News Articles

The Flamborough Post, Sept 20, 2002

By Irene Gentle o The Post

The Niagara Escarpment Commission board has rejected a staff report asking for a delay in launching an Environmental Assessment (EA) on the proposed mid-peninsula highway due to concerns that the current proposal is flawed.
Instead, the provincial body that is made up of municipal politicians and citizen members voted 10-6 in Owen Sound yesterday to proceed with the EA.
But it also asked that the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) review all other options for the road and work in conjunction with Ontario's Smart Growth initiatives.
The staff report had noted that the EA would be premature until that was launched.
Hamilton's representative on the NEC is Marvin Caplan, who noted during the meeting that Hamilton is not opposed to the proposed road that would link the Niagara Region with Burlington's 407 ETR, slicing through area farm land to do so, citing potential economic advantages.
The road has been met with a wall of resistance in rural Hamilton and Burlington, a fact that added to Ward 15 Councillor Margaret McCarthy's surprise at Caplan's comments.
"I was shocked. Marvin Caplan does not speak for Hamilton," she said, noting the economic advantages of the corridor haven't been proved.
"I have serious questions about his assumption that this will grow the economy," she said.
With the hint that private investors may help finance the road, she wondered if the long term plan is to make it a toll highway.
"Those private lenders will want their money back," she said. "The assumption is that this will be a well-travelled road. If it is tolled, it'll be cost-prohibitive to the public."
McCarthy also wondered why the NEC staff report was given so little attention by the board.
That question also crossed the mind of Flamborough's David Eckersley, a board member of Citizen's Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) who drove to Owen Sound after learning at the last minute that there was a slot open for the group to make a presentation.
He spoke for about four minutes - his allotted time - to impress upon the NEC the concern of the group that has become very active in this issue.
And he feels the three hour drive was not entirely in vain, as the NEC did ask the MTO to look into alternative routes and work in conjunction with Smart Growth.
"I'd characterize that as something of a victory," he said. "We got two-thirds of it."
Eckersley feels that is probably the best the group could have done given that half the NEC board is made up of municipal politicians.
"They do have to think of economic concerns," he said, noting "they did give pretty short shrift to the staff report."
He also objected to Caplan's assertion that Hamilton doesn't oppose the proposed road, adding "clearly, the people in Flamborough, Waterdown, Dundas and Ancaster do."
Caplan was still in Owen Sound as of press time and was unable to return calls from the Post.
But McCarthy wondered how his stated position jibed with city council's recent promise to support the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to reduce emissions for a cleaner environment.
Critics of the road, including Ancaster Dundas Flamborough Aldershot MPP Ted McMeekin, have said that improved public transit may be a viable alternative to the highway.
McCarthy also wondered how Caplan was able to arrive at his conclusion given that a $45,000 consultant's report on the proposal commissioned by the city has not yet come out.

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