Hamilton Spectator February 7, 2011
Groups merge for GTA highway fight
Want project to remain off region's official plan

In an effort to have a stronger, collective voice, seven community and environmental groups opposed to a mid-peninsular highway from Niagara to the Greater Toronto Area have banded together.

The new group composed of Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE), Lowville Area Residents Association, BurlingtonGreen, Oakvillegreen, the Coalition of the Niagara Escarpment (CONE), the Cedar Springs Community and Protecting Escarpment Rural Lands (PERL), brings more than 1,000 members.  They don’t yet have a new name.  It’s important to work collectively to oppose a highway that could cut through north Burlington’s Niagara Escarpment, said the coalition’s spokesperson Geoff Brock.  “Because this does impact such a broad number of stakeholders,” he said.

The group came together over the last six weeks, following a public meeting mid-December that saw more than 1,000 community members upset over the prospect of cutting through the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.  Brock said the key to coming together now is to block the highway corridor from making it onto the region’s official plan.  He said the public was shocked to learn in late October that the government, in its feedback to the regional government’s proposed official plan, is asking for a new corridor.  “Even if the highway is 10 years down the road, we can’t have that corridor on the official plan,” Brock said.

Members of his group have written letters of opposition to both the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Ministry of Transportation.  However, Kelly Baker, a spokesperson for the office of Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne, said it was the province’s understanding that the arrows indicating a corridor in the Halton Official Plan were only conceptual.  “Until a new transportation corridor is identified as needed, it is premature to assume that any corridor location has been selected,” Baker said.  The idea for the highway was originally proposed by the provincial Conservative government in 2001 and then fell off the agenda for a while.  Baker contends that the past government’s plans for building a mega-highway through the Niagara Escarpment is not what the current government is doing.
“We want to get it right,” Baker said. “That’s why we used a research- and an evidence-based approach. We are not going to just assume we need to pave a mega highway through the escarpment.”

The current government’s plans also include looking at a number of other measures including transit and rail.
Provincial Conservative Leader Tim Hudak made waves last month after coming out in support of the highway proposal. COPE members protested outside a breakfast gathering of the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce where Hudak was speaking.


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