Doug Ford reverses controversial Greenbelt plan, calls it a mistake

The Premier was in full on damage control, apologizing and calling the Greenbelt land swap a mistake.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is reversing his government’s controversial plan to open up the Greenbelt for development, calling it a mistake.

Ford made the declaration at a press conference on Thursday, saying he made a promise to the people of Ontario not to touch the Greenbelt and that he broke that promise.

“It was a mistake to open a process that moved too fast,” Ford added. “For that, I am very, very sorry… it was a mistake to open the Greenbelt.”

The Premier says in order to earn back people’s trust he will be reversing the changes he made to the Greenbelt and putting the lands back under Greenbelt protections.

“When I make a mistake, I will fix them, I will learn from them,” Ford added.

Ford’s stunning reversal comes after several high-profile resignations, including Director of Housing Policy Jae Truesdell, who stepped down during the Premier’s press conference. No details were immediately provided, but Ford acknowledged he had accepted the latest resignation.


On Wednesday, Kaleed Rasheed, who was Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery of Ontario, stepped down after questions surrounding a trip he took to Las Vegas at the same time as a developer who owns land that was removed from the Greenbelt.

Media reports said developer Shakir Rehmatullah, who benefited from the recent Greenbelt land swap, went to Las Vegas at the same time as Rasheed, Ford’s principal secretary, as well as his current housing policy director, who was in the private sector at the time.

RELATED: Ontario minister Kaleed Rasheed resigns after Greenbelt probe

Earlier this month, Steve Clark, Ontario’s housing minister since 2018, resigned from his role days after a damning report from the integrity commissioner found he violated ethics rules when the province opened up parts of the protected Greenbelt for development.

The Premier has repeatedly defended his government’s approach and contentious Greenbelt plan. In a late August press conference, Ford got testy with reporters when asked if he would take responsibility for the aftermath.

Doug Ford and Steve Clark

Ontario Premier Doug Ford listens as Ontario’s minister of housing, Steve Clark, speaks during a press conference in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Two legislative watchdogs found the process to select which lands came out of the Greenbelt hasty and flawed.

Last year, the province took about 2,995 hectares of land out of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes and replaced them with about 3,804 hectares elsewhere. The moves were part of the government’s pledge to address the housing crisis by promising to build 1.5 million homes over 10 years.

The integrity commissioner found Clark’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato, was the driving force behind the land swap that benefited certain developers. He also concluded the minister failed to oversee his staff.

RELATED: Ontario housing minister violated Integrity Act in Greenbelt land swap: Integrity commissioner

Ford said in 2018 he would not develop the Greenbelt after previously musing about doing so. But that changed after last year’s landslide election win by the Progressive Conservatives.

Ford gave Clark instructions via a mandate letter to develop a process to open up the Greenbelt. Clark told the integrity commissioner he delegated that work to his new chief of staff, Amato.

Wake found Amato, who resigned two weeks ago, selected 14 of the 15 sites that were removed from the Greenbelt. Wake called Amato’s process a “chaotic” and “deceptive” one that favoured certain developers.

The integrity commissioner found neither Clark nor Ford knew what Amato was up to.

The RCMP is reviewing information to determine whether it should investigate the Greenbelt land swap. Ford has said he is confident nothing criminal took place.

With files from Michael Talbot of CityNews and The Canadian Press

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