‘You don’t attack me, I don’t attack you’: Ford gets heated with reporters, defends Greenbelt plan

Premier Ford got testy with reporters on Thursday morning while fielding questions on the damning report about the province’s Greenbelt land swap.

Premier Doug Ford remained steadfast in his defence of Ontario’s housing minister and got testy with reporters while fielding questions on the damning report about the province’s Greenbelt land swap.

Ford held a news conference in Etobicoke on Thursday morning with his labour and education ministers, but the availability was overshadowed by the integrity commissioner’s recent findings and the growing calls for the housing minister to resign.

Ford said Housing Minister Steve Clark has a tough job and will remain part of his team as the government moves forward with a plan to build 1.5 million homes in the next decade.

“We’re going to work with Minister Clark like we work with the other ministers to fulfil our mandate,” Ford said. “Our mandate is to build homes.”

The calls for Clark’s resignation come after the integrity commissioner found Wednesday that he violated two sections of the Members’ Integrity Act that governs politicians’ ethics, conflict of interest rules and insider information rules when the province removed land from the protected Greenbelt for development.

Ford then went on the offensive against a reporter when he was asked if he would take personal responsibility for the matter.

“I’m sure you just walked down the street from your home,” Ford snapped back instead of answering the question. “You have a home, do you know how many people don’t have a home? There are hundreds of thousands of people who don’t have homes.”

When asked about getting personal with a reporter, the premier responded “You don’t attack me, I don’t attack him.”

Clark addressed the media in his own news conference on Thursday afternoon where he refused to step down, instead apologizing to Ontarians for a flawed process.

Integrity commissioner J. David Wake’s scathing report found Ford’s housing minister failed to oversee the land selection process, which led to the private interests of certain developers being furthered improperly. The developers stand to make $8.3 billion as a result of the deal.

The report concluded that Clark’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato, was the “driving force” behind the lands that were selected to be developed. Amato has denied any wrongdoing but did resign from his position earlier this month after the auditor general found the Ford government gave preferential treatment to developers.

Wake recommended “that Minister Clark be reprimanded for his failure to comply with the Act” and the opposition continues to demand the housing minister’s resignation.

Clark released his own statement saying he accepts the integrity commissioner’s findings. Both Clark and Ford have denied any wrongdoing but have previously admitted the selection process was flawed.

Late Wednesday, the province confirmed it was beginning the process of returning two parcels of land slated for development in Ajax back to the Greenbelt after the owner listed them for sale.

“On the Greenbelt lands, I have a message for developers, get the shovels in the ground,” said Ford on Thursday. “Try me.”

Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development.

Last year, the province took 7,400 acres of land out of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes and replaced it with about 9,400 acres elsewhere.

With files from The Canadian Press

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