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Ontario government changes course on the use of Greenbelt lands for housing

DAN CEARNS The Standard

DURHAM: The Ontario government is reversing course on their original plan to develop the Greenbelt.

Earlier this month, the Premier had announced a fulsome review of all of the Greenbelt lands would be conducted.

At a press conference, on Thursday, September 21st, Premier Doug Ford stated, all removed Greenbelt land would be returned to the Greenbelt.

“Our caucus shared with me what they’ve heard in their communities. I want the people of Ontario to know I’m listening. 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. I pride myself on keeping our promises. It was a mistake to open the Greenbelt. It was a mistake to establish a process [which] moved too fast,” Premier Ford said.

The Premier promised to reverse the changes made to the Greenbelt and said, the government “won’t make any changes to the Greenbelt in the future.”

“Even if you do something for the right reasons, with the best of intentions, it can still be wrong,” Premier Ford said.

The changes to the Greenbelt boundary started in November 2022, when “material prepared by the Housing Ministry, in response to the instruction provided by the Housing Ministry’s Chief of Staff, and signed by the Housing Minister and the Deputy Minister of the Housing Ministry, was presented to Cabinet,” according to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s report. The changes included removing a total of 15 land sites from the Greenbelt, to support the provincial government’s plan to increase housing across the province.

Online, on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation celebrated this decision.

“Today's reversal, on Ontario's plan to open up the Greenbelt to developers, shows just how important it is to speak up on important issues,” an MSIFN post reads.

The auditor general found the original Greenbelt process was “biased and lack[ing] transparency,” and the removals “proceeded without evidence they were needed to meet [the] housing goals.”

While Premier Ford maintained his belief that opening the Greenbelt could lead to 150,000 people receiving housing, he said it would be “the wrong decision.”

“When I make a mistake, I’ll fix [it], and I’ll learn from [it],” Premier Ford stated.

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