Following weeks of controversy, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government is going back on its decision to open protected Greenbelt land for housing development.
During a news conference Thursday afternoon, the premier apologized, saying it was a mistake to open the Greenbelt and that his caucus will not make changes to it going forward.
“I made a promise to you [Ontarians], that I wouldn’t touch the Greenbelt. I broke that promise. And for that I’m very, very sorry,” Ford said during a news conference in Niagara Falls.
The decision follows scathing reports from the province’s auditor general and integrity commissioner who found the process into the decision to select approximately 7,400 acres of land from the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes on was handled incorrectly.
Following the release of the reports, Ryan Amato, the Chief of Staff for former Housing Minister Steve Clark, resigned from his position, with Clark resigning just days later. On Wednesday, Kaleed Rasheed, the Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery also stepped down after the integrity commissioner’s report raised questions about his connections to a developer that owns parcels of land selected to be removed from the protected Greenbelt last fall.
“It was a mistake to open the Greenbelt. It was a mistake to establish a process that moved too fast,” Ford continued. This process, it left too much room for some people to benefit over others. As a first step to earn back your trust, I’ll be reversing the changes we made and won’t make any changes to the Greenbelt in the future.”
Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles called the decision a “victory for Ontarians.”
“It was clear from the beginning that this was the wrong decision, and yet Ford’s Conservatives pressed on,” read a statement from Stiles. “It was a calculated attempt by this government to benefit a select few of their insiders at the expense of everyone else.”
Going forward, Ford told reporters that his government’s goal is to continue working with developers to build housing to address the growing demand for homes in Ontario.