Out of sight, out of mind?

September 1, 2016   ·   0 Comments

IN THE YEARS following Confederation, a movement began that resulted in Dufferin County being created out of portions of Simcoe, Grey and Wellington counties.

The main reason, we’re told, is that residents of the area felt their needs and interests were being ignored by the far-off county towns in Barrie, Owen Sound and Guelph. The hope, never realized, was that Dufferin would also be able to woo Caledon Township residents, who saw no need to leave Peel County, with Brampton as its county town.

In the 20th Century, Dufferin changed dramatically, from a farming community with one small town and two villages that catered to the local farming population to a bedroom community of about 60,000 residents, only a relative handful of whom are full-time farmers. For much of the 20th Century the county lost its political identity at both Ottawa and Queen’s Park, different parts of it being hived off into ridings dominated by other counties, to the point where for a brief period there was a federal riding of Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey.

But now, for more than a decade, there has been a more reasonable alignment both federally and provincially, through the formation of the riding of Dufferin-Caledon, a constituency of neighbouring municipalities with similar needs and interests.

Unfortunately, this political recognition has not been mirrored at the Ministry of Transportation for Ontario (MTO), where those in charge decided to place jurisdiction over Dufferin’s provincial highways, formerly held by an office in Owen Sound, at its West Region office in far-off London. The result has been a total lack of interest in doing anything of consequence for Dufferin’s lone remaining north-south highway, No. 10.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover that the highway north of Camilla is desperately in need of widening to at least four lanes, with a fifth lane for left-turning traffic at all intersections and for access to places like Mono Plaza and the Dufferin County works yard south of Primrose.

Nor is there even a shadow of doubt that a bypass is required at Shelburne, as well as intermittent passing lanes between Shelburne and Chatsworth and four-laning from Chatsworth to Owen Sound where the road carries both Highways 6 and 10.

A similar situation exists in the area of public transit, where now none exists (apart from taxis) beyond Orangeville’s limits.

It’s interesting to see that at a time when GO Transit is operating train service as far west as Kitchener there is no plan to use the former CP Rail line to Orangeville or to provide even a single rush-hour GO bus north to Shelburne and west to Grand Valley.

We’re often left wondering whether there is any awareness at Queen’s Park of the fact that virtually all the thousands of new residents of Shelburne, Mono and Grand Valley find themselves having to commute to jobs in Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto. Nor is there any likelihood that this will change in the wake of the spiralling housing prices in the Toronto area and the lack of new industries locating in Dufferin.

Perhaps the best illustration of the couldn’t-care-less attitude of senior levels of government toward Dufferin’s needs is the total absence of public investment, with the so-called Service Ontario office under-staffed in cramped, rented quarters that force the public to spend far too long waiting for service.

We think the time has come for Dufferin County Council to seek meetings with the responsible provincial ministers to make them aware of the fact that our residents have needs that far eclipse those of the Torontonians who enjoy a panoply of public services and property taxes half of those faced by our property owners.

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