Written by By Tasha Kheiriddin, CNN
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has unveiled new plans to make Highway 413 a divided two-lane freeway, a project that will connect Ottawa with the Greater Toronto Area.
Many Ontario residents, among them Liberal Member of Parliament and Toronto Mayor John Tory, are delighted by the initiative, which they say will improve safety, capacity and accessibility.
But Ontario’s incoming premier has defended the controversial plan.
“We know the rest of the world is moving in this direction, but that’s not to say that we won’t have to make some changes,” Ford told CNN late Wednesday.
“The tough reality is we need to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion,” he said, adding: “We may have to do some construction. We’re not looking to close down a highway. We’re not looking to shut down a whole road. This is just trying to make it better for people to travel the road and get into work.”
Since taking office last month, Ford has promised a return to “good old-fashioned values” in an attempt to appeal to conservative supporters.
Some commentators have said that the highway plans are an example of Ford prioritizing partisanship over the economic good of the province.
It comes after Ford disbanded the urban and rural councils, which called for the province to do away with the optional tolls on Highway 417 that were introduced in 2016.
Some critics have accused the premier of growing increasingly paranoid as more federal funds for major transport infrastructure projects flow toward his Ontario counterpart, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ford pledged that he would build 10 new wineries in Ontario by 2020 as part of his plan to build a network of smaller boutique wineries. The wineries, he said, would be profitable and give him a platform to share the province’s wine with the world.
Some critics, however, have said that it would cost far more than the $3 million which the province has spent on winery project thus far. The Ontario Wines and Vineyards Association said that Ford is wasting money on “toy” projects that “can and will be replicated any place in North America.”
Ford’s government is also facing a mounting list of court cases that have been launched against its proposed cuts to the financial sector, as well as tighter carbon emission regulations on the province’s environment department.