Highway 7 proved to be the backdrop for the unofficial kickoff of the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection last week.
On Wednesday, Aug. 8, Kitchener-Conestogo MPP Michael Harris and Progressive Conservative Transportation critic Frank Klees joined Kitchener-Waterloo’s Tory candidate Tracey Weiler to protest the decades-long wait Waterloo Region has had for an improved Highway 7.
The media event occurred at Belgian’s Nursery, near Breslau, on the same day that Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the byelection date for the Kitchener-Waterloo riding — Thursday, Sept. 6.
Klees criticized the Liberal government for promising improvements to Highway 7, without delivering.
“Despite the tired rhetoric of the McGuinty Liberals, it’s abundantly clear that Highway 7 is not and has never been a priority for this government,” said Klees, who said years of “reckless overspending” had brought the province to the point that Highway 7 has fallen off the radar.
Klees said the government should be setting its priorities based on need, not on “party politics,” referring to the $300 million cancellation of the Mississauga power plant.
“This should have been built a long time ago,” said Klees, although he failed to commit to a construction date. Klees said a Progressive Conservative government would have to look at the project carefully to determine when it could be done.
“We will get this project done as soon as possible.”
Weiler, in her presentation, pointed out that although the Liberal government issued a press release that day, indicating continued support for Highway 7, the highway “is not mentioned once on their five-year capital forecast.”
Afterwards, Harris told the Independent that he has heard from numerous constituents who have to travel along Highway 7 ever day.
“We’ve been hearing the need for the last decade, in fact the last two decades,” said Harris. “Commuters are stuck in gridlock, when they want to get home to their families.
Harris blamed the delay on the fiscal mismanagement of the Liberal government, and said that a Progressive Conservative government would bring financial health to the province, making projects such as Highway 7 possible.
Two days after the Highway 7 press conference, Premier Dalton McGuinty committed to starting construction of the new Highway 7 within the next three years, in a meeting with local reporters and editors.
It’s the first official Highway 7 launch date since former transportation minister Donna Cansfield pledged a three-year wait in approving the highway in 2007.