Tuesday, October 3, 2023
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Ford Government’s Approval Rating Suffers Due to Greenbelt Controversy

The greatest fallout yet from Ontario’s Greenbelt controversy occurred this week as the province’s housing minister resigned and the premier announced he will do a “complete review” of the Greenbelt lands.

Premier Doug Ford and former housing minister Steve Clark had previously held out against opposition pressure on both points. This buckling shows the weight of that pressure, as does a new poll that suggests support has dropped for Mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservatives since the end of July.

But the Abacus Data poll released Sept. 5 shows Mr. Ford’s party still ahead, with 34 percent of the current vote share compared to the Liberals’ 28 percent.

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On Aug. 9, Ontario’s auditor general Bonnie Lysyk criticized the Ford government’s process of selecting land to remove from Greenbelt protection in December 2022 as “biased” toward certain developers. The land7,400 acres (about 3,000 hectares) across 15 sitesis now open to housing development, making it much more valuable.
The auditor general’s report placed much of the blame on Mr. Clark’s then-chief of staff, Ryan Amato, who Ms. Lysyk said was involved in selecting 14 of the 15 sites ultimately approved for removal from the Greenbelt. Mr. Amato resigned on Aug. 22.
But an Aug. 30 report by Ontario’s integrity commissioner said Mr. Clark was to blame for failing to oversee Mr. Amato’s work, especially as Mr. Amato was new to the role and inexperienced.
The Ontario NDP called for Mr. Clark’s resignation, but he initially said he would continue in his role in the interest of quickly getting housing built amid a housing crisis. Mr. Ford said he stood behind his minister.

Both Mr. Clark and Mr. Ford had said they would implement 14 of the auditor general’s 15 recommendations to prevent bias and impropriety in their decision-making—but would not follow the recommendation that they review the decision to open up the specified 3,000 hectares of Greenbelt for housing development. They said the urgency of the housing crisis demanded they move forward with the building plan.

However, Mr. Clark resigned on Sept. 4, saying the controversy distracted from work on the housing crisis.

New Review

Mr. Ford reshuffled his cabinet the same day, with former long-term care minister Paul Calandra stepping into the role of housing minister, and the premier announced on Sept. 5 that his government would do a “complete review” of all Greenbelt lands.

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