Hudak concerned over Mid-Peninsula highway: Says Liberals are putting brakes on proposed highway

Tribune (Welland) Mon 08 Dec 2003 - Page: A4 - Section: Local/Region -
Source: Osprey News Network

The Opposition says they are putting the brakes on the project, but the Liberal government counters it is simply keeping an election promise.

Erie-Lincoln Conservative MPP Tim Hudak blasted the government Thursday for its commitment to subject the proposed mid-peninsula highway to a full environmental assessment, saying it will delay the project by three to five years.

"I have a grave concern that (Premier) Dalton McGuinty is slamming the brakes on the mid-peninsula highway," Hudak said Thursday.

Responding to a question from Burlington Conservative MPP Cam Jackson Wednesday, Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar clearly stated the government's position on the highway.

"We will commit ourselves to putting the mid-peninsula highway to a full environmental assessment," he said.

St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley was not surprised to see Takhar remain committed to a full assessment.

"We indicated during the election campaign there would be a full (assessment)," he said. "When Mr. Jackson asked the question, Mr. Hudak almost fell off his chair."

Several concerns with the highway project have been raised in Jackson's riding, including where it will connect with the rest of the provincial highway network and where it will cross the escarpment.

"Cam is catering to a small vocal minority in his Burlington riding," Hudak said. "I worry about that tail wagging the dog."

The previous Tory government, of which Hudak was a cabinet minister, had planned to conduct a scoped assessment, which would basically look at potential routes for the highway and its environmental impact.

A full assessment will add a review of the need for a new highway cutting a swath across the southern tier of the peninsula.

It will likely include rounds of public consultation.

Hudak said that work was done and packaged in the Niagara Peninsula Transportation Needs Assessment, completed in June 2001.

"We've been there, done that," he said. "The need for a mid-peninsula corridor is obvious. There are no other alternatives. We have to move on and get to the next step."

Takhar was also questioned about whether it will be a toll highway, and was grilled by Jackson for being non-committal.

But Bradley said that is an opposition tactic that is all part of the game of politics.

"It is an interesting game to get into, rule out this, rule out that," he said. "That's the kind of thing they engage in, but the government tends not comment on speculation.

"I've never had any discussion of (tolls) with my colleagues."
Bradley, minister of tourism and recreation, would not commit one way or the other on the prospect of the mid-peninsula highway being a toll road.

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