MacIsaac tackles Klees over mid-peninsula

Carmela Fragomeni - The Hamilton Spectator June 21, 2003

First it was Transportation Minister Frank Klees and Burlington MPP Cam Jackson sparring over the proposed mid-peninsula highway.

Now, it's Klees and Burlington Mayor Rob MacIsaac.

Klees said in an interview he thinks MacIsaac has had bad advice. He suggested Burlington, which has complained it was left out of the needs study for the mid-peninsula, didn't participate because it didn't take it seriously.

"Everyone had an opportunity to be there (and have input)," Klees said. "Maybe ... there were some who were not taking the process seriously, didn't give it the kind of attention that they should have."

Klees said the needs study process resulted in extending the highway beyond Hamilton into Burlington.

MacIsaac, on hearing this, said: "I don't think the minister really understands the process his ministry followed. We had to learn about this process by peering at a map behind the premier standing in front of a map -- in a photograph in The Spectator ...

We only learned that Burlington was included by virtue of that.

"It's fine to say it's an open process, but there's an obligation to let people who might be affected know about it."

MacIsaac believes the process has been completely unfair to Burlington.

Burlington and Halton Region have begun court action against Ontario to stop the highway from going through Burlington and force a full environmental assessment.

Klees says his ministry is conducting a full environmental assessment on the 130-kilometre mid-peninsula highway, despite what Burlington says. The Ontario Environmental Assessment Act is meant to protect, conserve and ensure wise management of Ontario's environment, including social, economic and cultural aspects, as well as natural landforms. In this case, it would mean examining alternatives to the highway, like widening existing highways or creating superior rail and public transit systems and assessing social impact.

Residents say the highway will ruin the Niagara Escarpment and bring more smog and development. Traffic congestion won't even be solved if it's a toll highway.

Klees insists his ministry has been accommodating. In talks with the city, it offered to make the escarpment a special study area to minimize the highway's impact.

"They got very far in terms of what they wanted," he said. But Klees said he wasn't going to ask "this process be taken back to cover all the ground we've covered already."

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