On November 30th, the Auditor General of Ontario – an independent officer of the legislature who is tasked with ensuring government spending and programs give Ontarians best value and efficiency – outlined the ballooning costs of the Bradford Bypass and how best practices were not being followed. We’ve been saying this all along.
Internal Ministry estimates show that the Bypass could cost as much as $4 billion dollars. This is a 400% increase from the original budget that the Minister of Transportation begrudgingly announced publicly in 2021 after we demanded transparency around costs of the project. We know from internal documents that the Ministry has known their estimate was a lowball since at least November 2021 and yet there has been no effort that we’ve seen to update municipal partners, local stakeholders or the public about this important piece of information.
The Auditor General also noted that at this point, the Ministry does not have the money to fulfil all of its highway promises. This begs the question of when this project will ever be fully delivered if a cash-strapped Ministry has to start making hard choices about which projects proceed. We have asked when this highway will be completed and ready for use, but again, the answers aren’t forthcoming.
The Bradford Bypass has been sold as a traffic solution. Worryingly, the Auditor General found that travel demand forecasts calculated by consultants are not verified by the Ministry or by independent experts. Despite internal reports that show the Bypass will be congested after construction and that congestion will worsen on highways 400 and 404, the province continues to intentionally mislead Ontarians using unverified traffic studies.
Let’s be clear – the Bradford Bypass was just the first step in opening up huge swaths of land for Greenbelt developers and more sprawl development. The studies they are now doing have been streamlined to a point of being meaningless while other important studies such as impacts to Lake Simcoe and climate are not being done. Protections for our wetlands and waterways have been all but gutted due to Bill 23. Another 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt is slated to be removed to allow speculators to further cash in. The vision that developers want for this region is coming into view and the expense of public health and public funds.
Altogether the province has produced a flimsy case for building this highway. The groups fighting the Bypass are asking for a transparent reconsideration of routes, including regional road improvements, that could reduce costs, provide congestion relief and lower environmental impacts. In all, this provides value for money for taxpayers. Further, we question spending $4 billion on a highway amid healthcare and education sector crises.
Lake Simcoe Watch recently released the results of a November 2022 Oraclepoll survey of which shows that public support for the Bradford Bypass highway (one-third of which traverses Greenbelt Protected Countryside) has fallen to a weak 20 per cent. The same survey shows that support for building homes on the Greenbelt is only 27 per cent.
This is a part one of three posts outlining our “two sides of the coin” approach to advocacy, or our focus on achieving what is known as “co-benefits”.
Our approach to our work has always been how we can make an impact in long-lasting and effective ways. We hold ourselves to high standards — how can we create better rules, better systems and better communities?
Internally, that means we reflect to ensure that we’re putting our values into practice. This year, we decided to adopt a different way to assess our impact.
Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.
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