Premier Doug Ford is insisting no developers or landowners were given preferential treatment during the selection of lands for the controversial Greenbelt land swap.
Ford, joined by Housing Minister Steve Clark at a press conference on Friday morning, answered questions regarding the scathing Auditor General report, which detailed a non-transparent selection process that was "biased" and revealed "preferential treatment" for certain developers.
“I disagree with preferential treatment," Ford said. "No one had preferential treatment."
The comment came in contrast to Ford's repeated assertions that both he and Clark have accepted the Auditor General's findings.
In her 95-page report, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk peeled back the layers on the selection process for lands that were removed from the Greenbelt and opened up for housing development. It detailed evidence pointing to one staffer — Clark's Chief of Staff — as having been influenced by suggestions from developers while exercising control over the selection process.
The lands selected were done so in a rushed manner with no regard for environmental assessment criteria, with Lysyk saying, "What occurred here cannot be described as a standard or defensible process."
Despite this, Clark maintained that the Chief of Staff is still employed and will continue to work on his portfolio.
Both Ford and Clark have denied having any knowledge of the less-than-stellar selection process — one that will benefit the chosen landowners immensely. The report noted that the owners of the 15 now-removed sites could see their land value increase by $8.3B.
Asked several times over the past two days as to whether they will re-review the lands selected, or would want to do the selection process over again, Ford and Clark expertly deflected, reverting back to talking points about the need for more housing in the province.
"I think I admitted that the process could be a lot better, and we're already moving on the process. We've taken 14 of the 15 [Auditor General] recommendations to move forward, but comes down to one thing: making sure that we build homes as quickly as possible," Ford said on Friday. "We're going to have 150,000 people living on those lands. We're going to get billions of dollars of infrastructure of schools, of a hospital, of long term care, of parks. That's what they're bringing to the table."
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