Mid-pen review welcomed by grassroots opponents
Dec. 6, - Carmela Fragomeni - The Hamilton Spectator
The provincial Liberal government will keep its election promise to
conduct a full environmental assessment of the controversial proposed
Transportation Minister Harminder Takhar made the commitment in the
Ontario Legislature this week after questions from Burlington Conservative
MPP Cam Jackson, who favours a full assessment.
A full assessment means carefully examining social, economic and natural
land effects of the highway. It also means seriously studying alternatives,
such as widening existing highways or creating superior rail and public
transit systems. The previous Conservative government insisted on a
shortened, "scoped" assessment, which wouldn't do all of that.
Burlington and Flamborough residents, through the grassroots Citizens
Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE), fought hard for the full assessment,
believing it will rule out the Flamborough and Burlington portions.
The highway from Fort Erie, originally slated to end in Hamilton, is
proposed to cut through Flamborough, the Niagara Escarpment, and rural
north Burlington, to hook up with the 407 toll highway.
COPE co-chair Bob Williams was pleased the McGuinty government is taking
"a comprehensive approach." He said the premier would have
got an earful if he reneged because "a lot of us worked hard for
candidates who supported that position."
Residents worry the proposed highway will produce more smog, unwanted
development in urban sprawl and destroy the escarpment and other environmentally
In Niagara Region, politicians and residents are pushing for the mid-pen,
believing it will improve the region's economy while protecting the
tender fruitlands by directing growth away from them to the new highway.
Thursday, Erie-Lincoln Tory MPP Tim Hudak urged Takhar to move ahead
as soon as possible. He predicts a full assessment will delay the project
Last spring, Burlington council launched a legal challenge against
the ministry to force a full hearing, but it was put on hold when then
minister Frank Klees agreed to re-examine the issue. Yesterday, Burlington
Mayor Rob MacIsaac was happy Takhar, "is sticking to the policy
(the Liberals) ran ... on."
In Hamilton, Flamborough Councillor Margaret McCarthy said Takhar's
commitment is good news for her ward, which the highway would dissect.
"Our biggest concern was the push to have it go through, no matter,
in spite of all the opposition."
MTO spokesperson Will Mackenzie said ministry staff is reviewing the
work done to date and what needs to be done for a full assessment. That
review could take a couple of months.