After years of community opposition will Caledon be the next municipality to formally oppose 413 Highway?
Feature Image Alexis Wright/The Pointer

After years of community opposition will Caledon be the next municipality to formally oppose 413 Highway?

Premier Doug Ford’s PC government has refused to bow to public demands calling for the cancellation of the approved Highway 413 project.

While the federal environment minister came out this week with strong words against the future construction of major roadways, and after municipalities across the GTA passed resolutions condemning the plan to build a 400-series highway right next to the southern edge of the Greenbelt, Caledon has sat on the fence.

That could change, soon. 

Caledon Councillor Doug Maskell wants Town Council to formally declare its opposition, on behalf of residents, to the controversial project, which has little support across the large, mostly rural municipality. 

He added a motion on the February 13 planning committee agenda, but it was later removed when Maskell received numerous requests to speak on the matter from residents in support of his resolution who were unable to register to delegate before the deadline. 

Highway 413 is a foundational project of the Ford PCs’ developer-driven land use agenda. Since 2018, the Premier has been promising Ontarians he would get the new 400-series highway built, after the plan was scrapped by the previous Liberal government due to high costs and the lack of benefits. 

If constructed, it would pave over large stretches of agricultural land and other greenspace just south of the Greenbelt, intersecting 220 wetlands, dozens of waterways and decimating the habitat of at least 29 species at risk, according to a previous investigation by The Pointer. While he flip-flopped on his Greenbelt land grab and the promise to break up the Region of Peel, Ford has refused to back down from the 413, which will accomplish the same land use planning outcomes desired by sprawl developers who already purchased the land along the corridor chosen by the PCs to build the highway. 

The Ford government is also refusing to reconsider plans to construct the Bradford Bypass, which will cause similar harm to protected lands, endangered species habitat, significant Indigenous heritage sites and efforts to curtail Ontario’s reliance on single-occupancy vehicles. 

The public has voiced widespread opposition to these developer-led highway initiatives. 


Three-quarters of Ontarians believe highways should be kept out of the Greenbelt, according to polling from the David Suzuki Foundation.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


Polling that came out in January, commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation and done by EKOS, found that 74 percent of Ontarians think the Greenbelt is no place for a highway. This opposition is stronger among farmers with 80 percent of those polled registering opposition to the Highway 413 project. The EKOS poll results are based on a random survey of 834 Ontario adults contacted between November 17 and 26. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

“A lot of these folks are car drivers, and yet car drivers themselves are saying the Greenbelt is not a place for new highways,” Gideon Forman, climate change and transportation policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation, previously told The Pointer.

The polling also looked specifically at the 905-Region, which includes Brampton and Mississauga, as well as portions of Hamilton, Oakville, King City and Richmond Hill. 

Across this Region, 68 percent of respondents said the Greenbelt was no place for new highways and 77 percent believe the provincial government should be putting more funding into public transportation to reduce traffic congestion. 

“We know that folks living in the 905 Belt, many of them rely on cars. We frankly know that public transit may not be as strong in all parts of the 905 belt as it should be. These are, no surprise, very car dependent communities,” Forman said. “What was really interesting to us is even in these car dependent communities … [there is] still very strong support for protecting the Greenbelt.”

With the promise of serving the best interests of their constituents, almost all of the municipalities through which the proposed highway will run, have passed motions in opposition to the 413. The only two that have not taken a position against the highway are Brampton and Caledon. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and former Caledon mayor Allan Thompson have publicly expressed their support for the PCs’ highway agenda. 

In February 2022, then regional councillor and now Mayor, Annette Groves, tabled a motion requesting the Town of Caledon call on the provincial government to torpedo the destructive highway project.

“We will see exactly what happened to Brampton 30 years ago, happen to Caledon,” she told The Pointer when her motion was brought forward. “This is a developer driven plan supported by members of our council who are clearly working for large corporate builders, not the hard-working residents of Caledon who do not want their beautiful community planned by private interests that will turn our communities into a string of crowded subdivisions and warehouses over-run by large commercial transport trucks, just like Brampton.”


Some former and current Caledon councillors have land that could significantly increase in value from the construction of Highway 413.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


The motion was shot down by Councillor Nick DeBoer, former councillor Jennifer Innis and former mayor Thompson. Councillors Lynn Kiernan, Tony Rosa and former councillor Johanna Downey were absent from the meeting. Councillor Christina Early recused herself, citing a conflict of interest.

