By: Martin Oldhues
As Ontario’s population continues to grow, the need for more infrastructure, such as homes and roadways, promoted the Ford government back in 2018 to announce the building of Highway 413, a new 50-kilometre roadway connecting the York Region to the Halton Region. But, many raised concerns over potential damages to green lands
EcoCaledon, an Environment organization located in Caledon, decided to take action, walking along downtown Bolton, echoing the message of being-efficent. “As Caledon grows, we want it see more sustainabiltiy. So, spreading out and sprawling,” Said John MacRae, Co-Chair of EcoCaledon.
MacRae notes the organization works with different levels of goverment for feedback to understand the impact of various projects that would impose an ecosystem. “We’re working towards reversing the CO2 effects and getting to netrual. Ultimately reversing Global Warming.”
A study done by Ontario Federation of Agriculture says the proposed freeway would contribute over 17 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in thirty years while costing nearly 9 Billion Dollars and removing 10,000 acres of farmland. Caledon houses ninety-four percent of the Peel Region’s Farmland, containing Class A-1 Soil, which is best for farming.
Politicans Speak Out
During the walk, hundreds of activists gathered around Bolton’s Founding Area to hear Ontario’s Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner. “It was the relentless work (of the protestors) that led to Doug Ford finally backing down his opening up the GreenBelt Act.”
Schreiner announced tableting multiple Bills to Queens Park, including “the hands of the GreenBelt Act,” making the landscapes of the protect lands illegal in Ontario and the “No Highways in the Greenbelt Act,” Leading to Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass projects unlawful.
Schreiner Mentions six months ago, many eco-friendly groups wondered if stopping highway 413 was possible, “It looked like we’re just beating our heads against a brick wall, but I said. I am going to do everything possible at Queens Park. I know the NDP and Liberals will too.”
The Ford Government said they were listening and wanted to do what was right in response to the Greenbelt Controversy. However, Schreiner says Doug Ford will still tell people there freeway projects are already a done deal.
Doug Maskell, Caledon’s Ward 3 Councilor, believes Ontario’s Progressive Conservatory Party does what suits themselves best yet backtracked on major policy decisions, which could lead to more positive change.
Caledon’s Councilors agreed to build thirteen thousand new houses by 2031. Maskell points out the town does not have the current framework to support major roadways. “The infrastructure for those homes is not here. Building highways won’t get that infrastructure here, causing induced demand.”
Last Year, The Ford Government removed tolls on Highways 412 and 418, helping ease congestion around the Greater Toronto Area. Still, Highway 407 remains a toll route.
A study from Environmental Defence says Ontario would save 6 billion dollars by erasing paying to drive on the 407. “We just need to spread the usage of those highways around, so they are not as congested. Subziding the 407 would get trucks off the 401, which would make the 401 more useable,” Said MacRae. Highway 427’s Completed expansion up to Major Mackenzie Drive in Vaughan has made getting to freeways from Caledon easier, only taking approximately 15 minutes. “Building a Highway up from the 427 won’t provide any greater access.”
The Deciding Factor
In October, The Supreme Court of Canada found the Federal Government Impact Assessment Act, which reviews Greenlands set to be developed, as unconstitutional. Ontario’s Attorney General, Doug Downey, said the province’s decision is being held up and wants the court to deem the act to have no legal force.
A spokesperson for Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said, “Since the act came into force, we have already seen major projects get approved on a faster timeline.”
Downey mentions Ontario is growing rapidly, and services cannot be halted. Doug Ford double downed on that, saying the process “needlessly duplicated Ontario’s rigorous and world-leading environmental assessment requirements.
A decision on Highway 413 could come by next year.