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EDITORIAL: An insincere mea culpa (Fall 2023)

December 4th, 2023 · No Comments

When announcing his latest reversal of plans to develop parts of the Greenbelt, Premier Doug Ford said he was “very, very, sorry.” It’s not clear what exactly he is sorry for, or if he is indeed sorry at all. After months of ignoring his critics, including damning reports from the Auditor General and the Integrity Commission, Ford forced his flying monkey cabinet to line up behind him to try and rationalize his latest u-turn on the Greenbelt file.

The late September change was a reversal of his reversal of his previous reversal of his original 2018 plan. Confused? You should be, that’s the way he likes it. 

“To earn back your trust, I’ll be reversing the changes we made, and won’t be making any changes to the Greenbelt in the future,” he said, and without stopping to take a breath he added, “I’ve been very clear: I believe opening the Greenbelt can make a big difference.” I should clarify, he didn’t say these words, he read them, from a teleprompter. Some communications expert thought it would be clever to continue to argue for subdivisions in the Greenbelt whilst running madly from the same idea.

Then the Economic Development Minister took the stage to praise Ford’s “best of intentions,” but that “doing the right thing isn’t always the right thing to do.”  The take away they want is that the public believes Ford will be caught doing the right thing. 

“When faced with making tough decisions,” Ford said “we’ll always choose to do what is right”. Except when right is wrong, apparently. 

What we do know is that the government removed selected parcels of land from the protected zone; some 7400 acres in 15 parcels. No one knows why these specific parcels were chosen, as that process was for insiders only. We do know from the Auditor General’s report that the developers themselves got to pick which properties would be liberated by Greenbelt restrictions in ninety-two per cent of the parcels. The Auditor General says the move enriched these land owners by a cool $8.7 billion. 

The government’s own housing panel, alongside municipalities argue that the there is enough land already available for development to meet the province’s housing goals. These lands, they say, are close to infrastructure and transit. In other words, though Ford still argues his ends justify his means, he cannot reconcile this with the fact that the ends themselves, which make no sense, unless the real goal is to enrich your friends. The province has 630 requests for rezoning in hand from landowners within the Greenbelt; it chose to consider just these 15.

How much will this flip flop cost Ontario tax payers? Ford declined to “predict the future,” and chose instead to refer reporters to the housing minister for these “details.” He is eager to not be associated with an answer to that question. Will the developers sue the government, or perhaps be offered something else on the sly?

The scandal of the Greenbelt isn’t about the Greenbelt at all of course, it’s about the stench of corruption that still lingers. Did anyone in the Ford government benefit? The OPP decided the file was too hot for them and passed it to the RCMP The RCMP decided there was enough evidence to warrant a criminal investigation. Now that dark cloud hovers over the government and this premier. No amount of remorse, sincere or otherwise, or spin will derail that process. 

Ford has a history in making formulaic requests for forgiveness. Back in 2012, when he was Toronto city councillor, he delivered a personal attack on the radio against the City’s Medical Officer of Health, David McKeown. He was ordered by the city’s integrity commissioner to apologize. He told a reporter “if it makes him feel any better to say sorry, and I don’t mean it, so be it.” He added that we he was considering sending the commissioner ten letters that say “ I, Doug Ford, apologize to ________ and to _______ t, for anything I’ve said in the past and anything I’ll say in the future.”

Now there’s a stand-up guy.


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