As Tembo has reported, the Ontario government’s language towards a proposed GTA West highway route (Highway 413) has become increasingly bullish, suggesting that the highway will be a long term infrastructure priority for the Ford government. The route of the proposed highway stretches from Highway 400 in Vaughan west to the southern edges of Bolton, southwest across Brampton’s northern boundaries, and then south toward Georgetown, gradually meeting the junction of Highway 401 and the 407. This general ‘preferred route’ has already been confirmed by the province. The highway is seen as a long term imperative given the enormous population growth of the area, and of the need to expand the GTA’s highway system (where few major additions have been completed in the last 20 years). With GTA population growth forecast to be steady over the coming decades, the GTA West will help to serve the ever greater number of cars to be added to our roads. The highway will cost billions and take years to build, but Brampton City Councillors in particular have come out in favour of the highway, saying it should have been built 15 years ago.
However, the Highway is also the source of increasing opposition. Environmental groups, activists, and even many City Councils in the GTA (Mississauga, Toronto) feel that the Highway is unnecessary, will destroy sensitive and valuable green space, and will cost too much. Recently, federal environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson effectively came out opposing the project also by making it clear that the project will have to undergo a federal environmental assessment. This move will delay the project, and seriously complicate efforts to build. An E.A. will take years, and will duplicate municipal and provincial assessment procedures. Media analysts are suggesting that the federal move is designed to pick up green votes in the GTA and southern Ontario and to shore up the Liberals’ left flank.