May 20, 2003 - Anne Jones - The
plans to pave some of the Niagara Escarpment, recognized as a UNESCO
biosphere reserve and protected by provincial laws. Why?
between Niagara and Hamilton, and through to the Greater Toronto Area,
has escalated substantially. A Niagara transportation needs study contained
44 recommendations to improve the Golden Horseshoe corridor.
the options to preserve Niagara fruit lands from further highway intrusion
is a mid-peninsula highway -- a major highway through Niagara across
the escarpment, through Stoney Creek, Glanbrook, Ancaster and Flamborough
and on through Burlington. This is the route under study by the Ministry
of Transportation of Ontario (MTO).
April 2000, the MTO planning has taken into consideration transportation,
the economy and the environment, in that order.
surprising that transportation/engineering decisions were considered
the most important factors. At the moment there is no clearly defined
route on any map, but rather a huge swath of land identified as the
routes within this swath are being considered. One involves considerable
destruction to Cootes Paradise with a widening of Highway 403; another
will mean extensive expansion of Highway 6.
Tanner, Hamilton's manager of environmental planning, told me that Hamilton
and Burlington united to set up a "peer review" committee to evaluate
MTO's plans for the highway.
with different areas of expertise were hired at a cost of $100,000 to
assist staff with the overwhelming amount of information being generated
by the study.
critical of the severe timelines imposed by the MTO for council's comments
and also of MTO's public-consultation strategy, consisting mainly of
public information meetings.
unsatisfactory in light of the enormous amount of complicated information
report, adopted by city council, recommends support for the highway
"to address traffic congestion, economic growth and the long-term land-use
framework of the city."
it identifies serious environmental issues which must be addressed as
well as the need for a public consultation strategy. If these issues
are not dealt with satisfactorily, staff is authorized to request mediation.
Tanner's key comments to me was this. "There is no doubt that the mid-pen
highway will change the face of the rural areas it touches. Where the
highway goes, development goes," she said.
that means Flamborough and Glanbrook. Councillors David Braden and Margaret
McCarthy have registered their dissent.
this sets the die," said McCarthy.
approving a road we don't know enough about financially, environmentally
or geographically. The decision to support a project of this magnitude
which will change the face of my community forever, when we don't even
know where it will go, is logistically inconsistent."
is concerned "it's a process that has already come up with the answer
and now they are trying to justify the answer by pretending it's an
open process. They're shoving it down our throats undemocratically.
This will likely be a toll road, which truckers are known to avoid,
and probably privately owned, like the 407."
the damage it could cause to the Copetown area, some of the most productive
farmland in the country and echoed Tanner's assertion that roads bring
Escarpment Commission is calling for a full environmental assessment
of the highway which would include an assessment of the justification
for the highway, substantially more than the lesser, technically termed
"scoped" assessment MTO is planning. Burlington is considering legal
action if approval is granted for this "deficient, scoped" assessment.
Mayor Rob MacIsaac sent a letter on April 17 to Hamilton Mayor Bob Wade
enclosing Burlington's 95-page highway report, asking that it be included
in Hamilton's next council agenda.
staff or members of council would be prepared to attend the meeting
and discuss the report," said MacIsaac.
answer? There wasn't enough time because MTO had set an April 30 deadline
communities like Hamilton and Burlington asked for more time, no minister,
facing an election, would have hesitated to grant it.
is burdened with the cost of downloaded social services. Halton is pooled
with the rest of the GTO helping Toronto's downloaded costs. Last year
Halton indicated an interest in helping Hamilton instead.
in the face for Burlington doesn't bode well for Burlington's support
of that idea.
two thoughts on this issue.
it is imperative that a decision on the preferred route be made without
undue delay, because, as Hamilton Councillor David Mitchell says, "Residents
and the farming community would like to know where the proposed road
will be as soon as possible. Some are holding back on expansion until
they know that. Some may wish to relocate. When things are in limbo
it affects them adversely."
I am aware that the MTO feels it should not be subject to a full assessment
hearing because of its extensive study of the need for the highway.
due respect to our council members who agreed with MTO, I beg to differ.
will cross many municipal boundaries all the way from Fort Erie almost
to Toronto, requires massive amounts of land expropriation and will
affect the lives of thousands of Ontarians along the route.
paves over some of our escarpment.
be subject to a full assessment hearing before an independent board
in accordance with the laws of the land.
is a former Hamilton alderman and controller and was the first Hamilton-Wentworth
regional chair. She is a freelance writer, and her views are her own.