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Environmental groups protest Bradford Bypass as bridge work gets set to begin

The province awarded a contract to design and construct a bridge for the bypass in April
May 2, 2022
Simon Martin

A crowd of York Region and Simcoe County residents gathered in front of York Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney’s office April 23 to demand that projects such as the 413 and Bradford Bypass should be cancelled and that money invested in health care, education and climate action instead.

Highways and the sprawl that they bring, and the aggregate that they use, were the main topics of the rally as well as preserving and protecting the Greenbelt. Opposition to the highway from environmental groups continues as shovels get set to hit the ground on a bridge project later this year.

“There are three highways planned to cut through the Greenbelt -- two of them will be around Lake Simcoe. Ontarians could be on the hook for over $10 billion dollars using the low-end estimates for the three highways,” Margaret Prophet, executive director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition said. “So we’re paying a lot of money to destroy significant wetlands and forests, to put more contaminants in our water and add more carbon to the atmosphere. We’re spending money to destroy life when we should really be spending that money to invest in people, their health, their families, their businesses and their livelihoods.”

The rally was opened by Georgina Island member Becky Big Canoe. Big Canoe spoke about a project that she feels directly threatens her community and its well-being -- the Bradford Bypass.

“We’ve (Georgina Island First Nation) taken a historical stance against this type of development that really doesn’t serve much of Ontario, but Doug Ford thinks it's necessary when it really isn’t. We are going to use whatever power we have as community members to veto it.”

Barrie District Labour Council President Michele MacDonald added that transitioning to a green economy is imperative so that we can have a bright future and ensure no one gets left behind.

Graham Churchill carried that line of thought speaking about the use of Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs), which have been used to fast-track sprawling developments that cut public consultation and proper studies out of the picture. “There is an enhanced MZO being put up in my neighbourhood that would create the densest community in North America. No public input, no process that is open and transparent, just steamrolling over communities and removing their democratic rights to engage in how their community grows.”

Executive director of Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition Claire Malcolmson said decisions have to be made now to help Lake Simcoe. “How many more bad decisions do we need to make before we recognize we’ve destroyed our ability to feed ourselves, to breathe clean air, fish the waters or live in beauty?”

Earlier in April, the provincial government awarded a contract to design and build a bridge crossing for the future Bradford Bypass.

“A province that is growing as fast as ours needs a modern transportation system to support it, and that is why our government is saying ‘yes’ to finally building badly needed highways like the Bradford Bypass,” said Mulroney, minister of transportation. “Awarding the contract to build the bridge for the Bradford Bypass brings us another step closer to getting shovels into the ground on this critical project -- one that local communities have been asking to get built for decades.”

The new bridge will allow County of Simcoe Road 4 (Yonge Street) between 8th Line and 9th Line to cross over the future Bradford Bypass. The project will also include widening County Road 4 from two to four lanes. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

While there is opposition to the bypass from the environmental community, East Gwillimbury Mayor Virginia Hackson said a highway like this is integral for the community.

“It is so important for us to build communities that are safe and where traffic is not congested. Connecting the 400-404 is an investment that will connect communities, reduce gridlock and grow our economy,” she said.