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'Stunning about-face' by some Milton councillors leads to failure of motion against contentious highway

Bambang Sadewo
June 14, 2021

The topic shouldn’t be this controversial.

So thought Coun. Rick Di Lorenzo of his motion that would see the Town of Milton reaffirming the region’s stance on the proposed GTA West highway after Halton regional council unanimously passed a resolution to oppose the project, along with a call for more federal scrutiny.

But Di Lorenzo’s motion was shot down at the June 7 Milton council meeting, with four councillors-- Zeeshan Hamid, Rick Malboeuf, Mike Cluett and John Challinor-- and Mayor Gord Krantz voting against.

Councillors Colin Best, as the seconder, Kristina Tesser Derksen and Sameera Ali voted in favour.

Prior to the vote, resident Wendy Roberts said she was surprised at the “stunning about-face” by some regional councillors who “flipped” their position when the motion was first discussed-- and later deferred-- at the previous meeting.

The longtime resident argued that there are “alternative infrastructure options and other means to relieve congestion on Highway 401 at less cost and with less damage to the environment, prime farmland and sensitive natural heritage features.”

Roberts said supporting the highway would run counter to the climate emergency that was declared by Milton and all Halton municipalities, a point that delegate Mervyn Russel, of Halton Action for Climate Emergency Now, also made.

Also known as Highway 413, the 59-kilometre project would run through the regions of Halton-- south of Halton Hills along the Milton border-- Peel and York, connecting the Highway 401/407 interchange area to Highway 400.

Municipalities like Mississauga, Brampton and Toronto have come out against the plan.

According to some councillors, the proposed highway is a much-needed infrastructure that can help ease traffic woes, improve connectivity and support the future growth and economic development in Milton.

“A lot of times people think about infrastructure in terms of today ... not in terms of what happens when you add two more million people in this area,” said Hamid, the Ward 4 regional councillor, while Malboeuf-- of Ward 2-- noted that “if we don't build the road to support the two million people that'll be moving into the area, we will regret it in 20 to 30 years.”

There was also the argument that the motion is redundant given that Ottawa had already announced in early May that it will carry out an environmental assessment of the project, and that the town should take a-wait-and-see approach to let the process play out.

“We will have ample opportunity to debate this again once that assessment and any other reports are completed,” Malboeuf said.

Meanwhile, Krantz said his decision to oppose the motion was due to evolving information, among other considerations.

Di Lorenzo had hoped that some of the council members would recognize the discord between their votes at the regional level and what’s being said on local council.

“The cost to Halton is going to be very detrimental,” the Ward 3 councillor said. “We cannot undo this highway once we raze that land … and we pave over that green space.”