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© Lora Denis
The former mayor of Toronto, David Crombie, once gave me invaluable insight about how we view nature. He said, “We look at green spaces and nature as places with potential. Potential for housing, potential for strip malls, potential for highways – not as if they already have a purpose. We need to recognize they aren’t places with future potential, they are places that have important existing purpose in our wellbeing and our planet’s health.
A case in point are the special lands within the Greenbelt now being eyed for highways and more sprawl. These lands provide our water, clean our air, reduce flooding and grow our food. Most have heard of Highway 413, but there’s a sinister, shorter cousin planned to cut through the Greenbelt south of Lake Simcoe – the Bradford Bypass.
The Bradford Bypass, or the Holland Marsh Highway – is a 16 km, four to six lane freeway that would cross several watercourses feeding into Lake Simcoe’s Cooks Bay and bisect the lake’s largest and most important wetland, the Holland Marsh.
Originally planned over 30 years ago, an environmental assessment in 1997 warned of contamination of surface and groundwater, loss of significant wetlands and habitats, increased air pollution and loss of farmland. These studies were completed well before the Greenbelt Plan, Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, Clean Water Act, Growth Plan and Endangered Species Act. The studies reflect neither the full extent of the impacts nor new knowledge about climate change and biodiversity loss.
Indeed, the highway will run directly through the habitat of at least 11 species at risk.
Groups organizing against the Holland Marsh Highway are demanding updated studies that reflect current concerns about Lake Simcoe, climate change and biodiversity loss as well as a full investigation of alternatives such as regional transit and regional road improvements. Such scrutiny is reasonable before we spend almost $1 billion for this highway, no?
But, money talks and fiefdoms must be built, apparently. The Government of Ontario is not only ignoring these reasonable requests, but is proposing to exempt the highway from the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act. This would fast-track bridge construction, road widening and utility relocation before completing studies required as a condition of the 1997 Environmental Assessment approval.
If the bridges are built before studies are completed, the highway is much more likely to go forward. It’s much harder to stop once damage is done and key pieces are already assembled.
We cannot afford to sacrifice significant wetlands to pavement and sprawl. Please join us in asking the government to reject the proposed exemption from the Environmental Assessment Act and to ensure that the Holland Marsh Highway gets the scrutiny it deserves.
Breaking – The Federal government rejects second call for review of Ontario’s Bradford Bypass highway project: https://thenarwhal.ca/bradford-bypass-federal-review-rejected/
The coming election is about the Ford government assaults on nature, on public education, on health, on workers, on the poor and on the future. Fight back!
This is not new. The developers play a long game and they lend money to the municipalities to “improve the infrastructure” (i.e. build the bridges and roads) that then opens up even more development opportunities, also known as infill. Any parcel of land bounded by roads is not safe, never safe. Wetlands and butternut trees are trifling obstacles. They have been planning this for 25 years and it’s “just a matter of time” before they get it.
We need to fix Ontario laws and the Municipal Board and also Ontario’s very own Growth Plan that mandates this be done. It doesn’t even occur to them they’re corrupt and playing a long con game. Con is almost a pun – a huge chunk of the 905 in Ontario is perpetually cynical/angry, always seeking More, looking backwards and yet resisting the few measures that truly go forwards, and perpetually voting Conservative. They see a lot of money (“their” money) being thrown around and they never get a slice of the pie, or so they feel, except for Property Values that’re generated entirely by immigration and the wealth of a cosmopolitan elite that takes little interest in the long-term interests of the former-rurals.
This is also one of the reasons why the Conservatives are finally backing plans for mental health – too many of their constituents suffer from all the attendant problems of municipal growth (imposed change simply may not be resisted if you’re not part of a collective identity!) and so-called economic growth, and what benefits they realize, they misdirect in maladaptive ways. There are a lot of very poor folks in Ontario whose actual income has little bearing on their poverty.
Sorry for the rant, but this is a cultural and legal problem as well as a planning and environmental problem. Ontarians have a lot of work to do, and scant personal and political desire for collective self-examination in order to address it.
Hire Ecojustice to defend the Holland Marsh and stop this horrible project!
the province and the world does not need more blacktop contributing
to global warming. Please stop this freeway!
