Differing views on the inevitability of an Escarpment highway; Mayor has decided an opinion is too risky politically.

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

October 18, 2014



The matter of economic development for Burlington came up during the Chamber of Commerce debate at the Gold and Country Club. Peter Rusin a candidate for the office of Mayor wanted to see the city get more of a wiggle on and work with the province to make something happen.

Best Green arrow map

That faint yellow arrow is where provincial road planners thought an Escarpment highway could go.

Rusin maintains an NGTA highway is inevitable and the Mayor, in an offside remark to Rusin, said he agrees with Rusin but politically can’t say anything.

Rusin in a statement said: The Niagara GTA Corridor Study is a well advanced, significant provincial integrated transportation infrastructure initiative which will have a significant impact on this city. It is imperative that we engage the province in a proactive and collaborative spirit to ensure that we do not compromise the preservation of the escarpment and greenland areas.

“At the same time, however, the need for easing of traffic congestion and enhancement of economic development potential must be recognized and the city’s elected representatives must be honest about this.

“This council has misled people by leading everybody to falsely believe that the Niagara highway issue has been put to rest, and that the city can actually neutralize provincial plans that are designed for the benefit of regional economic well-being.

Escarpment from Walkers Line Oct - 12

Is there a road in there somewhere? Is the Escarpment an inevitable location for a new highway?

“Nothing is further from the truth. The truth is, if we fail to take an active participatory role, we may very well see an alignment of a highway extension which will not be favourable to the overall vision of the city and the rural areas north of the 407 highway.

“It is my intention to preserve our rural areas, including villages and settlement areas such as Kilbride, Lowville, and Mount Nemo, and also not have the Urban Boundary reinstated to Number 1 Side Road as in the past.

“The provincial environmental assessment process has identified several proposed routes that would have significant adverse impacts on the escarpment; that is why this city needs to take blinders off, deal with the issue in a responsible manner, ensure a route that does not affect the escarpment and rural areas is successful, and not continue misleading the people of Burlington.”

Mayoral Goldring was asked for a statement but did not respond.

It is unfortunate that outdated ideology prevails in some minds on sustainable transportation planning. Sue McMaster, co-chair of the Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) said: “With climate change impacts (very costly)and gridlock in the GTA, why this highway would be linked to critical economic development is interesting.

McMaster went on to say: “Studies on transportation planning clearly link economic development to transit lines which is why it is so important that the provincial government invest in Metrolinx’ Big Move. It targets congestion where it is. The location of the Mid Pen Hwy is out in left field – it’s the wrong solution in the wrong location.” She added “… the much bigger issue is climate change. We are only just starting to feel the impact. Not only is it important not to contribute to the problem by building more highways, it important to preserve our rural land for food production from the predictable development.

McMaster pointed to the Lincoln Alexander highway and pointed out that: “It is unfortunate that outdated ideology prevails in some minds on sustainable transportation planning. Jobs and economic develop aren’t contingent on building a highway. The Link in Hamilton is a wonderful example of the fallacy of highways as economic drivers. The thousands of jobs promised with the Link never materialized.”

There is a lot of fuzzy thinking going on about just what it is going to take to make the right kind of economic development happen.

Rusin Hamilton in background softer look

Peter Rusin, candidate for the office of Mayor said a new highway in or real close to Burlington is inevitable.

Rusin has some significant on the ground experience with land use planning and has been involved in resolving land use problems related to a number of major highway developments. Rusin and McMaster, a leader in the Citizens Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) might want to get together and exchange some thoughts. Add Geoff Brock, COPE spokesperson  to that get together, he has some very sound views on what is needed.

The Mayor of Burlington probably hasn’t had a long talk with the COPE people recently either.

One wishes Peter Rusin had decided to run for the office of Mayor at least three months ago – Burlington is missing out on a level of political energy and ideas about how Burlington can be grown and at the same time keep what it has that makes it the really nice place it is. If we don’t do something with what we have the province might just decide to merge us with Oakville – they’ve done things like that before.


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7 comments to Differing views on the inevitability of an Escarpment highway; Mayor has decided an opinion is too risky politically.

  • pinzerella

    Minor point, but the provincal government continues to fund ‘consultants’ who are developing A PLAN for this highway …

    Until the FUNDING stops, this issue is still very much ‘on the table’.

    Like it or not …

  • Peter Rusin

    I have a lot of respect for Mr. Mulkewich. People loved the man when he was in office for good reason. However, the times have changed as this city continues to grow, and I just needed to clarify and challenge some of his criticism about current issues as well as some inaccuracies about my position. My position is not what some people state.

    I wish Mr. Mulkewich well, and I am happy to see that he continues to have passion and care for the city and for the people who call this city home. Thank you Mr. Mulkewich.

    Peter Rusin for Mayor year 2014.

  • Kurt

    I agree wholeheartedly with Sue McMaster.
    Unfortunately most politicians are still pretending there is no climate change, or only tackle the low hanging fruits of that issue.
    I find it hard to believe that “and the Mayor, in an offside remark to Rusin, said he agrees with Rusin but politically can’t say anything.” He has been one of the strongest proponents to keep the MPH out of Burlington.

  • Walter Mulkewich

    If Mr Rusin is quoted correctly in this post, it shows that Mr Rusin is out of touch with both urban and transportation planning for the twenty first century and that he even has his facts wrong.

    First, he indicates that the urban boundary should be “reinstated to the Number 1 Sideroad as in the past”. This is a factual error in that the City of Burlington and Region of Halton have been clear in all their official planning documents that the urban boundary is to be at Dundas Street and 407 Highway. To my knowledge it has never been at the Number 1 Side road.

