Ontario Liberals pledge to cancel Hwy 413, build and repair schools instead
New Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca speaks at the convention in Mississauga, Ont., Saturday, March 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
TORONTO -- As opposition over the controversial Highway 413 continues to grow, Ontario’s Liberal party is making a campaign-style pledge to cancel the project and re-invest the funds into the education system.
The GTA-West corridor, a super highway that would connect the 407 in Mississauga to the 410 in Vaughan, has been the subject of debate and pushback from local municipalities who have warned about the project’s “disastrous” environmental impact.
While all three opposition parties have vowed to tear up the project after the next election, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca has revealed plans to redirect the $6 to $10 billion in capital costs to the education sector building schools and new child-care spaces.
“Ontario Liberals stopped this reckless project once before and we will do it again,” Del Duca said, adding the funds would be used to modernize existing schools, while making classrooms “healthier, safer and climate resilient.”
Originally scrapped by the former Liberal government in 2018, Highway 413 was revived by the Ford government a year later, which said the 52 kilometer highway would improve the flow of goods through Peel Region while easing the traffic burden on the jam-packed 401.
The Green Party argues, however, that the super highway would pave over 2,000 acres of farmland, cut through 400 acres of the Greenbelt and would only save drivers "30 seconds per trip."
A number of municipalities including Mississauga, Vaughan, Orangeville and Halton Hills, as well as the Regions of Peel and Halton pulled their support for the project -- a move that forced the Ford government onto shaky ground.
“We of course have to work closely with our partners in the area. There is an environmental assessment to do,” Government House Leader Paul Calandra told the Legislature on Mar. 10th.
“If it makes sense, we’ll do it, if it doesn’t, then we won’t.”
In a policy announcement today, Del Duca is promising to direct money away from the cancelled highway and into the school system by investing $8 billion over five years to “build hundreds of new schools” while also pledging to tackle the $16-billion school repair backlog.
The party said the money would be spent on: upgraded heating, ventilation and air conditioning; boilers and plumbing; high-speed broadband.
While Del Duca said the funds would be spent to build new schools and child care spaces, the party did not provide any projected numbers, citing the need to consult with school boards before making allocations.
The party said however, in-school child-care centres would see a “significant increase” in spaces as the party pledges to create a universal child care program.
The party said the $1.6 billion per year capital investment commitment would stand regardless of the status of Highway 413.