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Ford won't rule out opening up more 'so-called' Greenbelt lands for development

The premier continued his tirade about the Liberals' Greenbelt 'scam' on Friday
In this photo taken using a drone, a tractor is seen working a farm field in Manotick, Ontario on Thursday, July 13, 2022.

Despite the political pushback he's received for opening up parcels of the Greenbelt for development, Premier Doug Ford isn't ruling out doing it again.

"We're gonna continue building homes but ... we aren't going to build on ponds, wetlands and marshes," Ford said at a press conference in Oshawa on Friday when asked if he'd promise not to remove more Greenbelt land in the province's quest to build more housing.

His response left out farmland, which makes up about 40 per cent of the Greenbelt.

Earlier in the week, an NDP MPP had asked Housing Minister Steve Clark at a committee meeting if he'd rule out further opening of the Greenbelt and the minister didn't directly answer, saying only that the bill they were discussing did not do that.

Ford's comments come as he's been amping up his rhetoric against the protected ring of farmland, forests, wetlands, rivers, and lakes around the Greater Toronto Area, calling the "so-called Greenbelt" a "failed... flawed policy" from the former Liberal government. 

"It was just a big scam, as far as I'm concerned," Ontario's premier said Thursday.

Ford's latest talking points on the Greenbelt are that it was created carelessly by Liberal staffers and then changed 17 times by the former government without the same blowback in the media that he's received. However, McGuinty- and Wynne-era Liberals dispute that and some told The Trillium it was originally mapped out, and then amended, after consultations with municipal councillors, developers, environmentalists, and the government's Greenbelt advisory group.

Ford was also asked at Friday's press conference when he first told the civil service about his plans to allow development on the Greenbelt. He didn't say precisely, saying only that "it started when we saw a housing crisis."

He also again denied giving the civil service direction about what lands should be removed, a question that is being probed by the province's auditor general and integrity commissioner.

Ford has also been burnishing his government's environmental credentials when asked critical questions about the Greenbelt. Friday's press conference was about Metrolinx adding two new fully electric zero-emission GO buses into service. To cap it off, Ford pulled out his cellphone and played the song "Electric Avenue" into the microphone, and bobbed his head in time.

"That's the new theme song for Ontario — Electric Avenue — and we're going to build it right across our province," he said. "And I won't quit my day job to be a dancer, that's for sure."

—With files from Charlie Pinkerton

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