By Isabella Keats
A lot of people work in Toronto, but not all of them live here. If you don’t live in the city how are you getting here? A highway. Toronto can see upward of one million people a day commuting to and from work so there is no shock that our highways are going to be jammed. One solution the Ontario government had proposed was to build a new highway— Introducing Highway 413.
Highway 413 would be 59 kilometers long running from Halton Region in the west all the way to Vaughan in the east. Throughout the highway, it would connect with other Highways including the 400, 410, and 427. The government claims that the new highway will save commuters roughly 30 minutes each way when crossing the Greater Toronto Area. Let's say you work five days a week and drive to and from work. With Highway 413 you would save around five hours a week on your commute.
Now Highway 413 sounds like a good idea, but like other things in life, there will always be problems.
Issue number one is the land the highway cuts through. The highway would cross 400 acres of the Greenbelt, and 2,000 acres of Class 1 and Class 2 farmland. Class 1 and Class 2 farmland means that the soil has moderate/no significant limitations when it comes to growing crops. Because these soils have the least amount of limitations, they are very valuable to farmers. In Ontario, agriculture contributes $47 billion a year to the provincial economy so it’s a wonder why the government would want to build through this precious land.
Highway 413 would also destroy important archaeological sites. It would be built through land that has long been inhabited by the Huron-Wendat, and according to them, it would split sensitive headwaters of four watersheds within Mississauga of the Credit First Nation's territory. The project would also affect ceremonial sites, burial sites, and the cultural landscape of the area.
The third issue with this highway is the amount of pollution the construction will produce. At this current point in time, we should be focusing on global warming, even more than we already are, because of the impacts it has already caused and what else it will cause in the future. This highway will send us many steps back in the progress we have made. In the building of Highway 413, over 17 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions will be produced, costing $1.4 billion in environmental damages. We should be avoiding situations like this, not slamming on the accelerator to go.
Lastly, is the cost. It’s unknown to taxpayers how much this project will cost them because the Ford government hasn’t told the people of Ontario. The PC party did designate $25 billion to their infrastructure-filled pre-election budget, but we have yet to be provided with an estimate of what the project would cost taxpayers.
Less traffic would be great, but when farmland, indigenous land, and climate change are at risk, a highway should not be our biggest focus.