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Environmental Defence holds day of action against 413 plan

July 29, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Rob Paul

As the Government of Ontario continues to prepare and plan for two new highways through farmland and the Greenbelt, groups took action this past week.

A day of action was held to protest the GTA West Corridor (Highway 413) and the Holland Marsh Highway (Bradford Bypass) on Saturday, July 24.

Protests were held across the regions that would be impacted by these highways. They took place in Caledon, King-Vaughan, Simcoe, Brampton, Mississauga, and Oakville and photos spread all over social media with the hashtags #NoMoreHighways, #Stopthe413, and #StoptheBradfordBypass.

Environmental Defence—a Canadian environmental advocacy organization—has been a key cog in organizing protests to inform residents of the impact of the impending situation. Their concerns are that, if built, the highways would pave over farms, forests, wetlands, and a portion of the Greenbelt and cost taxpayers over $5 billion while adding over 17 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Caledon’s Dan O’Reilly has been a leader in the community in the fight against Highway 413 and he was one of the organizers of the protest—along with Duffer-Caledon Green Party candidate Jenni Le Forestier—in Caledon that took place at the Gore Road and Healey Road intersection.

The decision of location for the day of action in Caledon was obvious to O’Reilly; he wanted to show people exactly where the highway would impact to give them a real idea of what could come.

“One of the main people who I work with to work against the 413 is Jenni Le Forestier and she was thinking of having something at Mayfield and the Gore Road and I emailed her thinking that we should move it to a place where the 413 would actually go.”

The turnout exceeded O’Reilly expectations and he was ecstatic to see the support within the community and noted that Regional Councillor Ian Sinclair was even in attendance. 

“We had about 30 people show up and I was quite pleased—you never know how many people you’ll get. I thought it worked out really well; people came out and waved signs and we had enough people to stand at each corner to show we’re opposed to it. We were here for about an hour and for the most part we got a lot of friendly honks and it seemed like people supported us.”

O’Reilly says the biggest thing with this right now is to make sure people understand the consequences if the highway moves forward, and the best way to do that is to bring people together and get more people talking.

“The whole thing was about raising public awareness and generating opposition, and to show elected officials that there is mounting opposition,” he said.

This isn’t the first protest Environmental Defence nor O’Reilly have been a part of with Highway 413, and O’Reilly knows it won’t be the last either.

“I was speaking to one of the people from Environmental Defence and they’re planning to follow up with the other days of action in the fall. As COVID-19 restrictions ease—we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out—I would like to get a big protest going at some point, but it’s all depending.”

As for the day of action targeting the Bradford Bypass, citizens from across Simcoe County and York Region gathered to show their increasing opposition to it. Approximately 50 people gathered to demonstrate outside of Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney’s constituency office in Holland Landing.

One of the groups involved in the protest was F.R.O.G.S. (Forbid Roads Over Green Spaces), an association of East Gwillimbury residents that came together in 1993 to fight the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s proposed new Bradford Bypass controlled access highway. F.R.O.G.S. stood down when the Liberal Government shelved the Bradford Bypass in 2003, but has returned since the revival of the bypass.

“Our objective is to add our voice to the many environmental groups in southern Ontario who are fighting this unnecessary, obsolete highway in the hope that eventually reason will prevail and this highway will once again be stopped,” said F.R.O.G.S. in a statement.

F.R.O.G.S. founder Bill Foster was in attendance at Mulroney’s constituency office for the day of action to show how much stopping the highway means to the area.

“We’re here because our concerns aren’t being listened to at all,” he said. “We’ve attended the meetings, written to our MPPs, listened to provincial presentations and in the end, the Province has done nothing to show they are serious about protecting Lake Simcoe, the Greenbelt or take climate change seriously. The province knows the opposition to this highway is growing quickly. There is still time to do the right thing—complete a full, updated environmental assessment that considers impacts to Lake Simcoe, climate change and alternatives.”

Attendees were frustrated by the lack of information about this highway and how there doesn’t seem to be intention to fully inform the public about the highway and its impacts.

Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, questioned why basic information is so hard to get.

“They aren’t telling the public important information—how this could be a toll road, how the groundwater and surface water will be contaminated, how the traffic studies they did showed that traffic on the 400 and 404 would be worse with the Bypass than without, and that they expect this highway to get so choked with traffic that it will likely need to be expanded to 6 lanes and more interchanges,” she said. “Highways don’t reduce traffic congestion—this is a fact. Why are we spending so much to not fix the problem? Why can’t we look at alternatives that work?”

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director Claire Malcolmson says the downsides and the unknowns are not being talked about.

“The studies that they have done have never looked specifically at the impacts to Lake Simcoe,” she said. “That’s why Barrie and Brock Councils passed resolutions to ask for ‘a comprehensive impact assessment on Lake Simcoe and those vulnerable watersheds and inflows into Lake Simcoe and identify considerations for alternative routes.’ The Government of Ontario is committed to a highway that will contribute to the decline of Lake Simcoe and they aren’t willing to do what is required to protect the Lake’s health. Instead, they are speeding towards construction without adequate information.” 



         

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