To the Editor,
Using the pandemic for political cover, the Ford government is fast-tracking Highway 413, cutting through 55 kilometres of prime farmlands, conservation land, waterways and protected areas. The corresponding urban sprawl will destroy some of Ontario’s most productive farmland. There has been no formal agricultural impacts assessment of the proposed highway and the government wants to avoid a full environmental assessment, opting for a streamlined (faster, less thorough) version. Based on an expert panel report which concluded that the highway was “not the best way to address the region’s changing transportation needs,” the project was cancelled in 2018. Costing approximately $6 billion, commuters would save only 30 seconds per trip.
Why should residents of Haliburton County care?
- Food security. As domestic food production is decreased by destroying farmland, we become more dependent upon expensive imported food. In the words of Peter Victor, economist and chair of the green belt council, “Once we’ve paved over the lands that provide our food supply, it’s gone forever. And you can’t eat real estate.”
- The highway cost will be borne by taxpayers. Cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternatives to solve congestion were identified in the expert panel report.
- It is important Ontarians are confident large infrastructure or industrial proposals are examined through proper environmental assessments. If protections can be waived to expedite projects elsewhere, the same shortcuts could bring irreversible environmental, economic and social effects to Haliburton as well.
- Agriculture, food processing, tourism and recreational industries are being put at risk, endangering jobs and billions in economic activity.
- Increased traffic will produce more greenhouse gases putting climate goals at risk.
Development in Ontario must benefit the majority of Ontarians and enhance quality of life. A government that claims to be “for the people” probably isn’t. Actions speak more loudly than words.