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Bradford Bypass protest held outside Mulroney’s office (6 photos)

Protest included several speakers who spoke on climate action, hoping to fix traffic issues in a sustainable way

More than 50 people gathered in front of Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney’s constituency office in Holland Landing Saturday afternoon to protest the Bradford Bypass and Highway 413 projects.

The demonstrators were made up of local resident and environmental groups including Stop Sprawl York Region.

The protest featured several speakers who spoke on climate action, hoping to fix traffic issues in a sustainable way. 

“We were talking about in the last election saving the Greenbelt and making sure it wouldn’t be paved over,” said organizer Margaret Prophet of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “Some of you may not realize there are three highways planned for the Greenbelt — the 413, the Bradford Bypass, and there will be a 404 extension that cuts entirely through the Greenbelt almost 55 kilometres up to Highway 48.

"All three highways together we have over 150 kilometres of Greenbelt land that is going to be lost, plowing over some of our best farmland, best wetlands, and endangered species habitats. We’re here today to say no to that," she added. 

The organizers of the demonstration were handing out information that included different ways the province could spend the $800 million to $2.2 billion that they claim the Bradford Bypass is estimated to cost.

To date, the government has not confirmed the costs of the highway.

“We worked with the Canadian Centre of Policy alternatives to figure out what could be done with this money,” said Prophet. “We have chosen to pave and destroy instead of investing that money.”

The alternatives listed included hiring 12,000 more nurses in Ontario for $1 billion, increasing care staff for all seniors in long-term care for $1.6 billion, reducing class sizes in grades kindergarten to 12 for $850 million, and expanding OHIP coverage for seniors and youth for $1.5 billion.

Barrie and District Labour Council president Michele MacDonald was in attendance to speak on the importance of building healthy communities and the effect of climate change on jobs.

“I know what this bypass is going to do to this community,” she said. “Climate action is union business, workers in Canada and around the world are already experiencing the impacts of climate change on their lives and livelihoods and on their health and safety. To achieve a green recovery, we need governments to rebuild our economy in a way that is more fair, that protects the planet, creates jobs that are both green and decent and leaves no one behind.”

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on jobs, MacDonald explained the key to economic recovery is through green investment.

“Millions of jobs were lost because of the pandemic,” she said. “The economic shut down had a disproportionate effect on women, radicalized workers, and Indigenous people who face systemic barriers. Governments must make improvements that will kick start local economies and replace lost jobs with better ones. The public sector will be crucial to every aspect of a green future.

“We need investments in smart resilient public infrastructure like public transit, a renewable energy system, broadband networks, health and social services, and education. The money being used to support this bypass and the other highways could be better spent on these projects. If we’ve learned anything in the last two years, it’s that we need to and have worked differently. We don’t need more highways; we need more investments in our children’s future.”

Debbie Schaefer, Ward 5 councillor in King Township, also spoke about the investment choices being made by the provincial government.

“I came today because there’s a lot of things we’re not protecting,” she said. “We’re not protecting our environment and our communities. What really bothers me is that we’re setting the stage for future communities, which are not going to be the livable great places that they should be. We’re in the Greater Golden Horseshoe of Ontario, very rich and very fertile, this should be a great sustainable place to live and that’s not happening.

"What’s at risk is where and how we grow, the affordability of our homes, and climate change. We are not addressing these risks effectively. This really bugs me because we know how to do better, there is the science, there are the professionals who could be and should be giving us the options, telling us what the issues are, and what it would take to mitigate it. But we aren’t doing that," Schaefer added. 

The organizers also provided those in attendance with a list of four actions to consider for the future of the province: reducing phosphorus loads, protecting natural heritage, stopping sprawl, and cancelling the Bradford Bypass and future 400 series highways in the Lake Simcoe watershed and Greenbelt. The demonstrators told those who wish to have their voices heard on the issue to call their local representatives and to consider the actions prior to voting in the provincial election in June.

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Rob Paul

About the Author: Rob Paul

Rob Paul is a journalist with BradfordToday and InnisfilToday. He has a passion for sports and community feature stories.
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