Mid-pen highway subject of poster protest by COPE

Dennis Smith The Burlington Post 06/01/03

Community critics of the proposed mid-peninsula highway have turned to poster power to get their message out.

Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment are mailing out more than 100,000 posters denouncing plans to build the highway between Niagara and Hamilton/ Halton.

"It's a real blanket mailout," said COPE vice-chair Dave Eckersley. He said it may be among the largest communications campaign undertaken by a local non-profit community organization.

The posters are being sent to the Burlington, Halton and Stoney Creek ridings held by three government MPPs -- Cam Jackson, Ted Chudleigh and Brad Clark.

COPE's poster says The Road Ahead, the Progressive Conservative government's re-election platform, is contradictory.

The group charges that Premier Ernie Eves has promised to protect the Niagara Escarpment, yet build the mid-peninsula highway through it.

"You can't pave and save at the same time, Premier Eves," said Bob Williams, COPE's co-chair. "You cannot protect an environmental treasure when paving huge sections of it for new highways, which come with development and urban sprawl."

The poster argues the mid-peninsula highway will waste $1.5 billion of taxpayers money, increase QEW congestion, increase smog, ruin parts of the Niagara Escarpment and force users to pay high tolls.

COPE also claims the government wants to ram the highway through, a view expressed last week at Burlington city council.

Mayor Rob MacIsaac said the government's proposed Bill 25 will make this happen and called the legislation 'draconian.'

Council members said the legislation will override municipal planning, freeze property rights without compensation and eliminate the Environmental Assessment Act from planning of new provincial highways.

But government representatives said Bill 25 will protect future infrastructure corridors and allow for long-term planning. They said it will still allow local input and environmental assessments.

Burlington MPP Jackson said the legislation will allow the Smart Growth panel to make recommendations for infrastructure corridors. Then if the government wished to proceed with a project, it would come fully under an environmental assessment, he added.

Bill 25 will establish corridors for roads, railways, recreational trails, utility pipes, cables and other uses, he said.

The Burlington MPP said he would continue working to protect landowners' rights within the bill.

Ministry of Transportation officials say the mid-peninsula transportation corridor they're examining could include a new highway, transit way or both.

Ministry representatives say they have looked at existing highway expansions, transit opportunities, plus rail and ferry services, but noted local transit usage is low.

They've warned a highway may be needed to serve major increases in population and traffic growth between Toronto and Niagara forecast by the ministry.

Four choices are being considered for the local connection with the mid-peninsula highway including an expanded Hwy. 403 on Hamilton Mountain, Hwy. 401 west of Milton, Hwy. 6 in Flamborough and Hwy. 407 near Walker's Line.

Burlington is seeking a judicial review of the highway planning process.

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