Doug Ford, in a truly toe-curling and pathetic mea culpa, today dropped plans to develop lands in the former Greenbelt. He admitted it was all a big mistake.
The risible Doug Ford has lost all credibility.
He is a figure of fun. And of ridicule. And few politicians can survive that.
Update on 21 September 2023: From the Toronto Star editorial: Doug Ford's Greenbelt reversal does not restore his credibility
From the Globe and Mail on 21 September 2023:
Ford Halts Greenbelt Development in unexpected turnaround
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is backtracking on his plans to develop on parts of the protected Greenbelt, after months of backlash that resulted in the resignation of two cabinet ministers.
Mr. Ford, who has been defending his plan for weeks, on Thursday apologized for breaking his promise not to develop on the Greenbelt and vowed not to touch it in the future.
“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,” a somber-looking Mr. Ford said a press conference in Niagara Falls, Ont., where he was meeting with his Progressive Conservative caucus.
“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.”
Mr. Ford said he still believes that opening the Greenbelt to housing development could make a “big difference” to address the housing crisis but will no longer pursue it as an avenue to build desperately-needed homes.
“We moved too quickly, and we made the wrong decision,” he said.
The stunning turnaround happened a day after MPP Kaleed Rasheed resigned from cabinet and the Progressive Conservative caucus. Mr. Rasheed resigned after his office admitted to giving incorrect information to the province’s Integrity Commissioner during an investigation into the Greenbelt land swap.
Mr. Rasheed is the second minister to leave cabinet in the aftermath of a report from the province’s Integrity Commissioner, J. David Wake. Former housing minister Steve Clark also resigned from cabinet after Mr. Wake determined that he broke ethics laws for failing to oversee his former chief of staff, who drove the “flawed” process for selecting lands from the Greenbelt for development.
Mr. Ford’s government has been under fire following the release this summer of the reports from Mr. Wake and the former Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk. Ms. Lysyk concluded that the process for selecting the land was biased and favoured certain developers, who are set to see an $8.3-billion windfall as a result of removing the lands.
The government has since said it is launching a review of the Greenbelt lands, but did not reverse its decision to remove 14 sites and open them up to housing development.
The Greenbelt is an environmentally protected zone that arcs around the Greater Toronto Area. Mr. Ford’s Progressive government has faced widespread criticism over its move last fall to break its own repeated promises and remove protections from 3,000 hectares of Greenbelt land, which it explained as a bid to build more homes and address the housing crisis. The government added new protected land elsewhere.
Opposition NDP Leader Marit Stiles said the reversal was a victory for activists and citizens who have protested the move for months. She called on Mr. Ford to follow through and pass an NDP bill restoring the Greenbelt’s former boundaries that she intends to introduce when the legislature returns from its summer break on Monday.
“It was a calculated attempt by the government to benefit a select few Conservative insiders at the expense of everybody else,” Ms. Stiles told reporters. “… This whole scandal has pulled back the curtain on a government that’s all too comfortable making backroom deals.”
Tim Gray, executive director of the advocacy group Environmental Defence, which has been fighting the Greenbelt decision, credited a groundswell of local activism for forcing Mr. Ford to back down.
“This is what happens when the entire province mobilizes and takes the message to their elected officials,” Mr. Gray said in an interview. “It must have been a pretty rough time for members of provincial parliament, based on the feedback that we were getting from people around the province. It just becomes untenable at some point and you have to do the right thing.”
The Integrity Commissioner released another report Thursday related to a complaint related to a stag and doe party held for Mr. Ford’s daughter before her wedding. Earlier this year, Global News reported that developers and lobbyists were invited to the event and that guests were asked to purchase tickets and also donate money to the couple. At the time, Mr. Ford brushed off questions related to the event and said no rules were broken.