Local community members opposed to Highway 413 are organizing walks and bike rides on Saturday that pass through sections of farmland, forests and the Greenbelt threatened by the proposed route.

The event is being led by the Grandmothers Act to Save the Planet (GASP) in collaboration with Concerned Citizens of King Township, EcoCaledon, Halton Hills Climate Action, Seniors for Climate Action Now, the Unitarian congregation in Mississauga and the Wilderness Committee, according to a statement by Environmental Defence.

“The fact that Premier Doug Ford has promised us, once again, that he will not touch the Greenbelt says to me that the 413 should also now be off the table since sections of it will plow through the Greenbelt,” Betty de Groot, a member of EcoCaledon, said in a statement. “We're here to remind him to keep his promise and look into other solutions to traffic congestion, like stopping urban sprawl, increasing transit options and opening up lanes on the 407 for trucks."

Public opposition to the government's highway plan has been mounting, particularly after the recent Greenbelt land swap scandal, fuelled by two scathing reports released last month by the province's auditor general and its integrity commissioner.

The proposed 60-kilometre Highway 413, also known as the GTA West Corridor, aims to alleviate congestion in the fast-growing Greater Toronto Area, connecting Milton and Vaughan. However, if built, it would cut through 2,000 acres of farmland, cross 85 waterways, pave nearly 400 acres of protected Greenbelt land, disrupt 220 wetlands and impact the habitats of 10 species at risk.

Ford last month reversed his plan to open the protected Greenbelt lands for housing development. Environmental Defence welcomed Ford's decision but emphasized the immediate need to cancel the entire Highway 413 project.

"Building roads creates carbon emissions and also leads to more carbon emissions from people driving on them," said Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence. “According to research commissioned by Environmental Defence, Highway 413 would cause over 17 million tonnes of additional CO2 emissions by 2050 — coincidentally, the same date by which Canada is supposed to be reaching net-zero emissions.”

Gray said the estimated cost of building the highway is over $6 billion and would significantly affect historic Indigenous sites and destroy rare habitats of at-risk and endangered species.

Cheaper and more efficient public transit options, like full GO Regional Express Rail on the Kitchener and Milton corridors, a new GO corridor to Bolton, and increased bus rapid transit or light rail transit in Brampton and Vaughan are better options to address traffic congestion compared to Highway 413, as recommended by the expert panel, Gray added.

Community members opposed to Highway 413 are organizing walks and bike rides on Saturday that pass through sections of farmland, forests and the Greenbelt threatened by the proposed route. #Greenbelt

Lorraine Green, co-chair of GASP, agreed Highway 413 will hasten the destruction of species’ habitat and interrupt sensitive ecosystems, wetlands, forests and prime farmland while adding tons of CO into the atmosphere. “We support sustainable public transit, walking, cycling and better use of existing infrastructure.”

Canada’s National Observer reached out to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

The provincial government states on its website that Highway 413 is a crucial component of Ontario's strategy to expand highways and public transit in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to serve a significant population increase in the next 30 years.

Investing in infrastructure is vital in Ontario's long-term economic plan, with Highway 413 projected to contribute up to $350 million in real GDP annually during its construction, the government added.

The provincial government asserts that this project will offer opportunities in the skilled trades, with an average of up to 3,500 jobs each year during construction. The highway and transitway are intended to enhance connectivity to major employment centres, attract businesses to the region and foster the creation and sustenance of local employment opportunities, the government website reads.

This story was produced in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights for the Afghan Journalists-in-Residence program funded by the Meta Journalism Project.

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Just another Doug Ford failure as premier, with his only intent is to support his corrupt developer donors and nothing more. It is pretty clear Doug Ford can't be trusted, his promises mean nothing and is just another typical conservative snake oil salesman. I sure hope the RCMP investigation leads to charges against Doug Ford in the end, but suspect regardless what they find, Doug will only get a slap on the wrist for his corruption.

The only real justice will be at election time when Ontarians kick their butts to the curb loud and clear.