Orazietti Announces Bill 149 Public Campaign To Improve Highway 17 in Northern Ontario



    Council Resolution and Public Petition in Support of Sault Ste. Marie
    MPP's Private Member's Bill Sent to Communities Along Highway 17

    QUEEN'S PARK, April 11 /CNW/ - David Orazietti, MPP is giving individuals
and local elected officials an opportunity to voice their support for an
improved Trans Canada Highway in Northern Ontario. The Sault Ste. Marie MPP
sent out a public petition and city council resolution today to Northern
Ontario communities to gain support for his Private Member's Bill that calls
on the Federal government to support enhancements to Highway 17.
    "Northerners deserve a new deal from the Federal government when it comes
to Trans Canada Highway funding and historically there is a greater obligation
that Ottawa needs to live up to," said Orazietti. "This is a chance for
communities along Highway 17 to express their views and support a project that
will improve the economy, safety and quality of life for everyone in Northern
Ontario."
    Bill 149 - An Act Respecting the Improvement of Highway 17, Part of the
Trans Canada Highway - passed first reading on October 17, 2006, was
introduced for second reading on October 26, 2006 and has been referred to the
Standing Committee on General Government. The Act calls on the Federal
government to enter into a cost-sharing agreement with the province to improve
the Northern Ontario section of the national highway.
    The petition, to be made available through local municipal offices and
city halls, offers citizens in communities along Highway 17 an opportunity to
support Trans Canada improvements, as well as an opportunity to impress upon
Federal and Provincial elected representatives the importance of this highway
to their region. Council resolutions will afford the same opportunity to
municipal councillors representing communities across the North.
    "These petitions and resolutions will give others an opportunity to share
the vision of a modernized TransCanada Highway in Northern Ontario, with
improved safety measures such as additional passing lanes, paved shoulders,
rumble strips, rest stops, and ultimately a 4-lane divided highway," said
Orazietti.
    The provincial government has committed $843.5 million toward highways in
Northern Ontario alone since 2004/05, but more improvements are needed to
improve safety. The Trans Canada Highway in Northern Ontario has the lowest
percentage of 4-laned highway when compared to any other jurisdiction in the
country at only 10%. Driving on certain portions of highway 17 can be
dangerous without separated traffic, especially in the winter time when snow
and ice can create a challenge for even the most cautious of drivers. An
annual average of 39 fatalities occur as a result of collisions on the
highway. Bill 149 insists that the Federal government help improve Highway 17
to address these safety concerns.


    
                                 BACKGROUNDER

    Bill 149 - the Trans Canada Highway Improvement Act - proposes that the
Government of Canada enter into a cost-sharing agreement with the Ontario
government to improve the Northern Ontario portion of our national highway in
order to enhance public safety and the regional economy.

    The Federal Government is not funding the Trans Canada Highway at historic
levels:

    -   Introduced in 1949, the Trans Canada Highway Act prescribed that the
        Government of Canada and the provincial governments would share in
        the costs of constructing a national highway
    -   The 1949 bill stated that the Federal government would reimburse the
        provinces for 50% of the costs for any portion of road built after
        1928 and mandated that the Government of Canada would pay 50% of
        future costs
    -   Currently, the Federal government pays for 7% of the Trans Canada
        highway
    -   Federal contribution continues today through the Strategic Highway
        Infrastructure Program -or SHIP
    -   The SHIP agreement has provided $485 million dollars for highway
        construction across Canada since it was announced in 2001
    -   The current provincial government has committed $843.5 million
        dollars on highways in Northern Ontario since fiscal year 2004/05
    -   The Federal government recently posted a $13.2 billion surplus, of
        which 30-40% was contributed by Ontario taxpayers
    -   Bill 149 insists the Federal government eliminate this inequity and
        return to funding the Trans Canada Highway at historic levels in
        Ontario

    Bill 149 proposes the Federal and Provincial governments adopt a plan to
improve public safety on Highway 17:

    -   The Trans Canada Highway in Northern Ontario has the lowest
        percentage (10%) of 4-laned highway when compared to other
        jurisdictions in the country
    -   Percentage of Trans Canada Highway that is 4-laned in other
        Provinces:
           -  Saskatchewan: 91%
           -  Manitoba: 90%
           -  Quebec: over 80%
           -  New Brunswick: 81% by November 1, 2006, expected to be
              completely 4-laned by November 1, 2007
     -  On Highway 17 there is an annual average of 488 accidents involving
        personal injury resulting in 839 people injured
    -   31 fatal accidents occur every year costing 39 people their lives
    -   Bill 149 advocates for a safety plan to include designated areas to
        be four - laned, and other improvements such as additional passing
        lanes, paved shoulders, rest stops and "rumble strips"

    Bill 149 is a vital economic link in Northern Ontario and upgrades are
necessary to take advantage of current and future business opportunities:

