The government is currently touting major infrastructure projects at taxpayers' expense with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign targeted at Ontario audiences. 

Before Ford publicly announced any of his plans for the Get It Done Act, some of the details were revealed by The Narwhal, an online media outlet that covers environmental issues. 

The bill was introduced at Queen's Park on Tuesday afternoon, the first day the Legislature sits after its two-month winter break.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Crawley

Senior reporter

Mike Crawley covers provincial affairs in Ontario for CBC News. He began his career as a newspaper reporter in B.C., filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist, then joined the CBC in 2005. Mike was born and raised in Saint John, N.B.

With files from The Canadian Press

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