Smart growth bill is dumb, critics say

RICHARD BRENNAN The Toronto Star QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU June 3, 2003

The province wants the right to build highways without considering environmental impacts or the objections of municipalities, critics say.

Now a group opposed to the Conservative government's smart growth transportation legislation is demanding it be withdrawn.

Environmentalists, municipal politicians and opposition critics say the bill is the "antithesis" of the principles of smart growth.

"It is an appalling piece of legislation that is highly disrespectful of town's and cities' authority and the public's interest," Burlington Mayor Rob MacIssac said yesterday.

The group included environmentalist Debbe Crandall, who sat on the government's Central Ontario smart growth panel. She said if the transportation bill is not withdrawn she will wash her hands of any further involvement. "When you put land use planning and transportation together side by side that's smart growth. Bill 25 is not smart," said Crandall of Save the Oak Ridges Moraine.

When Transportation Minister Frank Klees introduced May 7 the proposed legislation, An Act to Enhance Transit and Provide for a Smart Transportation System in Ontario, he highlighted only the positive aspects of the bill, but critics say on closer inspection it rides roughshod over municipal planning and environmental assessment.

Mark Winfield, director of Pembina Institute, a not-for-profit environmental and energy research organization, was one of several people to ask that the bill be withdrawn and replaced with a transportation bill that reflects smart growth, with an emphasis on transit.

Klees accused critics of "perpetuating facts that are simply untrue," and said the bill "subjects itself fully to the environmental assessment process ..." But a section of the proposed transportation legislation clearly states that preliminary work on establishing highway corridors would not be subject to the Environmental Assessment Act.

Paul Muldoon, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, said Bill 25 "leads not to smart growth but to dumb growth ..."

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