Regional Council debated the GTA West Transportation Corridor (Hwy 413) at a special council meeting this week. There have been many conversations over the last few months about this proposed Hwy, particularly given it would use greenbelt lands.
On principle, I always have concerns when I hear that any development is contemplated on the greenbelt — including a Provincial Hwy. This does not mean I am against any proposed Hwy, however, when dealing with development on the green belt it is particularly important to understand the full transportation needs and environmental impacts before proceeding. Only then can we make an informed decision. If the need is great, and the impacts are low, then we may proceed for the benefit of our communities.
Also, when municipalities that are being directly impacted have passed motions that oppose the Hwy, I believe we need to take notice and give due regard for what those municipalities are asking for. Vaughan, Halton Hills, and Peel Region have all passed recent motions opposing the Hwy and I believe that York Region should do the same.
Transportation and congestion is a serious and legitimate problem in the GTHA. However, it will not be solved by building a Hwy that will only save the avg motorist 30 seconds on their daily trips. This will not reduce congestion; this will only add more cars on the road.
I believe that the 6 billion tax dollars earmarked for this project would be better spent if the government allocated these funds to the Municipalities to improve our current roads and enhance our transit systems. That is why I supported the motion at the table to withdraw support for the Hwy. Unfortunately, that motion failed on a vote of 8-13.
Of note, the Provincial Govt has said they want to expand the greenbelt. Minister Clark has said “The Premier has been steadfast in his commitment to protect the Greenbelt and our government will not consider any proposals to remove or develop any part of it.” It will be interesting to see how this is specifically applied in this case.
As part of the EA modernization process, last year the Government proposed a regulation to streamline the EA process for the GTA West Transportation Corridor Project. There are concerns that this process will be fast tracked and impacts on the environment will not be properly addressed. That is why we have asked that the Federal Impact Assessment process ensure the environmental, social, economic or health issues will be addressed with a process that is not fast tracked or streamlined.
While I was disappointed that the motion to withdraw support failed, I was pleased that a motion to request a Federal impact assessment passed!
Now we must wait and see what the Federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change will do. It is expected that the Minister will issue a decision on the designation request for the GTA West Transportation Corridor Project under the federal Impact Assessment Act by May 4, 2020.
More to come on this issue.