Ontario Construction News staff writer
Vaughan council has joined a growing list of municipalities opposed to construction of Highway 413, withdrawing support at a meeting on Tuesday.
Vaughan had earlier endorsed the construction of Highway 413, but councillors now say there are “too many red flags.”
Ward 1 Councillor Marilyn Iafrate, who voted in favour of pulling Vaughan’s endorsement of the highway, said there were still too many red flags around the project to support it.
“Why are we destroying our city’s farmland and environment to benefit other jurisdictions?” she asked. “There are just too many unanswered questions for the public who will be footing the bill for this highway.”
The $6-billion GTA West Transportation Corridor was cancelled by the former Liberal provincial government, but the project is back in play – revived by the Doug Ford government in 2018.
If built, the route would connect Halton Region to York Region, cutting through farmland, waterways and environmentally sensitive land.
Almost all municipalities that will be impacted by the highway are now voicing concern and the province may be wavering.
With opposition growing, House Leader told MPs this week that the project may or may not proceed.
“There’s still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done here: some consultations that have to happen with our partners in the area, an environmental assessment,” Calandra said.
“If it makes sense for the highway to proceed, it will; if it doesn’t, we won’t,” the minister said.
Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon councils have passed motions last asking for federal assessments of the proposed route.
Regulatory changes would allow work on bridges and transitway construction to start before an environmental assessment is completed sometime in 2022.
“The only thing that has changed is the community has come out running and screaming,” said regional councillor Linda Jackson, who, along with mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and regional councillors Mario Ferri and Gino Rosati, voted against the motion to withdraw support.
Tony Malfara, another resident who opposes the project, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by council’s decision, which he attributed to the vocal community opposition.
“(Councillors) started to hear people weren’t happy and they started to pay attention.”
But Malfara said he didn’t consider Tuesday’s vote to be a victory. “It’s just one step up a flight of stairs.”
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner, who has been pushing for the cancellation of the highway, said in a tweet Tuesday that given the growing opposition to the 413 “it is time for the Ford government to pull the plug as well.”
The federal government is expected to make a decision on whether to proceed with a federal environmental assessment sometime in May. If approved, the federal assessment would override the one done by the province.