Reviewing the Prime Minister’s only remaining step to save the government

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Everyone knows that you can’t put the smoke back into the wood and the toothpaste back into the tube.

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What Premier Doug Ford can do is cancel any improper deals to remove land from the protected green belt that enriches some and send the entire plan back for proper review.

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He should have done so in August, when Ontario’s auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, highlighted the flawed process and after Ontario’s integrity commissioner, David Wake, found that Housing Minister Steve Clark, who resigned from his cabinet post on Monday, had violated ethics rules when the province opened parts of the Greenbelt to development .

Late Tuesday, Ford announced that Cabinet Minister Paul Calandra would take over as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is seen in Ottawa on February 7, 2023.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is seen in Ottawa on February 7, 2023. Photo by Blair Gable /REUTERS

This was never a storm in a teapot as many originally thought. That was always trouble.

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Even though the game is late, the Prime Minister still has one last chance to do the right thing. If he doesn’t, he risks becoming the next target in this game of political dominoes in which the opposition is armed and ready to attack.

Ford is now alone in the political forest.

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But what the Prime Minister still has is the power to lead his government out of this mess by assuring the confused and disappointed public that any agreements with developers made by Chief of Staff Ryan Amato and Clark will be reviewed to ensure that there are no such unfair backroom deals advantage friends.

Ford and his new housing minister do not need to abandon their plans to develop small parts of the green belt or undertake a permanent U-turn. All you need to do is have them reviewed by a trusted, impartial third party to ensure decisions are made in the best interests of the province.

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Building more housing is in Ontario’s best interest. The right way forward is to free up land that should never have been closed and to stand up to unreasonable environmental activists.

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This isn’t difficult to fix. It may mean compensating some landowners who will not be happy with their businesses stalling.

But Ford answers to all Ontarians, not just the rich and connected. He has to show that he is ready and that he is in charge – not her. He and Calandra need to show the public that they are not beholden to the 1% and are listening to the 99%.

Ford has reversed decisions before, including in the Greenbelt area, but for some reason he remains defiant on this issue.

He is losing with this strategy and will lose even more if he doesn’t stand up to those who tell him he can’t change it. If he wants to remain prime minister, he has to do that.

This is necessary because, although there is no evidence of wrongdoing, the public cares about cases where there is suspicion of possible corruption.

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The opposition smells blood and losing Clark is a big problem because he is popular in the faction and Ford cannot afford to lose that group.

But what the public wants to hear from the Prime Minister is that he works for them – not for powerful developers.

If Ford can convince the public that he is there for them, this will go away because people will have bigger problems to worry about, like figuring out how to pay for housing, gas, and groceries.

If he fails to reverse and review Greenbelt deals, the next person who walks away could very well take over.

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