Green Party leader visits local riding, criticizes plans for new highway

September 18, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Alyssa Parkhill

Although the provincial government is on board for the proposed 413 highway that is planned to travel through Caledon, a move that will make commuting easier throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), one political party is continuing to stand up against the proposed travel route. 

Leader of the Green Party of Ontario, and MPP for Guelph Mike Schreiner was joined by President of Dufferin-Caledon Green Association Stefan Wiesen, Shadow Minister Post-Secondary Education for the Green Party Laura Campbell, and local environmentalist Jenny Leforestier for an announcement on Saturday (Sept 12). 

To visually show the impacts the highway will have, the group gathered in front of the Osage Orange Hedge, on the northwest corner of Old School Road and Torbram Road. 

They chose the specific location because the hedge is known for its heritage throughout the local community, and if the highway were to be built, it would have to go. 

“This hedge was planted in the 1930’s, in the Great Depression,” said Stefan Wiesen. “It is our farm industrial heritage; therefore, it is significant.”

 The new 400-series highway is planned to travel from Milton, through Brampton and Caledon all the way to Vaughan.

Environmentalists and members of the Green Party are aiming to reach out to the public to understand the implications the highway will have. 

“I believe that it’s irresponsible and reckless for the provincial government to pave over 2,000 acres of prime farmland, to spend $6 billion to save people 30 seconds,” said Green Party Leader, Mike Schreiner. “The reason that the GTA West highway 413 was cancelled back in 2017 was all expert analysis said that there were far better and cheaper transportation alternatives to building this highway.”

He added, “So do we really want to pave over 2,000 acres of farmland for a highway that’s going to bulldoze through the Green Belt, pave over wetlands that provide drinking water for millions of people in the Greater Toronto Area?”

Caledon Council approved the highway back in 2018, claiming it as a priority for the Caledon community. 

One of the solutions the Green Party is pushing is to improve and enhance transit, rather than construct an entirely new highway. 

“It would be far more fiscally responsible, more environmentally responsible and economically responsible to use that money, to build transit. People in Dufferin-Caledon need transit,” said Schreiner. “We can create way more jobs building transit.”

One major component that was brought up, that the Caledon community has been coping with over time, is truck traffic. High volumes of transport trucks travel through Caledon, and for that reason many member of the local Council are in favour of the new proposed highway. 

But, Schreiner explains that there are other ways to push truck traffic onto other routes, rather than creating an entirely new one stating, “you’d be far better off from a fiscal standpoint and actually have a dedicated truck lane on the 407, because the 407 is way under capacity right now.”

The announcement declared that in order to get the knowledge and understanding of the implications the 413 highway will have is for provincial and local governments, as well as community and business leaders to band together and speak out against the highway. 

“If the public knows the threats this highway poses, you’ll see more people opposed to it. One of the biggest challenges south of here in the GTA people are facing, is flooding. And this highway is going to make flooding even worse,” explained Schreiner. “This highway is a disaster from a climate perspective, it’s a disaster from paving over farmland and being able to feed ourselves. It’s a disaster from a water filtration and managing cleaning drinking water, and it’s a disaster from a flooding perspective.” 

Local environmentalist Jenny Leforestier spoke out regarding the lack of support from Caledon’s local government on stopping the highway. 

Leforestier was a stakeholder back in 2014, along with some other community members, who all traveled to Vaughan to meet with the project managers of the highway. She said that the highway was going to be 10 lanes, and that they were thrilled when it got cancelled.

“Despite all the studies that say it’s a bad idea, I don’t understand why we would want to put another highway through here when it’s the bread basket of the region. I don’t understand why we need another highway going in the direction to basically nowhere, when we have a 407,” said Leforestier. “I don’t think it’s smart planning. I don’t think it’s smart growth. I think it’s a terrible time to be pushing through a highway during a global pandemic.”

The group is hoping that local communities and municipalities will understand the negative impacts the new 413 highway will have now and in the future. 

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