    -   342,411 commercial trips are taken annually on highway 17 across
        Northern Ontario
    -   On high volume days, primarily in the summer, there are 4,282 trips
        made. Improvements are needed on highway 17 to handle these peak
        commercial traffic days
    -   Over $1.2 billion dollars worth of forestry products travel across
        the highway 17 annually
    -   Almost $1.5 billion dollars worth of metals and minerals from
        Northern Ontario's mining sector travels across the highway annually
    -   In 2004, almost 2 million visitors came to the Algoma District,
        including Sault Ste. Marie, of northern Ontario alone, contributing
        almost $294 million dollars into the local economy
    -   Congestion, accidents, and injuries on highways already cost
        companies billions of dollars every year in Ontario and influence
        tourists to choose alternate destinations for future vacations
    -   While Northern Ontario offers the shortest distance to enter certain
        marketplaces, insufficient infrastructure can influence companies to
        choose other routes
    -   With the vast majority of other province's portions of the Trans
        Canada Highway almost completely 4-laned, Northern Ontario will be
        unable to compete for new economic opportunities unless its
        infrastructure is improved.
    


    Stakeholder Quotes - Transcanada Highway Improvement Act
    (Highway 17), 2006

    Karl Walsh, President & CEO - Ontario Provincial Police Association:
    "The Ontario Provincial Police Association congratulates MPP David
Orazietti for taking the initiative to improve public safety on our highways
through the introduction of his Private Member's Bill."

    Doug Mayhew, Manager, Public & Government Affairs - CAA:
    "Highway 17 is the life blood road from Eastern to Western Ontario. It
carries not just the goods we produce, the products we need and the tourism we
require but our futures. As one of Ontario's most important portions of our
national highway system, Highway 17 deserves a comprehensive partnership
between the Ontario and Canadian Governments, working toward increased safety
and efficiency on the road. The Eastern and Northern parts of Ontario require
the same excellence in highway development as the remainder of the province. A
safe and functional Highway 17 is a total necessity for the communities in the
north. The time lines for highway re-development are too long; the time for
joint action is today."

    David Bradley, President - Ontario Trucking Association:
    "The Ontario Trucking Association has always been very concerned about
the need to improve Highway 17 through Northern Ontario. This 2 lane highway,
which is quite narrow in many places, is carrying more and more traffic,
including trucks, and its time to address the need for improvements. Adding
more rest areas, passing lanes, paved shoulders, and ultimately widening to
four lanes will all have an impact on the safety and efficiency of this key
link not only between Ontario and the western provinces, but between the
communities in northern Ontario. Safe and dependable highway transportation
links are the key to economic development and growth, and improving Highway 17
would have a real impact on the prosperity of the North. David Orazietti
deserves a lot of credit for undertaking this initiative in order to try and
draw more attention to the need for action and OTA is pleased to be able offer
our support for his Bill."

    Rob Bradford, Executive Director - Ontario Road Builders' Association:
    "The Ontario Road Builders' Association supports joint federal-provincial
planning, funding and action to address the $25-billion deficit faced by
Canada's National Highway System. Therefore, the Ontario Road Builders
Association supports Mr. Orazietti's Private Member's Bill to address the need
for improvement of Highway 17. This is an important initiative in terms of
safety for Ontarians and our province's competitive ability, as well as
Canada's overall transportation objectives. Highway 17, both in the Eastern
part of the Province and across the Northwest of Ontario to the Manitoba
border, is an essential strategic highway link that no longer serves commuter
or economic interests adequately."

    Brian Patterson President and General Manager- Ontario Safety League:
    "The Ontario Safety League has supported road safety initiatives since
1913. We congratulate Mr. Orazietti's efforts with respect to Bill149. The
Safety League believes that proper planning in both road construction and
improvement is one of the reasons Ontario has the safest roads in North
America."

    Mayor John Rowswell (Sault Ste. Marie):
    "Northern Ontario needs good transportation infrastructure because our
region is the inner core of Canada - we tie Canada together. In the global
economy, a strong core builds a strong country that can complete globally.
David Orazietti's Private Member's Bill advances our nation and the province
of Ontario with critical infrastructure to ensure we are successful for
decades to come".

    Bruce Strapp, CEO - Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation:
    "As an economic development practitioner in Northern Ontario, I am a
proud supporter of Mr. David Orazietti's Private Member's Bill 149. The Act,
respecting the improvement of Highway 17, has the potential to stimulate
economic growth and development in Northern Ontario, a goal of both the
Province of Ontario and the federal government. New investments in Highway 17
would lessen travel time and reduce safety hazards for both commercial truck
and tourism travelers. Improving Highway 17 will enhance the perception for
Northern Ontario as an attractive place to live, visit, and invest, especially
to our U.S. marketplace. Certainly, the opportunity to move forward on the
development of a comprehensive plan for improving Highway 17 makes a lot of
common sense for the Province of Ontario."

    Robert Dumanski, President - Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce:
    "The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the efforts
for the development of a plan to improve the Highway 17 portion of the Trans
Canada Highway. This would help communities throughout the north tremendously
to attract business development as well as enhance the businesses already in
the north. This is long overdue and we would encourage a specific commitment
from both the federal and provincial governments".





For further information:

For further information: David Orazietti at (705) 949-6959

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