Plans for a new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph could be pushed to 2016, according to leaked budget documents released by the Ontario PC Caucus on Tuesday.
Despite a 2015 start date approved at Queen’s Park in December 2012, the leaked “Budget Rollout Calendar” states, “Construction is planned to start in 2016-2017 and be completed in 2020-2021.” The provincial government first approved the highway in 2007 after decades of discussion, but progress has been slow. Members of the Provincial Liberal government deny the allegations.
In an interview, Conservative Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris used the leaked document as evidence of Liberal flip-flopping.
“Just look at the track record: a promise in 2007 when there was an election; cancelled in 2010; there was a by-election in Waterloo and it was committed in 2012. You know what? They’re all about making announcements to convince people if you vote for them they’ll deliver, but Highway 7 is a great example that the Liberals just want to trick voters.”
He added, “I think you really have to ask yourself: Will this highway ever get built? … This Highway 7 should have been done by now.”
The highway is expected to take pressure off the current route (at two lanes, one of the busiest of its kind in Ontario) and the 401. All parties are in agreement over its merits.
“There have long been calls for a new Highway 7 or improvements,” said Harris. “The length that it takes to get over to Guelph, the traffic that’s on that highway, the safety issues that have arisen – there’s a clear need for Highway 7. It’s unfortunate that it’s not done by now.”
Through his press secretary, Liberal Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy declined to comment. Susan Heath, press secretary for Minister of Finance Charles Sousa, said in a statement, “While I can’t speak to what is included in this document, I can tell you that the government remains committed to an upgrade of Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph. As we have stated in the past, it is expected that shovels will be in the ground for advance construction work beginning in Fall 2015.”
Harris countered, “The real reason why they cancelled, likely, Highway 7 in 2010 is they had to go and pay for the billion-dollar gas plant scandal to get four or five members elected in Toronto, so who’s to say that won’t happen again?”