Oshawa MPP calls on Province to “listen to Durham” and remove tolls on Highways 412 and 418

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Published December 1, 2021 at 4:11 pm

Oshawa MPP Jennifer French demanded the Doug Ford government heed a letter by mayors across Durham Region to end tolls on Highways 412 and 418, the only tolled north-south highways in the Province.

The 412 runs through Whitby connecting the 401 with Highway 7.  After numerous construction delays, tolls were waived until January 2017. Since then anyone taking the 412 pays up to 88 cents per kilometer.

The 418 also connects Highway 7 and the 401 but runs through Clarington. It opened in 2019 and since then drivers have been charged up to 48 cents per kilometre.

In 2018 Regional Chair John Henry, then freshly elected, said he’d had talks with Ford about removing the tolls. “Why should Durham Region be the only region on a 400 series highway that connect to the 407 where you have to pay a toll to get to a toll?”

Nothing ultimately came of those talks, despite all five of Durham’s Progressive Conservative candidates, namely Lorne Coe of Whitby, Peter Bethlenfalvy of Pickering-Uxbridge, Bob Chapman of Oshawa, Lindsey Park of Durham and Rod Phillips of Ajax campaigning to remove the tolls during the previous election.

“All Durham candidates believe removing the tolls from the 412 Highway and not tolling the 418 is the right thing to do,” Coe said during the election campaign. “It will help keep life more affordable for families and drivers in Durham.”

Four of those PC candidates were elected to their respective seats and two have served in the influential role of finance minister. Bethlenfalvy took over for Phillips after the latter broke public health orders for a secret getaway to St. Bart’s during the late 2020 peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Park later left the PC caucus after allegedly not disclosing her vaccination status. She claims she told Ford she had a medical exemption.

Despite the promises, it fell to Oshawa MPP and NDP member Jennifer French to introduce a bill to remove the tolls. She and the NDP had also campaigned on removing them in 2018. Her first attempt in October 2018 shortly after the summer’s election was defeated in Queen’s Park.

Ford said himself he’d “love to get rid of the tolls” in August 2020, but a second attempt by French the following year got to a second reading before it too was defeated.

French brought the matter up a third time on December 1, 2021. She read a letter from Durham’s Mayors that read in part, “We have been consistent, and vocal, in our advocacy for fair and equitable application of tolls across the GTHA.”

“All Ontarians, including Durham Region residents, contribute to the construction and maintenance of these highways, the letter continued, “However, it’s only in Durham that residents pay to use the connecting links to the 407.”

The only change provided by the Ontario Government was a toll freeze at the beginning of the pandemic. According to Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney this is to allow the government to “deliver more relief to drivers” during the pandemic.”

Mulroney blamed previous Transport Minister Steven Del Duca, now the Liberal Leader, for “signing a contract” the PC’s would not.

However, Ontario again refused to eliminate the tolls saying instead they won’t enact new ones, still leaving Durham residents on the hook.

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