It’s still only a twinkle in a planner’s eye, but the Niagara to GTA Corridor Highway could prove a political roadblock for the Ontario government heading into the next provincial election.
The highway isn’t even scheduled to be built until 2030, but Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr said more than 800 residents attended a public meeting held Monday to discuss their concerns over its route.
At issue is a letter from “a bureaucrat at Queen’s Park” in October that insists the highway corridor be inserted into the official plan, despite local concerns that it would go through environmentally-sensitive lands, Carr said.
It was the provincial government that created the greenbelt around the GTA through legislation.
“Then they turn around and put a big highway through it,” Carr said Friday. “You can’t be speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You have to protect the greenbelt.”
Kelly Baker, a spokesperson for Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne, says in an e-mail that the ministry is currently completing a draft Transportation Development Strategy study for the project.
“The current study is considering all transportation modes, not just plans to build a highway through the greenbelt,” Baker says. “It is not necessary to show a specific corridor location on the Halton Official Plan maps. It is, however, important for the Official Plan to include information to acknowledge the Niagara-GTA (Environmental Assessment) process that is underway.”
Carr said the region undertook three years of public consultations on its response to the Provincial Places To Grow Act, then went to the great effort and trouble of getting unanimous support from all councillors and local municipalities.
Three days after October’s municipal election, the note arrives from QP telling them to take their pencils and put a highway corridor right threw it.
The region believes that there are alternatives to make this project viable.
“But we just need to make sure we protect some of the most beautiful, natural heritage anywhere in Canada,” he said.
A former MPP and Ontario Speaker, Carr is well aware of the upcoming provincial election and wants to know where all parties stand on this issue before voters in the region cast their ballots for their member of provincial parliament.
“I imagine it will become a big local issue in the next provincial election,” he said.
Highway to controversy