Highway vs. Growth Plan

    
    Proposed highway expansion at odds with provincial Growth Plan will test
    government's commitment
    

TORONTO, Nov. 3 /CNW/ - A case filed in Divisional Court today will test the Ontario government's commitment to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The SMART Coalition has filed a suit alleging that the Ministry of Transportation's plan to build a new highway between Cambridge and Brantford contradicts the province's own Growth Plan.

"Ever since the SMART Coalition became aware of the Ministry of Transportation's intention to thwart the Growth Plan and build an unnecessary highway, we have been asking the province how this could be happening. So have our local municipalities. None of us has answers," said Stuart Lang, President of the SMART (Save Money And Reduce Traffic) Coalition.

If the highway goes forward as planned, it will set a precedent that the Growth Plan is not legally binding and could re-open the door for continued uncontrolled sprawl across the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

"The significance of this case goes beyond the hundreds of acres of prime farmland that will be paved over; it threatens the validity of the Growth Plan. We already have municipalities that are annexing green spaces and farmland by failing to comply with the Growth Plan. It is the province's responsibility to enforce the Growth Plan to prevent this type of sprawl, but if it builds this highway outside of its own legislation it will absolutely lose that authority," said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has initiated the building process for a new highway by submitting a terms of reference for an individual Environmental Assessment to the Ministry of the Environment. The Ministry is being challenged by the SMART Coalition, a group of concerned citizens who have been working together since 2007 to oppose an entirely new highway and route to connect Highway 401 and 403. The province alleges its work is about better connecting Brantford and Cambridge, but these communities already have a highway connecting them, Highway 24.

"The Growth Plan is supposed to provide better connections between priority communities, not better connections between provincial highways," said Rodney Northey, legal counsel for the SMART Coalition. "New highways in rural Ontario will simply promote urban growth in places where rural lands and communities are supposed to be protected."

The study area for the proposed highway includes lands directly adjacent to the Ontario Greenbelt and thousands of acres of prime agricultural land. The study also suggests the new highway could also run through environmentally sensitive areas and provincially significant wetlands in a region that has been identified as an essential expansion area for the Greenbelt.

About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research solutions. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to Canada's contribution to climate change.

About the SMART Coalition (www.smartcoalition.ca): The SMART (Save Money And Reduce Traffic) Coalition was formed in 2007 in response to the attempt to push a road through Puslinch, Ontario with an Environmental Assessment that was already well advanced. SMART consists of local residents who have a genuine attachment to this quiet rural township and a concern for environmental issues.

SOURCE Environmental Defence

For further information: For further information: or to arrange interviews, please contact: Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232, (647) 280-9521 (cell); Stuart Lang, SMART Coalition, (519) 658-0423; Rodney Northey, Fogler, Rubinoff LLP, (416) 941-8880, rnorthey@foglers.com

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