Sudbury provincial election candidates reveal their positions on completing Highway 69

Sudbury-area voters will have a lot to consider this provincial election and one of the big issues will no doubt be the completion of Highway 69.

Several parties and politicians have been talking about completing the four-laning of the connector between northern and southern Ontario for decades now, yet it is still unfinished.

In its recent budget, the Ford government talked about the next steps in finishing the project, but there was no mention of a timeline for finishing the remaining 68 kilometres.

It plans to widen Highway 69 -- north of Highway 529 -- for about 20 kilometres north of Britt. It'll construct a new bridge, culvert and widen the highway south of Highway 529 for 15 kilometres in Pointe au Baril.

Liberal MP Marc Serre said in a recent news release the province had yet to issue request for proposals (RFPs) for money that the federal government issued in 2019.

While the Ministry of Transportation recently told CTV News the remaining 68 kilometres are in the engineering and property acquisition phases, they're still waiting, in some cases, for federal environmental approvals.

"Doug Ford promised in the 2018 election that he would promise the last 68 kilometres of Highway 69, he broke that promise to northern Ontario," said Sudbury incumbent and NDP candidate Jamie West.

"It was the same 68 kilometres that Steven Del Duca promised that he would get finished when the was the transportation minister in the Wynne government prior to Doug Ford."

He said it would be the No. 1 priority under an NDP government.

"It's only 68 kilometres, I know we can get it done," he said.

Sudbury Liberal candidate David Farrow said residents have already waited too long for the project to be completed.

"Doug Ford over the last few years has completely forgotten about us," Farrow said.

"They're building highways in southern Ontario, like Highway 413, that's going to go through one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the province when we're neglecting a project that's been on the books for years."

Sudbury Green Party candidate David Robinson said residents have been waiting for it to be completed for 50 years.

"Four-laning has been a big project here (and) we're almost finished. Let's just finish the darn thing," Robinson said.

While his party is not big on building highways in southern Ontario, Highway 69 is different. It's always been about safety and it would get done if the Greens were elected.

He said the highway could serve electric cars moving forward and even light rail decades down the line.

No definite timeline

CTV News asked for an interview with the Progressive Conservative candidates in Sudbury (Marc Despatie) and Nickel Belt (Randy Hazlett). Instead, we were given an interview with Nipissing candidate and incumbent MPP Vic Fedeli.

Fedeli championed the work they've so far done in opening up areas like those four lanes around French River.

He steered clear from giving any kind of definite timeline regarding when the Conservatives might get the highway done.

"I think we're going to continue to improve and expand the highways all across Ontario, you know we're putting shovels in the ground," Fedeli said.

"Again we have another 50 kilometres that we talked about -- we're going to continue to make life easier for people in northern Ontario … We're the only part with a real plan to build highways across this province."

After the broadcast deadline, CTV News did receive a statement from Despatie. In it, he writes: "Northern Ontarians don't need more empty promises, they need real action. That's why completing the final section of widening Highway 69 is a priority for our team. We're getting this project across the finish line and we won't stop until we get it done."