    Second, there is a serious inconsistency in his comment that you can preserve the rural area, villages, and settlement areas with a highway in their midst. Impossible.

    Third, he is suggesting that traffic congestion and gridlock can be eased with a new highway, a position that is old fashioned twentieth century thinking and unaffordable in the twenty first century. Current transportation research and thinking shows that adding more lanes of highways only means that they will be filled without easing traffic congestion, that twentieth first century solutions involve urban planning and integrated transportation planning along with convenient transit.

    Fourth, he suggests that the City has not treated the Environmental Assessment for a new highway seriously, that it had blinders on. The facts do not support that point. The City has been thorough and thoughtful in its position and fully responsible in seeking to prevent the destruction of the escarpment and rural area.

    Fifth. He does not address the major issue of our times, climate change. Sue McMaster correctly points out that we cannot deal effectively with climate change and the floods climate change induces) by building more air polluting highways.

    • Peter Rusin

      I never said what Mulkewich infers.

      Walter, it was I that cleaned up the remainder of the 407 outstanding land disputes across Burlington and Oakville, about 10 years after you left the mayor’s chair.

      The province hired me to do that work. A clean-up that could partly have been resolved with your participation if you were on top of the files, and you could have worked with the province to secure some of those lands instead of paying tens of millions of dollars out in the differential between urban development land rates and agricultural rates to property owners who still continue to own their land. The cases that set the stage were arbitrated at great expense to the taxpayers. I then came in and saved tens of millions of dollars for the taxpayers; I took charge, fired a bunch of lawyers and made the decisions on final settlements. Go ask the Attorney General’s office and the provincial Auditor for the file records and my involvement.

      There are written OMB decisions that determined the relevant land use planning policies in place at the time, including the parkway belt west planning area prior to the hard line of the 407 new urban boundary limits. Those decisions reflected the Number 1 Sideroad urban boundary, which was the basis for the compensation disputes.

      I sir am not promoting a new highway. The province is. Time for everybody to wake up and accept the fact that there is an active Environmental Assessment process that will define the preferred alignment with or without the city’s input. My recommendation is to work in a collaborative and cooperative spirit with the province to ensure the best outcome for the city.

      You present a perfect example of lack of knowledge, lack of ability, and the need for misleading people as to what is going on; same as the Goldring regime. That is why I am running for mayor; to educate the people, not to mislead them or lie to them, and to encourage working together with other levels of government so that these types of situations don’t happen again, at the cost of increased taxes in exchange for incompetent and stubborn political posturing.

      The only person out of touch with urban planning and transportation planning is people like yourself. I work all across the province on transportation projects, and have chaired the resolution of disputes specific to land use planning and transportation infrastructure all across the province; I was appointed by provincial cabinet by an order in council to do that for the benefit of the taxpayer, to promote access to justice, and to save money for all taxpayers.

      Climate change management comes with SmartGrowth strategies which is the foundation of my platform.

      It is offensive to hear you imply that the flooding issue was the fault of the people who were victims of the August floods, and that a highway that is yet to be constructed caused the flooding.

      My response to another misleading politician out of touch with reality.

      Please read my platform carefully. Peter Rusin for Mayor.

      • Ken Woodruff

        I am really confused (as well as disappointed) by your response. The provincial government is NOT promoting a new highway. As a matter of fact, in April 2013, Transportation Minister, Glenn Murray described highway development as “last century kind of infrastructure” that is inefficient and unaffordable. Thankfully, the Wynn government appears to have concluded that decent public transit in the GTA and Golden Horseshoe is the priority. Please take a look at the lack of jobs, urban congestion and environmental damage the is the Red Hill Expressway and imagine that on our Escarpment lands – definitely anything but “SmartGrowth”

      • Tom Muir

        Mr.Rusin, you must be losing it in the heat of the campaign. Why else would you attack Walter so personally and vindictively, and then smear this invective over to Mayor Goldring? You should know that ad hominem attacks are not an argument.

        We have spent untold billions growing ever outwards, and building roads to match, but we can’t build them fast enough and all we have really done is increase the gridlock. We have been doing this for more than 100 years and for you and your supporters it seems it’s still not enough.

        A new highway is not smart, never mind smart growth. It’s not like there is a Tinker Bell we know that can just wave her magic wand and lay the highway down in place with no fuss no bother.

        Have you thought about the problem of time, and the different scales that the present gridlock is on versus the time needed to get a new highway in place and functioning? Just getting the right-of-way organized will take years, and do I really have to detail the entire process of assessment, design, appeals, lawsuits, courts, bidding, evaluation, construction, etc etc. It will take 20 years.

        And where will the money come from (more billions) and who will pay and who will benefit.

        Your road is a non solution to the wrong problem. I won’t be voting for you that’s for sure, after this intemperate and somewhat brash outburst (pardon the harsh word).

        As far as I remember, Councillor John Taylor has led the charge in opposition, and with Mayor McIsaac in his day, held a public meeting where about 300 people showed up to support the city position against. And as far as I know Mayor Goldring is still in that camp – he needs to declare himself on this file – and I do know that Councillor Taylor is for sure as he has already declared where he stands.

        We need to do the Big Move right now and I have told Walter, as he was involved, that the province should just borrow the money (interest rates are very low), and get going. Interest rates are low, and I think the people of the province would come on side once they see action and effect. Take 30 years to pay it back.