Premier Doug Ford Reverberates Greenbelt Decision: Admits Mistake Amid Scandal

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In an about-face, Premier Doug Ford announced that he will undo the controversial decision to open the Greenbelt for development, which he now categorizes as a “mistake.” The announcement was made following an assembly with his caucus during a retreat in Niagara Falls.

In a frank and candid conference, Ford relayed the sentiments of his caucus who expressed the concerns of their communities. He admitted, “Our caucus, they shared with me what they have heard in their communities. I want the people of Ontario to know, I’m listening. I made a promise to you that I wouldn’t touch the Greenbelt. I broke that promise. And for that, I’m very sorry.”

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Bearing remorse for this course of action he conceded, “It was a mistake to open the Greenbelt. It was a mistake to establish a process that moved too fast.”

These admissions come in the wake of a critical report released last month by Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, highlighting the government’s mismanagement of Greenbelt land removals. The report revealed that some developers received preferential treatment and had undue influence on the government’s decision to remove land parcels from the Greenbelt.

As a measure to mend the trust breach, Premier Ford pledged to reverse the changes made to the Greenbelt and assured that no further alterations will be made. He expressed his regrets stating, “Because even if you do something for the right reasons, with the best of intentions, it can still be wrong.”

Despite the reversal, Ford defended the initial decision, arguing that it would have considerably eased the housing crisis, by adding tens of thousands of homes to the province’s housing stock. Acknowledging the hasty actions, he admitted, “But we moved too quickly. And we made the wrong decision.”

The auditor general’s report revealed that of the 7,400 acres of land removed from the Greenbelt, 92% could be traced back to three developers who had privileged access to the housing ministry. The report further stated that removal of Greenbelt lands was unnecessary, given the sufficiency of available land in Ontario to address the housing needs.

This scandal has stirred strong unrest among cabinet members, leading to the resignation of a second minister. MPP Kaleed Rasheed, Ontario’s minister of public and business service delivery, stepped down from his cabinet post and the PC caucus following contradictions regarding a Las Vegas trip tied to the Greenbelt land deals.

Despite these setbacks, Ford voiced his resolve to face the consequences of his decisions, saying, “Leadership shows if you make a mistake, you come out and admit it, you tell the people what you are going to correct it and make sure it happens. That’s what I’ve done.”

The reversal has been hailed as “a victory for Ontarians” by Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles, who criticized the decision to involve the Greenbelt as a calculated attempt by the government to benefit its insiders. This sentiment was echoed by Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser, who urged for a thorough probe into the $8.3 billion backroom deal.

In response to concerns about potential legal backlash from developers and taxpayer costs due to the reversal, the premier stated that he couldn’t predict the future, but promised to make relevant information public when available. He emphasized his intent to collaborate with the builders, considering them part of the solution.