Taking care of Lake Simcoe should be everyone’s priority right now. Doing this just to save time on the highway and ensure transport trucks avoid the top end of the 401 is the wrong reason to push this through. All the benefits of wetlands,lakes,rivers will be gone and if you think flooding events are frequent now just wait! I am disappointed in all levels of government on this and in particular my township of Adjala-Tosorontio where I lost the vote to rescind this letter of support in council.
Regardless of political party in power the environment protection is not a priority in the equation.
Ontario didn’t get the dubious title of being the most indebted provincial government in the world by accident.
It appears the Conservatives are also continuing the habits of previous 15 years of Liberal rule.
“They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot” as the song goes.
The Ford government has moved quickly during the cover of the pandemic to further the interests of land developers and speculative business interests.
Only an election may bring to a halt the erosion of years of sound environmental policies. The proposed highway will make a few investors great returns and sadly create significant losses to the area the route passes through, Perhaps worse, the highway will open areas north of the GTA to long term degradation. In the name of more housing (?). The conservatives hope to solidify their existing supporters and attract new support for and investment in areas previously protected. Sadly, in the face of weakening the role of conservation authorities across the province announcements of new “land” to be set aside is nothing more than a smoke screen to obfuscate their real intent.Mike Harris floated the idea of selling off conservation lands during his term and Ford seems to be attempting a different tactic.Stay tuned.
Another insane highway project that will endanger the environment and put species at risk. This must be stopped!
This, like so many other development projects initiated with the support of this government, will have devastating long term effects on the health of the environment and our own.
We should be demanding that this Proposal be stopped. People before profit!
The Bradford Bypass is another example of excessive roadbuilding, which destroys natural habitat. Thanks to Ontario Nature to create this petition.
It would be irresponsible not to do a proper environmental assessment before committing to this project. An exemption should not be granted and the assessment should be publicly accessible.
The Holland Marsh is such a gift to our environment in southern Ontario. Please don’t put it at risk!
The slippery slope of authoritarian governments!! If going backwards wasn’t possible these governments like the current provincial government in Ontario wouldn’t have any policy to offer. The proposed Bradford Bypass, or the Holland Marsh Highway is another one of these backward decisions that Ontario can ill a’Ford’.
Simply ignoring long standing environmental assessments warning of “contamination of surface and groundwater, loss of significant wetlands and habitats, increased air pollution and loss of farmland” is a backward way of thinking and should not be the repetitive go to method of policy decision making for the province of Ontario.
The large scale of the destructive effects of the global pandemic on Ontario, Canada and the world should also emphasize the need for real preemptive or ‘catch up’ actions and policies to curb the potential massive long term effects of global warming and climate change.
Thanks Margaret. Great article! Protecting our environment and addressing climate change should now be one of our very highest priorities! Why can’t the current Ontario Government understand that creating more sprawl, carbon emissions and dangerous pollution must stop now? The impact this highway will have on Lake Simcoe will likely be devastating! It’s really a pretty fundamental question: Do we want a reasonably healthy Lake Simcoe or the Bradford Bypass? The answer should be a no brainer! It’s highly unlikely that we can have both. Engineers are good, but not that good. Perhaps that is the trouble. It takes brains rather than lobbyists to come to the correct answer. The problem we have is this government seems to be hell bent on building this highway and highway 413 to bring about more development that we can’t service. Seeing this government’s willingness to either ignore or rewrite environmental protection laws, I fear the only way to stop this insanity is to kick them out of office at the next election. In any event, as a start, I’ve added the link to your petition on the frogs.ca website.
When are we going to learn the meaning of the phrase “people before profits”.
We need to do all we can to fight climate change in any way we can.
This must be stopped!
Disregarding environmental/ species and habitat risk to carry through on this bypass is a bad idea. As a resident of Ontario, I suggest we take a longer view in this matter and protect the natural gifts of this region. Thank you.
The Bradford Bypass makes no environmental sense from climate change to saving habitat. Thanks to Ontario Nature for creating a petition to let the OG know what an insane project this is.
The Bradford Bypass makes no environmental sense from climate change to saving habitat. Thanks to Ontario Nature for creating this petition.