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Majority of GTA residents support Highway 413, poll for labour union suggests
May 4, 2022
Isaac Callan

A new poll commissioned by a major North American union suggests support for a controversial highway, proposed to run to the west of Toronto.

The poll, conducted for the Ontario Provincial District Council of the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), found 57 per cent of people in the Greater Toronto Area supported Highway 413.

LiUNA represents workers in Canada and the United States, including construction workers in the GTA.

The poll’s findings are in contrast with another study completed in December by an environmental group that suggested there were more people in the GTA opposed to the project than in support.

The proposed highway would run for roughly 52 km from Highway 400 in Vaughan to Highway 401 near Milton.

The project was scrapped by the Ontario Liberals in 2018 after a panel of experts it had appointed found it would save just 30 seconds for commuters.

After the PCs won power, the party moved to restart work on the route’s environmental assessment. The PCs claim work shows the highway would save 30 minutes for commuters travelling from end- to-end of the road, not 30 seconds.

Last year, the federal government stepped in and exercised its powers under the Impact Assessment Act to designate and take control of some aspects of the project.

PC Leader Doug Ford has put the highway at the heart of his re-election campaign and heralded the project in the months leading up to the beginning of Ontario’s election campaign.

The Ontario NDP and Greens have committed to cancelling it.

The Ontario Liberals have made the same promise; the party said it will reinvest the cost of Highway 413 in transit projects.

The poll was completed by the Sussex Strategy Group between April 27 and 28 with a sample size of 3,009 people.

The strategy group, which has multiple lobbyists registered with the Ontario integrity commissioner, said “a probability sample of a similar size would have a margin of error of ±1.86%, 19 times out of 20.”

The poll found 17 per cent of those asked who lived in the GTA-905 strong supported the highway. A further 40 per cent of respondents somewhat supported the project.

A total of 18 per cent of GTA-905 respondents strongly opposed Highway 413 and nine per cent somewhat opposed it.

Seventeen per cent were unsure.

“Simply put, Highway 413 is popular -- and the poll shows it,” Joseph Mancinelli, LiUNA International VP, said in a statement.

That’s not the view of Environmental Defence, an environmental advocacy group which has led opposition to the project.

“In contrast to the poll for Liuna, about half of the respondents in the Ekos poll (conducted for Environmental Defence) were opposed to Highway 413, compared to under a third who supported it,” Lana Goldberg, Ontario climate program manager with the organization, said.

Environmental Defence shared its poll with Global News. The study was conducted in December but was never officially released, the organization said.

In its methodology, Ekos said a random sample of 1,000 GTA residents aged 18 or older responded to its survey. It said it had a margin of error of ± 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Ekos asked its respondents “based on what you know, to what extent do you support or oppose the construction of Highway 413?” The results found 49 per cent of its respondents opposed it, with 29 per cent in support and 18 per cent undecided.

Of the respondents based in the Region of Peel, which the highway will pass through, 34 per cent supported the project and 39 per cent were opposed, according to the Ekos poll.

“This project will create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs and the economic activity that the province needs,” said Jack Oliveira, business manager for LiUNA Local 183, a construction union, said.