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Doug Ford Directs Review of Greenbelt Following Housing Minister’s Resignation, Warns Against Bank of Canada’s Interest Rate Hikes

Steve Clark, Ontario’s Housing Minister, steps down following a report by the integrity commissioner on the Greenbelt land swap scandal. Premier Doug Ford announces a cabinet reshuffle.

Ontario’s Housing Minister, Steve Clark, has resigned amid questions raised by the integrity commissioner regarding the Greenbelt land swap. Clark felt that the situation could detract from the primary focus on housing affordability.

The integrity commissioner’s report addressed Clark’s oversight of his chief of staff, which resulted in 7,400 acres being removed from the Greenbelt. Although Clark had initially wanted to stay on and lead reforms, he felt that continuing might impact the ministry’s mission. Ford has appointed Paul Calandra as the new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The commissioner’s report echoed the auditor general’s previous concerns about potential bias in the process, suggesting that the chief of staff’s actions might have favored certain developers, possibly increasing the land’s value by approximately $8.3 billion.

Political Responses and Steve Clark’s Future Role:

After Clark’s announcement, responses came from various political figures. NDP Leader, Marit Stiles, expressed concerns about the Greenbelt land swap, and Liberal Leader, John Fraser, emphasized the need for transparency. Mike Schreiner of the Ontario Green Party commented on Clark’s decision. Clark, with a long political career, will continue his role as the MPP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

Ontario’s Housing Development Overview:

With a significant rise in population, the Ford government says it is focused on addressing housing requirements. The province experienced an influx of 500,000 residents in the past year. The government aims to build 1.5 million homes to accommodate the growing population. Premier Doug Ford, honoring a ten-year commitment by the prior government, has directed the review of the Greenbelt. The goal is to evaluate the remaining land swap sites, considering each on its merit. A facilitator will engage with landowners and builders to ensure the development includes community essentials.

Premier’s Statements on Greenbelt and Housing Issues:

Ford expressed strong concerns about the Bank of Canada’s considerations to raise interest rates. Ford warned that such a move could significantly impact homeowners, potentially leading to increased financial strain, bankruptcies, and loss of homes. He emphasized that even major banks have criticized the potential rate hikes. Ford’s message to the Bank of Canada was clear: raising interest rates could have dire consequences for Canadians. Instead, he advocates for more investment in infrastructure to support economic growth.

Greenbelt Review: The Premier emphasized revisiting the Greenbelt plans with an inclusive approach involving all stakeholders.

Steve Clark’s Resignation: Premier Ford was informed of Clark’s decision to resign, viewing it as a testament to Clark’s dedication and values.

Development on Greenbelt: A provincial facilitator will work with stakeholders, making decisions based on individual case merits. A comprehensive review will include multiple stakeholders.

Expansion Possibility: Any expansion will depend on the review outcomes and the Minister’s decisions.

Mandate to Steve Clark: The Premier highlighted the importance of ministerial independence and continuous engagement with stakeholders on housing matters.

Relationship with Landowners: While there may not be binding contracts with landowners, the primary objective is to create 1.5 million homes.

Modular Homes: The Premier expressed interest in diverse housing solutions, including modular homes.

Minister Clark’s Oversight and Recommendations: The Premier and Minister Clark acknowledged the Greenbelt process’s imperfections and are acting on 14 recommendations from the Auditor General.

Further Queries: The Premier confirmed that once finalized, agreements with landowners will be made public. These will showcase the significant community investments by builders and landowners.

Doug Ford Stresses Housing Affordability and Accountability

On housing affordability, the Premier addressed the significant increase in residents and the resulting housing demand. He cited an estimate of half a million new residents, but believes the actual number could be higher. The government’s priority is providing affordable housing, including exploring modular homes.

In his closing remarks, Premier Doug Ford emphasized the importance of housing affordability for Ontarians, reinforcing his commitment to equipping municipalities with the necessary tools to construct homes. He also highlighted the significant contributions of Minister Mulroney in the transportation sector, noting the numerous infrastructure projects initiated under her leadership. Additionally, while acknowledging past mistakes related to the Greenbelt lands, Ford emphasized the expansion of the Greenbelt during his tenure. He underscored the principle of accountability, stating that those who don’t follow the rules will be held responsible.

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