New advertising blitz questions Ontario Highway 413 pricetag
Do we need a highway or more hospitals?
That’s the question a new advertising campaign launched by the David Suzuki Foundation will ask transit riders of Highway 413, a new six-lane, 52-kilometre roadway proposed by the Doug Ford government.
“Everyone knows it's terrible in terms of (the) environment,” Gideon Forman, a transportation policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation, told CTV News Toronto.
“It's going to crush part of the Greenbelt. It's going to pave over a huge amount of farmland. But we also want to point out that it's a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money.”
The two advertisements will soon be posted all across the TTC in Toronto and on Brampton Transit buses.
The first poster features an image of a crowded bus and says “let’s spend the billions allocated to Hwy. 413 on better bus service.”
The other is less specific and asks what building a new highway would cost the province.
“What else could that money buy,” the advertisement asks. “Hospitals, nursing, daycare, schools, better transit – you name it.”
“Let’s get our priorities right. Save the Greenbelt and invest in people.”
The David Suzuki Foundation is placing ads on transit asking questions about Highway 413.. (Provided)
Highway 413 became a major pledge of Premier Doug Ford after he was first elected in 2018.
The proposed route would see the highway travel from Halton to York Region and connect to highways 401, 407 and 410.
The Ontario government has said it will save commuters about 30 minutes in driving time. However, advocates have long argued the government is downplaying the environmental impact the new 400 series highway would have.
The federal government has previously said the proposal warrants designation under the Impact Assessment Act, which would give them the authority to evaluate how climate change may be impacted by the project.
However, in the 2023 budget Highway 413 remained a key infrastructure investment.
Despite this, the estimated cost of the project is still unclear.
When asked by CTV News Toronto on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the minister of transportation said that “specific cost estimates will be developed as part of the preliminary design of the preferred route.”
The proposed route of Highway 413 is shown. (Ontario Ministry of Transportation)
In November 2022, an auditor general report suggested the pricetag could be more than $4 billion.
The Ontario Liberals have previously said the cost could be closer to $10 billion, while the David Suzuki Foundation is using an $8-billion figure in their advertising.
“No one knows exactly what it'll cost and typically these projects are over budget,” Forman said.
He said that $8 billion could pay for about 11 new hospitals or 40,000 affordable housing units, something he said would “make a real dent in homelessness.”
“We could move three times as many people on public transit for a billion dollars less than the highway,” Forman said. “We could hire tens of thousands of nurses. We could do any one of those things with the cost of 413, he said.
“It just doesn't make sense from any point of view, not just the environmental, which of course we're concerned about, but just from a dollars point of view.”
Dakota Brasier, a senior communications advisor for the minister of transportation, said the government’s “goal is to ensure the best value for taxpayer dollars possible for building this highway.”
“Work is well underway to advance this critical infrastructure project, which will help alleviate traffic congestion, support good jobs and keep people and goods moving across the Greater Toronto Area,” Brasier said, adding that the new highway is expected to generate up to $350 million in real GDP per year.
The advertisements set to appear on GTA transit will have a QR code bringing residents to a petition that asks the federal government to put a stop to the highway. As of Tuesday morning, that petition already had close to 42,000 signatures.
Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has previously voiced concerns about how the Ontario government is removing acres of the Greenbelt. Earlier this month, the minister said he will launch an environmental study on how Ford’s decision to use 7,400 acres of protected land for development will impact natural features in Rouge National Urban Park.
The premier, however, has said he is “not too concerned” about the review.
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