Civic politicians win mid-pen meeting with minister

Jul. 28, Dave Kewley -The Hamilton Spectator

Niagara wants to reach compromise and speed construction of highway

Ontario's Minister of Transportation Frank Klees has agreed to convene a meeting of municipal officials to discuss the controversial mid-peninsula corridor highway.

Klees said in a statement late last week that ministry staff will arrange meetings with the political officials mentioned in a request by Niagara Region Chair Debbie Zimmerman to meet "in the near future."

In her July 11 letter, Zimmerman offered to host the meeting, which would include herself, Klees, Hamilton Mayor Bob Wade, Burlington Mayor Rob MacIsaac and Halton Region Chair Joyce Savoline.

"It's necessary we meet with each other to discuss issues relating to the corridor. This meeting will allow us the opportunity to voice our concerns and consider options available so that we can move forward with this important transportation and trade corridor so that the momentum of the project is not lost," Zimmerman said.

The planning approval process for the approximately 130-kilometre highway/transportation corridor through Halton, Hamilton and Niagara came to a screeching halt last month.

The City of Burlington threatened to take the ministry to court over concerns that the route threatens areas of the Niagara Escarpment.

Klees abandoned his bid to limit the environmental studies and later said he would consult further with the municipalities.

In an interview, Zimmerman said she's frustrated that there hasn't been more consultation between the interested municipalities and the ministry.

"We've been going through a lot of to -and-fro from one municipality to the other and I'm concerned because the minister has been changed so often that maybe Mr. Klees hasn't heard from all the people who took part in the original process more than two years ago," she said.

Hamilton and Niagara strongly support the project because they believe it will spur economic growth, speed cross-border traffic and ease congestion on the Queen Elizabeth Way, by deflecting traffic and growth to the top of the escarpment.

Niagara is particularly concerned that any move to expand the current QEW route would be disastrous to its beleaguered and extremely sensitive tender fruit lands.

Zimmerman said she wants to get this issue back in its rightful place and to identify the issues and find out why they aren't being properly addressed --"rather than using the courts, which is an inappropriate venue, because in the end there will just be a winner and a loser."


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