and Halton Region last week launched an application for a judicial
review of the province's bulldozer efforts to get a 130-kilometre
mid-peninsula highway -- the mid-pen -- rammed through the approvals
process. The 30-page application focused on the Environmental Assessment
Act, the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, the Planning
Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and "natural justice,
fairness and reasonable expectations."
a special Burlington council meeting last Tuesday, citizens frustrated
with the province's meaningless "public participation" process thanked
council profusely for pursuing this unfair process in the courts.
The overriding issue, they said, was the province's pursuit of a
"scoped" environmental assessment, rather than the full review such
a significant project is intended to undergo.
Kelly, co-chair of COPE (Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment)
said: "To build a highway without considering the environmental
implications is stupid. To masquerade as receptive to input, while
entertaining no such intention, is dishonest. But to attempt to
circumvent the law by abusing its process is criminal."
Lee, of the Mid-Peninsula Corridor Stakeholders Advisory Group,
raised several issues about the province's process, and questioned
the project. It is believed the mid-pen would be a toll highway.
He asked, "How would a longer tolled route compete with a shorter,
non-tolled existing alternative"? He estimated route "C" -- the
route crossing the escarpment in Burlington south of Number One
Side Road -- would cost more than $50 each way for a heavy transport
Hamilton Naturalists' Club, in a letter, expressed concern about
impacts not only to the escarpment, but in Cootes Paradise, the
Wainfleet marsh and bog in Niagara region, Medad watershed in Flamborough/
Halton, and the Beverley wetlands in North Flamborough. Air quality
was also pinpointed, particularly in light of Ontario's commitment
(through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment) to
achieve lowered emissions by 2010.
was the naturalists' club that in 1994 published the Hamilton-Wentworth
Natural Areas Inventory, and is currently undertaking an extensive
multi-year Natural Areas Inventory with agencies and naturalist
organizations in Halton.
years ago, Ontario enacted the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development
Act. In 1990, UNESCO designated the escarpment as a World Biosphere
Reserve, putting it in the same company as the Serengeti Plain and
the Galapagos Islands.
Reserve is an area in which conservation objectives are balanced
with development, yet ecosystems remain functional. UNESCO reviews
its biospheres at 10-year intervals to ensure that they still warrant
the designation. Our escarpment was reviewed, and reinforced as
part of the world biosphere reserve network by UNESCO last November.
This was especially gratifying because an anti-escarpment group
had attempted to have the designation lifted in the early 1990s.
what does the future hold? Burlington and Halton steadfastly support
the escarpment's importance. Citizens are equally appreciative.
While I was chair of the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC), I
attended an excellent presentation by staff of the Ministry of Natural
Resources on the importance of retaining existing natural (not highway)
corridors on the escarpment, and the consequences to wildlife of
fragmenting them. Our escarpment is a largely forested corridor
passing through the most heavily developed region of Canada. About
seven million people live within 100 kilometres of it.
marks the continuation of another attack on the escarpment. The
ongoing saga of attempts by landowners and developers to derail
the transfer of some Parkway Belt escarpment lands in Burlington
to the Niagara Escarpment plan enters phase eleven-teen! (I exaggerate.
It's only the seventh hearing in two years). A pre-hearing of the
Joint Board (composed of members of the Environmental Review Tribunal
and the Ontario Municipal Board) begins today at Halton region's
mid-pen is playing a role in this hearing. The Parkway Belt plan
allowed minimal development -- no subdivisions, commercial plazas
or other large developments -- but several landowners and developers
have fought this jurisdictional transfer. They want a special study
of their lands by Halton Region, the province, and NEC. Among their
reasons, they say, is that the mid-pen might affect their holdings.
Their applications, filed February 2003, were made even as the Niagara
Escarpment Plan Amendment pre-hearing was under way. That hearing
will reconvene next month, covering Parkway Belt lands straddling
the escarpment brow area from Dundas through Burlington to about
Number One Sideroad and Walkers Line. Today's hearing will consider
whether their Burlington lands north of Dundas Street, between Cedar
Springs Road to east of Walker's Line, can be dealt with separately
by the Joint Board.
the escarpment survive these unrelenting onslaughts from every direction
-- even from the province itself, which set up legislation to protect
it for the people of Ontario?
Burlington alderman and Halton councillor Joan Little is former
chair of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. She does not identify
with any political party. She is a freelance columnist and her views
are her own.