EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a new Village Media website devoted to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park.
After losing two cabinet ministers, two staffers and untold points in the polls, Premier Doug Ford walked back all of his Greenbelt land removals on Thursday and promised — again — not to touch the protected area.
Speaking at a press conference in Niagara Falls, the premier said he was “very sorry,” and acknowledged the firestorm of public opinion that has surrounded the scandal.
The land removals, their fallout and how they came about has been the main Ontario news story for months. At times the controversy has felt all-consuming, but until Thursday, Ford showed no signs of budging.
Ford maintained that he opened up the Greenbelt with “the best of intentions” — to build more housing in a province that desperately needs it.
But still, he said, it was wrong.
Ontario’s integrity commissioner found the process for selecting the land to be removed was heavily biased toward those with direct access to former housing minister Steve Clark’s chief of staff, and that Clark himself broke the law by failing to properly oversee it.
That report, and the auditor general's before it, cost Clark his job. He remains a PC MPP. His former chief of staff, Ryan Amato, resigned, about a week before the integrity commissioner's report.