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'Doing the right thing isn't always the right thing to do': Fedeli comments Greenbelt land reversal decision

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli came to Premier Doug Ford’s defence Friday over his about-face decision not to open up the Greenbelt land for developers.

During a news conference at North Bay’s Canadore College Commerce Court Campus, Fedeli told media the Ontario Government “heard loud and clear” constituents did not want the Greenbelt land set aside for development.

Last month, Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released a scathing report on the province’s handling of Greenbelt land removals. The report found that certain developers received “preferential treatment” and had direct influence over the government’s decision to extract lands.

According to the auditor general, of the 7,400 acres of land removed from the Greenbelt by the province, 92 per cent could be tied to three developers with direct access to the housing ministry.

The owners of the 15 land sites could see more than an $8.3 billion increase in the value of their properties, the report noted.

It also found that there was already sufficient land available in Ontario to build much-needed housing and that there was no need to remove lands from the Greenbelt in order to meet housing targets.

“He said he made a mistake with it and he apologized which is something you rarely see from politicians,” said Fedeli.

The report has led two cabinet ministers, Housing Minister Steve Clark and MPP Kaleed Rasheed, Ontario’s Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery, to resign from their positions.

Rasheed resigned from his cabinet post and the PC caucus on Wednesday after records revealed contradicting accounts of a Las Vegas trip that was investigated as part of the integrity commissioner’s probe into the Greenbelt land deals. Clark had previously resigned as housing minister on Sept. 4.

Monte McNaughton also resigned from Ford's cabinet in the wake of the report, though he said his departure is not connected to the unfolding Greenbelt development scandal.

Ford eventually had a change of heart over the land. On Thursday, he recalled making a promise he would not touch the Greenbelt.

“I broke that promise and for that, I'm very, very sorry,” said Ford.

“I pride myself on keeping our promises. It was a mistake to open the Greenbelt. It was a mistake to establish a process that moved too fast.”

The RCMP has previously said that it is looking into whether or not to launch a formal investigation into the Ford government’s handling of the Greenbelt file.

“You know Premier Ford, everything you hear from him, it all comes from his heart. He apologized and said we’re moving on,” said Fedeli.

READ MORE: A timeline of the key events in the Ontario Greenbelt scandal

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles called the reversal “a victory” for Ontarians who were concerned over the usage of the land.

“It was clear from the beginning that this was the wrong decision, and yet Ford’s Conservatives pressed on. It was a calculated attempt by this government to benefit a select few of their insiders at the expense of everyone else,” Stiles said in a written statement.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser also released a statement following Ford’s announcement.

"The decision to return all lands to the Greenbelt is a good one and one that Ontario Liberals have called for since the Conservatives chose to sell off our protected lands to a group of PC Party insiders,” Fraser said.

“Ontarians still need to get to the bottom of this $8.3 billion backroom deal. The questions we had this morning are still the same questions we have now.”

READ MORE: What you need to know about the Greenbelt as MPPs return to Queen’s Park

Fedeli said the government is still committed to building 1.5 million homes and that it will look at other means of completing that goal.

“He (Ford) said his motivations were right,” said Fedeli.

“But doing the right thing isn't always the right thing to do.” 

- With files from CTV News Toronto’s Katherine DeClerq and Jon Woodward as well as files from CP24's Codi Wilson Top Stories

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