Greenbelt, Ford: “Everything is OK”. But his popularity declines

TORONTO – Greenbelt case: Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks for the first time after the opening of an inquiry by the RCMP into alleged favoritism towards some builders who could earn billions of dollars thanks to the removal of some land in the GTHA’s “green belt”. 

“If they decide to investigate – they haven’t decided yet – but if they do, I take it very seriously. I will have zero tolerance if any nonsense happens,” Ford told reporters in Queen’s Park on Friday. “I am confident that nothing criminal happened. I will not tolerate it.”

The premier’s comments come as the Ontario government continues to face close scrutiny over its plan to build housing on fifteen sites in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) that were removed from the Greenbelt last December.

Two weeks ago, the province’s auditor general found that the government-initiated process to choose which sites to remove from the “green belt” and open for housing would benefit a small group of developers who could now make billions of dollars. The ensuing controversy led to the resignation of the Housing Minister’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato, last week. According to the indictment, Amato oversaw a process that was allegedly heavily influenced by a small group of politically connected builders who had the ability to put pressure on him personally.

Both Ford and Housing Secretary Steve Clark said they were unaware that the land selected for removal from the Greenbelt had been proposed by Amato through developers. On the contrary: Ford said he never spoke to Amato or gave him instructions to select any property to be removed from the “green belt”.

At the same time, Ford reiterated his support for Clark, who is facing calls from all three opposition parties to resign, and said the government was working to improve his trials in the future. But the plan to build homes on the Greenbelt will go ahead, Ford said, to help meet the province’s goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2031.

Meanwhile, however, the Greenbelt case causes Ford to lose popularity. Indeed, according to a survey by Abacus, news relating to the Greenbelt case puts the prime minister in a bad light for 51% of those interviewed. Those who live in the GTHA are the most likely to say that the Grennbelt case has worsened their view of Ford and his government. Also note that 1 in 3 of those who voted for the Conservative Party in 2022 say their views on the PC-led government and Doug Ford have deteriorated precisely because of the Greenbelt case.

In the pic above, Doug Ford visiting a construction site (from Twitter – @fordnation)