National Post (Latest Edition)

Building the 413 should be a no-brainer

- Brian Lilley Postmedia News Brian Lilley is a columnist for Sun Media

It’s a highway that has been talked about for 20 years but never built. The badly-needed highway is opposed by vested interests — many in the media — but supported by the public.

The GTA West Corridor, often called Highway 413 now, was under considerat­ion by PC and Liberal government­s from 2002 until the Wynne government shelved the project in February 2018.

“Ontario has accepted an expert advisory panel’s recommenda­tion that a proposed highway in the GTA West corridor is not the best way to address changing transporta­tion needs,” the ministry of transporta­tion said in a statement at the time.

A few months later, the project was back on the books after the Progressiv­e Conservati­ves won the provincial election and Doug Ford was named premier. In an election where Ford ran a campaign with very few specific promises, building the GTA West corridor was one of them.

The proposed route would run westward from Highway 400 — just south of King Road in Vaughan — scooping under Bolton and Caledon before heading south at Mississaug­a Road and connecting with Highways 401 and 407, near Winston Churchill Boulevard

The four- to six-lane highway, with a transit corridor, will take congestion off the 401, the busiest highway in North America.

It should be a no-brainer; sadly, it’s not.

With the environmen­tal assessment proceeding and the project receiving full support from the government, the campaign to stop it is on. Well-heeled environmen­tal groups have launched a political campaign targeting elected officials and the public.

Media campaigns against the highway have also been strong and at times gone well beyond opposing the highway.

A front-page story in the Toronto Star — with the headline Friends with Benefits — resorted to racial stereotype­s of Italians with the layout, graphics and storytelli­ng looking more like something you would see in a story about Mafia family business than that of land developers. It tried to paint a picture of home builders getting special favours from the Ford government.

Truth be told, some of the developers who own land required for the project could stand to lose money from the highway winding its way across their lands: fewer homes built, less profitable homes built, opportunit­y lost — that’s the reality.

What’s also true is that this highway needs to be built to ease congestion and to be ready for growth over the next several decades.

Yet, mayors and councils in Vaughan, Mississaug­a and Brampton have all voted to oppose the highway after strongly supporting it for years. The latest polling on the issue would suggest those city councils and their mayors are offside with the public when it comes to building the 413.

A poll commission­ed by the trades union LIUNA shows that across the province, 57 per cent support the idea of a new highway when told the project is “critical highway infrastruc­ture that will be increasing­ly needed due to the population growth.” After being told what both supporters and opponents of the highway have had to say about the project, support

remained at 55 per cent for building the 413.

Across the GTA, support for the highway was even stronger, ranging from a low of 57 per cent in Toronto to a high of 67 per cent in the regions of Peel and Halton. Support ran across political lines as well with 66 per cent of PC voters saying they backed the new highway, 60 per cent of Liberals offering support, and even 54 per cent of NDP voters supporting it.

Opposition to Highway 413 is less than half, at times a third, when compared with the level of support. That’s probably because the people who most support it live with the crowded highways and commutes already, know the growth that is coming, and are less likely to use public transit if they can avoid it in the POST-COVID future.

The Greater Toronto-hamilton Area is expected to grow from a current population of roughly 6.5 million people to more than 11.1 million by 2051. Peel and York regions alone are expected to add two million people to their ranks, according to the province’s official growth plan.

Having that many people in one region requires housing, and it requires infrastruc­ture — like highways — in order to make society work. Based on an industry average of 2.5 people per home, that means Peel and York alone will need 800,000 new homes over the next 30 years and the infrastruc­ture to support that growth.

There is a segment of the environmen­tal movement that believes we should stop all outward developmen­t. That simply isn’t feasible in a growing area like the GTA where families want a variety of options for their living space and the ability to get to and from work in a reasonable amount of time.

We’ve heard ad nauseam about the cost of congested roads and commute times to the economy and the strain on family life. It’s for all of these reasons that this highway makes sense.

The opponents of Highway 413 may be able to convince councillor­s to pass motions against the highway, they may be willing to stoop to using ethnic stereotype­s to smear some in support of the project, but that won’t be the final say.

Voters will get the last say at the ballot box and based on what they are saying now, they see the need to plan for this highway.


 ?? FRANK GUNN / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES ?? Easing congestion on highways in the GTA along with being ready for expected population growth in future decades
are why the proposed Highway 413, also known as the GTA West Corridor, should be built, Brian Lilley writes.
FRANK GUNN / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Easing congestion on highways in the GTA along with being ready for expected population growth in future decades are why the proposed Highway 413, also known as the GTA West Corridor, should be built, Brian Lilley writes.

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