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Protesters want Ford government to make Highway 407 free instead of new Highway 413 through Caledon and Brampton
April 27, 2022

A few dozen protesters took to downtown Caledon over the weekend calling on the Ford government to halt its plans for the new Highway 413 that will run through York, Peel and Halton Regions.

The demonstration on Saturday (April 23) was the latest among several in recent months in opposition to the planned new 400-series highway, which is a major campaign plank for Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative (PC) Party in the run-up to the upcoming provincial election in June.

Highway 413 has become a divisive issue between some residents and environmentalists concerned about the destruction of farmland and green spaces. On the other side, many businesses and frustrated Highway 401 commuters believe it’s needed to ease congestion and help the flow of essential goods and services across the GTA.

The previous Liberal government, under former premier Kathleen Wynne, cancelled the project in 2018 after years of planning, studies and consultations, but it was rebooted soon after the current PC government assumed office that same year.

The new highway will connect Highway 400 in Vaughan to Highways 407 and 410 near the border between Halton and Peel Regions, with parts of it running through Caledon and Brampton.

Protesters in Caledon said they would prefer to see the province buy back the tolled Highway 407, which was sold to private interests in the 1990s, and make it free for trucks and possibly even commuters as opposed to building an additional new highway.

“We’re just letting both the provincial and municipal politicians know that there is widespread opposition to the 413,” said one of the protest organizers, Dan O’Reilly, adding other demonstrations were being held concurrently at Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones’ constituency offices, coinciding with the Earth Day weekend.

“There’s a lot of traction now for subsidizing free truck lanes on the 407, he said. “If they could have free tolls on the 407, that would get a good part of the traffic off the 401 and other highways. So, that’s the alternative.”

A few dozen protesters gathered in Caledon on Saturday (April 23) at the intersection of King and Queen Streets demonstrating against the provincial government's planned Highway 413. -- Graeme Frisque/Metroland

Officially, both Brampton and Caledon municipal councils have endorsed the highway, but support for the project is by no means unanimous among local politicians.

Caledon Ward 5 Coun. Annette Groves, who also sits on Peel Region council, attended the weekend protest in Caledon and is among those in opposition to the 413.

“This is not necessary for commuters. This is not a highway that’s going to move people, it’s a highway that’s going to move goods and services. If you want to move goods and services you’ve got the 407,” Groves said, adding she tabled an unsuccessful motion at Caledon council to oppose the project.

Dufferin-Caledon Liberal party candidate Bob Gordanier and his Green Party counterpart Laura Campbell also both attended the Caledon protest to voice their parties’ opposition to the Ford government’s plans.

Across Mayfield Road to the South, Brampton council is also divided. After first endorsing the highway in 2019, council debated a motion in January to overturn its support. While that motion failed, council continues to lobby the province on a boulevard option through the city rather than a highway -- an idea the province has shot down.

The Brampton Board of Trade (BBOT) has come out in support of the highway, with BBOT president Todd Letts calling the 413 essential infrastructure necessary to accommodate and sustain the GTA’s rapidly growing population and business community.

“Those who oppose the highway do so on the basis of ideological grounds. They just don’t like highways,” he said in an interview. “We have a strong manufacturing sector that’s very diverse. We are the logistics hub for Canada. Why not leverage those strengths by adding a highway that continues to create jobs and job opportunities and lends job security?”