Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday he is reversing his plan to open the protected Greenbelt lands for housing development and won’t make any changes to the Greenbelt in the future.
While meeting with his caucus during a retreat this week in Niagara Falls, Ont., Ford said his caucus members shared with him what they have been hearing about the Greenbelt from people in their communities and he is listening.
“I made a promise to you that I wouldn’t touch the Greenbelt. I broke that promise and for that, I’m very, very sorry,” Ford said.
“It was a mistake to open the Greenbelt. It was a mistake to establish a process that moved too fast. This process, it left too much room for some people to benefit over others. It caused people to question our motives. 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.”
Last year, the province took 7,400 acres of land in more than a dozen sections out of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes, citing the housing crisis, and Ford has faced large amounts of opposition to the plan since then.
Reports from the auditor general and integrity commissioner found that the process to select lands was rushed and favoured certain developers.
The property owners with land removed from the Greenbelt stand to see their land value rise by $8.3 billion, the auditor general found in her own Greenbelt investigation.
More than 90 per cent of the land removed was in five sites passed on to then-housing minister Steve Clark’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato, by two developers Amato met at an industry event, the auditor said.
The integrity commissioner said in his August report that he had no evidence of developers being specifically tipped off that the government was considering Greenbelt removals, but that Amato’s actions and conversations with them had that effect. Clark failed to oversee his staffer, the commissioner found.
Clark and Amato have both since resigned.
A second cabinet minister, Kaleed Rasheed, resigned this week after news reports raised questions about his connections to developer Shakir Rehmatullah and a trip to Las Vegas.
The RCMP is reviewing information to determine whether it should investigate the Greenbelt land swap. Ford has said he is confident nothing criminal took place.