What do Ontarians think of Doug Ford’s plan to build a highway through an aboriginal community?

A. Politicians know they have no more credibility as a result of the fact that both the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP ran as right-of-centre parties during the election campaign. The ensuing election hasn’t…

What do Ontarians think of Doug Ford's plan to build a highway through an aboriginal community?

A. Politicians know they have no more credibility as a result of the fact that both the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP ran as right-of-centre parties during the election campaign. The ensuing election hasn’t offered Ontarians much proof as to whether the PCs or the New Democrats would fare better economically – and when it comes to the environment, there is little evidence either has the moral courage required to address climate change.

T. Given that the new EPC has no legal authority and little support from the governing Liberals, Ontario’s political system is almost entirely under direct control of the Progressive Conservatives. Politicians from both parties, Liberals and Tories, all expect the New Democrats to accept the status quo and stick with the Liberal policies. A threat to do otherwise is viewed as a threat to the Conservatives’ power.

B. By contrast, a fifth point can have legitimate ecological concerns, especially if it’s denied by the government. Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who campaigned on wrecking much of the McGuinty government’s environmental agenda, instead appears to have his own. He has promised to move ahead with construction of a new highway connecting Kirkland Lake to Cairo, by running what will likely be a surface highway through a planned Wet’suwet’en First Nation community, whose citizens are not only opposed to the project, but have been the object of a campaign of intimidation by the current Liberal government.

As Ontario is Ontario’s most populous province, the issue of Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s opposition to the highway, as well as Ford’s decision to forgo his party’s traditional lead on environmental issues, raise the question of whether political expediency is behind Mr. Ford’s latest ideological move. Perhaps, and Ford’s acolytes suggest, the right-of-centre politician appears to have lost what little credibility he has left and simply is making a call that all other Ontarians share.

Q. Is the Ford government playing with fire?

A. The next few weeks will tell. But I suspect it was primarily a political gamble and climate change-linked concern – there is no other explanation – that drove the Premier into the new environmental commitments.

Q. What is Ford’s decision on the Highway 413 plan?

A. If he believes that scrapping the pipeline, or even the plan to build a second pipeline with even the blandest of qualifications, will help to jump-start his party’s agenda, he will likely be surprised when it doesn’t. He once identified himself as the environmental leader of the province, yet still did little to bolster that reputation.

Q. What environmental concerns underlie the planned Highway 413?

A. One suspects that Ford doesn’t have an answer, or at least one that is supported by evidence, beyond invoking a need to “move on” from his party’s failed track record on the environment. What we do know is that the new EPC, charged with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, isn’t the point of an EPC; it is the reason. Ford’s commitment to bringing more people to the province by building more highways won’t work if people simply move there without regard to their environment. People can move to a more developed community or they can stay in a more developed community, but not both.

Q. Are there any facts worth citing in support of the provincial government’s reasons for building a highway along a First Nation’s ancestral lands?

A. There isn’t. The current plan, which would be implemented over more than a decade in exchange for federal funding, is a benefit to some people – many of them British Columbians – but not others.

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