Despite the Town’s reluctance to stand in opposition to the project, which will contribute large amounts of carbon into the local airshed and pave over prime agricultural  land, residents of Caledon have demanded that council take a stand.

“We absolutely don't need another highway, especially through sensitive environmental areas,” Fiona Louise, a member of the Caledon Village Association (CVA), told The Pointer. 

Using the CVA group page on Facebook, which has over 10,000 members, The Pointer posted a poll to garner opinions on the highway from those who live in the rural Caledon area. Eighty-six percent of the 88 people who responded before the publication stated they do not support the highway, while the remaining 14 percent believed it could be beneficial.

Caledon resident Kathleen Wilson, who has been instrumental in holding the local municipal government accountable, said the highway is a “developer’s dream jackpot” and that other options, like a pilot project that would allow trucks to use Highway 407, which runs just 15 kilometres south, for free, have not been considered by the Ford government.

“The amount of destruction that this highway will cause is non-reversible.” 

A previous investigation by The Pointer found that the proposed Highway 413, which could see six lanes cut through some of Ontario’s most valuable agricultural land, would cross the habitats of a confirmed 29 species listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern, identified within the six months leading up to the article’s publication in April 2022. Twenty-one of these species were found in the areas where proposed interchanges could be built. The project would also pave over 2,000 acres of prime farmland and impact cultural heritage lands of the Mississauga’s of the Credit First Nation.

A report titled Paving Paradise, produced by the environmental organization Environmental Defence, found that under a business as usual approach, Highway 413 will contribute an additional 17 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere over 30 years. This is from cars using the route alone and does not include the actual construction of the highway, resulting in $1.4 billion in damages caused by pollution. Even if the federal target of 100 percent electric vehicles is achieved by 2050, Environmental Defence still estimates an additional 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses by the same year as a result of Highway 413.

And the $1.4 billion in damages is on top of the cost of the highway itself. Despite the PCs dogged support of the project, they refuse to present a preliminary cost analysis to the taxpayers who will foot the bill for the project. Experts predict it could cost anywhere between $6 billion and $10 billion. 

The cost is a major concern for Mississauga councillors who unanimously passed a motion in opposition to the highway in February 2021. 

“I think the people of Ontario, the municipalities bordering, should know what the estimated costs would be to build a highway where there would be no population allocated for quite a number of decades,” former Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie said before her departure from municipal politics. 

Councillor Joe Horneck, said he’s “still very skeptical of the highway’s need,” and later told The Pointer that, “Not being able to answer questions on cost and other alternative proposals wasn’t a good look,” adding the presenters “clearly were not ready for what they walked into.”


The proposed route of the 413 runs from Milton up Brampton’s west end before curving east through south Caledon to Vaughan.

(Government of Ontario/


Mississauga’s position on the highway remains firm, but considering 45 percent of the 52 kilometre route will run through Caledon, Councillor Maskell is insistent that the Town’s position is an important one. 

The first time councillor was planning to bring forward a motion at the February 13th Planning and Development Committee meeting, similar to the one Groves brought forward in 2022, that would formally state the Town opposes the Highway. 

“Throughout 2023, the Government of Ontario demonstrated that it would accede to public, and government demands for changes to its policies: reversal of Greenbelt Land Swaps, review of MZOs, revisions to forced Municipal boundary changes/official plans and the decision to not dissolve the Region of Peel,” the motion reads. The same considerations have not been made for the GTA West Corridor as the 413 is also known. 

At the eleventh hour, Councillor Maskell decided to withdraw the motion from Tuesday’s agenda. He told The Pointer that he had received numerous responses from residents and community groups after the agenda was published stating they wanted to attend the meeting or delegate. On Tuesday morning before the motion was removed, there were three delegates registered to speak on the matter. Maskell said he believed it would be more impactful if they had 30 or 35.

The only councillors who were present for the initial vote in 2022 that still remain on council are DeBoer and Groves. Assuming both vote the same as they did in 2022, that is already one vote for and one against any future motion. Community members and Maskell himself speculate that the remainder of council is pretty divided. 

