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Highway 413 will be a ‘climate disaster’ for Ontario, Green leader warns

Highway 413 will be a ‘climate disaster’ for Ontario, Green leader warns
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Warning that the proposed Highway 413 is “a climate disaster,” Green Leader Mike Schreiner is urging with Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives not to pave farmland for a freeway.

“Supercharging sprawl and building highways to pave over paradise to build a linear parking lot ... threatens our jobs, our economy, our food security and our efforts to reduce climate pollution,” Schreiner said, quoting Joni Mitchell’s 1970 environmental anthem “ Big Yellow Taxi .”

In the legislature on Thursday, Schreiner reminded the Tories how much pollution would spew from the proposed 60-km highway linking Milton and Vaughan.

“Highway 413 alone will unleash 17.4-million tons of greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2050,” the Green leader said, citing .

“That’s more pollution than the city of Toronto produced in 2018. It will cause up to $1.4 billion in cumulative damages from air pollution alone. All this damage for what? To save people 30 seconds” of commuting time.

In Premier Doug Ford’s absence from the chamber, government house leader Paul Calandra defended the Tories’ environmental record.

“We know how important agriculture is to the province of Ontario. It was a Progressive Conservative government that brought in the Oak Ridges moraine,” said Calandra, referring to the swath of protected land that the previous Liberal government expanded into the greenbelt in 2005.

Associate Minister of Transportation Stan Cho noted that same Liberal administration “paved over the greenbelt — 330 hectares, in fact — and it was ... farmland and green spaces and wetlands that we lost under that government.”

“This government believes in doing something differently,” he said, noting Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark’s push to expanded the greenbelt .

But Cho said population growth means highways must be built as well as public transit.

“We need to look forward to make sure we invest in highways.”

Along with Highway 413, which is opposed by local municipalities, the Tories are boosters of the proposed Bradford bypass, which enjoys much more local support.

That 16.2-km freeway, connecting Highway 400 and Highway 404, would cross 27 waterways and cut through environmentally sensitive Holland Marsh lands.

NDP MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) suggested Ford is helping “his buddies” who want projects like Highway 413 built.

“The municipalities have said that they don’t want it, but we also know that developers have the ear of this premier,” said Fife.

“Highway 413 is a massive waste of taxpayers’ dollars. It is a slap in the face to the citizens of this province when we know that it leads from one developer’s door to another developer’s door,” she said.

Liberal house leader John Fraser said the Tories clearly “believe that that’s going to win them votes” in the June 2 election.

“I disagree. I think families want us to address climate change. They don’t want us to spend ... $8 billion on a new highway that when we could be investing in our schools,” said Fraser.

The Environmental Defence report released last April — entitled “Paving Paradise: the impact of Highway 413 on greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and sprawl”— predicted other side effects from the project.

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