Ontario Premier Doug Ford will be reversing his controversial decision to modify Greenbelt lands.
In a September 21 press conference, Ford announced the government would no longer open the Greenbelt to make way for residential development amid a provincial housing crisis. This comes after Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released an August 2023 report concluding that the Greenbelt decisions were made without considering environmental impacts and to the potential billion-dollar benefit of a handful of developers.
Ford had originally planned to adopt 14 of the 15 recommendations Lysyk made in her report, saying he still wanted to move ahead with Greenbelt developments. This would have led to the removal of 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt, of which Lysyk says around 1,000 are at-risk wetlands and woodlands, and around 6,100 are prime agricultural lands.
“I made a promise to you that I wouldn’t touch the Greenbelt. I broke that promise,” Ford said in the press conference. “For that I am very, very sorry.”
The Premier also vowed not to make changes to the Greenbelt going forward. He still believes opening it would allow them to build 15,000 homes, “housing a minimum of 50,000 people,” but he said the government’s process “left too much room for some people to benefit over others.”
“It was a mistake to establish a process that moved too fast,” he said.
Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said in a September 21 statement that although this was a win for the province, he isn’t certain Ford will keep his promise. He said they have to keep fighting to save farmlands in Waterloo Region and Halton from housing development sprawl.
“I’m also calling on this government to pass my Greenbelt bills and housing bills—to ensure that our Greenbelt remains permanently protected and that we build homes people can actually afford in communities they want to live in,” Schreiner said.
A day after the press conference, Ontario Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton announced in a statement that he was leaving cabinet “effective immediately.” He thanked the Premier for his years in the Progressive Conservative party, but he is stepping away from politics to work in the private sector.
“I realize that recent events will cause some people to speculate about the reasons for my departure,” McNaughton wrote. “I want those people to know that my decision is completely unrelated to those reasons.”
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