The Greenbelt saga continued on Tuesday morning as Premier Doug Ford said his government will perform an evaluation of all lands in the protected region, as well as the 14 lands removed late last year in the controversial land swap.
The process, Ford says, will be overseen by his new Minister of Housing, Paul Calandra, with a nonpartisan, non-political facilitator.
"It was mandated back in 2005 from the previous government that they should review [Greenbelt lands] every 10 years," Ford said. "We're going to do a complete review. We're following the recommendations of the Auditor General and we'll continue to follow the recommendations, but there's going to be a complete review from top to bottom and they're going to have to stand on their own merit. And it's not just the 14 lands, it's going to be the seven or 800 lands right across the board."
When asked whether this meant the lands were going to be evaluated for possible removal from the Greenbelt, Ford said they will analyze the results of their review and then it "will be up to the Minister to make that decision."
As for whether the review means that development plans will be put on pause for the 14 already-removed lands, the answer is a clear ‘no.’
“The provincial facilitator will continue working with the landowners and the builders to move forward, but it’s going to be based on the merits,” Ford said.
When asked exactly what merits applications for removal and development will need to have, Ford was unable to provide specifics.
"We're putting together a process, a process through government officials, that we're going to make sure that T's are crossed and the I's are dotted," Ford said. "We're going to make sure that there's merit to every application that comes forward."
This emphasis on merit appears to be addressing — or attempting to address — issues that were raised in the scathing Auditor General's report detailing a dropping of criteria, including environmental criteria, to make certain lands fit the requirements for removal and development during the land selection process.