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'Shame on Ford government’: Vaughan and King residents urge York Region to axe support for $6B GTA highway

‘My family farm, my house and my neighbours to the north and south will have their properties expropriated’
Feb. 22, 2021
Dina Al-Shibeeb

A proposed new highway by Premier Doug Ford's government -- worth $6 billion in taxpayer money -- is seen by local residents as usurping the democratic basis of the planning process at a time when the international community is trying to lower CO2.

Rene Vlahovic was among six York Region residents -- five from Vaughan and one from King -- who made a deputation against Highway 413 to York Region Council Feb. 11.

Vlahovic, who has lived in his Kleinburg address since 1965, asked, “What am I not being told about this?” in reference to the highway’s intersection at his property.

“This is huge,” Vlahovic added.

“According to the meetings I have gone to and the communications I have had with The GTA west, my family farm, my house and my neighbours to the north and south will have their properties expropriated,” he continued.

“I do not like that the local communities are not being informed. Nobody really knows anything.”

After all, York Region residents are used to public consultations especially when mega development projects -- pending approval -- are seen as having consequential effects on their neighbourhoods and the environment.

“Democracy is far more than just voting,” Angella Grella, who was one of the six, told the Vaughan Citizen.

Grella from Vaughan deemed this new highway as not only “redundant and unnecessary” and it “will cut through protected Greenbelt land, destroy prime productive farmland, damage waterways, forests and encourage more urban sprawl on either side of the highway.”

“It is not just about elections,” Grella said. “Public consultation is the foundation of democracy.”

“So why has the Ford government turned its back on democracy and frozen public consultation when it comes to community planning?” she asked. “Since Doug Ford became Premier, public consultations have ceased,” Grella claimed.

The proposed highway, which runs parallel to the north of Highway 407 in York Region, also cuts through Halton, Brampton and Orangeville. But the difference: these municipalities do not endorse it.

Proponents of the new corridor admit going through the greenbelt isn’t avoidable in York Region but emphasize how the costs of congestion to commuters and the economy in the GTA will exceed $15 billion annually by 2031.

But opponents argue that there is no proof that his new highway is going to reduce traffic but rather might increase congestion, especially given that Highway 407 is underused by trucks.

In addition, the proposed highway was axed in 2018 by the previous Liberal government after an expert panel highlighted alternatives including the use of technology. With adverse impact on protected and agricultural land, the panel said the corridor had the meagre time savings of just 30 seconds per trip.

Irene Ford, who urged York Region council to reverse its support for the highway, told the Vaughan Citizen that she felt “disappointed” after the meeting since there “there was no acknowledgement from anybody about public health. There has been no comprehensive health impact assessment done.”

“The highway will be a driver of climate change and it's not consistent with their own policies,” she continued.

In June and July 2019, both Vaughan and King joined a growing list of cities across the world in declaring a global climate emergency, leaving some of the residents puzzled over their local councillors’ endorsement for this new highway.

Ford said the unelected chairman Wayne Emmerson, who is York Region’s CEO, has “really curtailed and shut down any opportunity for any of the members of council to speak or voice their concerns or represent their constituents.”

In response, York Region said Emmerson’s “comments regarding needing to move on referred to the length of deputation and not the public consultation around the project.”

The meeting indeed left a sour taste.

“Shame on the Ford government for overriding democracy,” said Grella.