Niagara push for highway disturbing

The Hamilton Spectator - February 11, 2003


RE: 'Mid-peninsula road study splits cities, regions' (Feb. 10).
Burlington Mayor Rob MacIsaac appears to be the only reasonable politician out there.
It is hard to believe that any thoughtful individual would have a problem with ensuring all factors are properly considered before billions in taxpayer money are spent on a 30-year project. Hamilton Mayor Bob Wade and Niagara Regional Chair Debbie Zimmerman seem to have taken the position of high-pressures sales people.

Zimmerman's forceful approach to this highway is most disturbing. A closer look at Niagara's involvement in the entire process provides some clues to her approach. As admitted by the Ministry of Transportation at the public information centres (PICs), the Niagara region financially contributed to the needs assessment which is the root of this highway. That same assessment failed to include the needs of Burlington/Flamborough and had to be hurriedly revised to correct this omission. The sincerity of the revisions is highly questionable, based on the timing and the recent PICs.

Also, one of the big reasons for laying this highway as planned is to protect the Niagara fruitlands, something the Niagara region did not take seriously in the past as proven by its destruction along the QEW. Niagara's solution to its mismanagement in planning is to now force a highway on Hamilton and Burlington. It will happily pave over the Carolinian Forest, contaminate water and wells, increase air pollution, pave over excellent farm lands in Flamborough and deface the escarpment in Burlington in the name of the fruitlands it has allowed to perish.

It is ironic that the Ministry of Transportation has so heavily bought into the fruitland argument when that is a municipal responsibility.
At the same time, the ministry has ignored a responsibility that is truly provincial -- the Niagara Escarpment Plan.

We know that there is little to no support for this highway in Burlington, Hamilton and Flamborough. And support is not as extensive in the Niagara region as its politicians would have us believe. Many members of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) are from the Niagara region. When the crowd at the Welland PIC was asked how many believe this highway is needed, four of about 120 raised their hands.

If there was ever a time for sober second thought, this is it.

-- Claire Nicholson, Dundas.


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