Integrity and secret panels don’t mix: NDP

Ontario NDP Transportation Critic Wayne Gates called on the Liberal government to be transparent and accountable when it comes to the review process for the GTA West Highway project.

“If the government is serious about maintaining the ‘integrity’ of the review process for the GTA West Highway, then it should disclose the names of those providing it advice on the multi-billion dollar project,” said NDP Transportation Critic Wayne Gates today.

“Integrity and secret panels don’t mix. The public has a right to know who is giving the government advice on a highway project where billions of public dollars are at stake,” said Gates, responding to a government spokesperson’s claim that the names of those sitting on an advisory panel needed to be kept secret “in order to protect the integrity of the review.”

“If a lobbyist talks to a minister without registering, that would be breaking the law. But this Minister has opened up a giant loophole by appointing a secret panel to provide advice, something that is unprecedented as far as I can tell,” said Gates. “What private or partisan interests do these people represent? Would they benefit in some way from the construction of this highway? The public has no way of knowing.”

The review was launched after the environmental assessment of the GTA West Highway, sometimes known as Highway 413, was suspended late last year. The project has attracted controversy from environmentalists and advocates of sustainable growth, since the multi-lane highway would run across protected areas of the Greenbelt, and could lead to more sprawl and pollution. 

“If the government decides to spend billions to build a highway across the Greenbelt, the public has a right to know who provided the advice,” said Gates. “No secret panels. Let’s have the names.”