Maskell said he wants to have utmost community support for his motion to sway his fellow councillors to pass the motion. He told The Pointer that if Caledon does not formally oppose the highway, that will be used as leverage by the PC government to get it built.

When asked whether she feels Caledon councillors have the community’s backs on this issue, Betty de Groot co-secretary of ecoCaledon said “not as much as they need to”. She said she hopes the mayor has not changed her position and that other councillors can get on board to pass the motion.


Widespread opposition to the 413 Highway has been displayed across Caledon.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


As one of the fastest growing municipalities in Ontario, she said she thinks coucillors are feeling pressured to fast track development, but that it is coming in the form of sprawl and not the missing middle that is so desperately needed across Ontario.

“They have swallowed hook line and sinker, the thoughts that we are developing; Caledon's going to grow or develop, and therefore highways come with that,” she said. “If they would only look into public transit and develop that instead of highways, we could all get on board. Because that's where you reduce the climate impact.”

“How is it that with the 'prestige' of maintaining North America's busiest highway, that we do not look outside our borders for a real solution to moving people around,” Erichsen Lamont, another member of the CVA added. “All European countries have high speed rail and a competent public transit system to manage their society’s commute.”

Public transit has been a touch and go subject for Caledon when, in 2019, it lost two GO Bus routes that connected Bolton to the communities of Malton and York Mills. In 2022, council celebrated when the province included in its Transportation Plan a commitment to build a GO rail line that would connect Bolton to Vaughan, a project that had been heavily lobbied for by Caledon, Vaughan and Brampton. 

But while Bolton is seeing relative success with increases in public transportation options, the community represents less than half of the population of the Town of Caledon, the rest — save for a Orangeville to Brampton GO bus service that cuts through Caledon Village — is left without alternative transportation options. 

Maskell said that all things considered, he will be bringing forward the motion at a later date when he can ensure there will be a wealth of support from the community present at the meeting. He also said he is keeping an eye out for developments in the proposal that could serve as a hook for the motion to come forward. 

The most obvious connection would be the next step in the Impact Assessment process. The Highway 413 project was designated for an impact assessment in 2021 following intense advocacy by community groups and the public. Former federal minister of Environment and Climate Change Johnathan Wilkinson ruled the Impact Assessment “is warranted as the Project may cause adverse direct or incidental effects on the critical habitat of federally-listed species at risk that may not be mitigated through project design or the application of standard mitigation measures, or through existing legislative mechanisms”.

Despite the Provincial government’s ongoing legal challenge against the Act, after it was ruled, in part, unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, the impact assessment designation for the 413 remains in place

Under the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) the project can be subjected to a federal review which could eventually see it terminated should it be deemed in violation of certain pieces of federal legislation that govern policy on fish habitat, endangered species, Indigenous consultation, environmental protections and other specific issues the highway and its planning could impact. However, in order for the process to continue, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation must submit an Initial Project Description (IPD) to the federal Impact Assessment Agency. This document must explain to the federal government how the Province plans to mitigate the impacts of the highway, particularly on the habitat of species at risk and Indigenous heritage. Ford’s government has delayed this submission for almost three years, without explaining why it has not submitted a comprehensive project description to Ottawa, raising questions about how much the PCs have actually done to study their own massive highway scheme, which developers have been pushing for decades. 

In January, The Pointer reached out to the provincial Transportation Ministry to ask what has caused such a delay in the submission of the IPD. A spokesperson for the Ministry provided reasons for the government’s continued legal challenge of the IAA, but did not explain the cause of the delays.

The legal challenge to the assessment Act was launched in 2019 by Alberta, largely to protect oil and gas pipeline projects, and had no specific reference to the 413 Highway plan in Ontario. 

The PCs had been asked to submit their highway plan’s design and other details, along with strategies to mitigate any concerns around federal legislation three years before the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Alberta in the IAA case, citing the broad nature of possible climate change impacts (therefore requiring laws aimed at protecting the environment to be specific about what they intend to prevent). 

Legal analysts have suggested the IAA could easily be revised to include specific details around future highway projects that would have to comply with particular elements of federal legislation. 

Meanwhile, the agency that oversees project reviews, to determine if they would cause harm to Canadians and our environment, is still waiting for Ford’s government to produce documents that should have been available when it passed legislation that approved the 413 Highway four years ago.


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rachelnadia_

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