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Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to journalists at the Queens Park Legislature in Toronto on Aug. 25.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s confident nothing criminal took place in the lead-up to his government’s decision to open parts of the protected Greenbelt to development, days after the RCMP announced they were examining the matter.

Mr. Ford faced reporters on Friday after a tumultuous week for his government, which included the resignation of Housing Minister Steve Clark’s chief of staff and an announcement by the Ontario Provincial Police that they had referred the Greenbelt file to the Mounties, to avoid what the OPP described as a potential conflict of interest.

The Premier told reporters he takes the possibility of a police probe extremely seriously, but he said the RCMP have not officially launched an investigation.

“If they decide to investigate – they haven’t decided yet – but if they do, I take it very serious, extremely serious. And I have zero tolerance if there’s any nonsense going on,” Mr. Ford said.

Asked if he’s confident nothing criminal took place, Mr. Ford replied, “I’m confident. I won’t tolerate that … And then the authorities will deal with it.” He said he has not spoken to the OPP about the Greenbelt.

The Greenbelt is an environmentally protected zone that arcs around the Greater Toronto Area. Mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservative government was met with widespread public outcry when it decided last fall to remove protections from 3,000 hectares of Greenbelt land, which it said was needed for housing construction. A report earlier this month from the provincial Auditor-General said the process of selecting that land was “biased,” and that it had “favoured certain developers” and delivered them a potential $8.3-billion windfall.

The report identified Ryan Amato, Mr. Clark’s chief of staff, as having led the process of selecting the land for removal from the Greenbelt. Mr. Amato resigned on Tuesday.

The next day, the RCMP confirmed the OPP had requested that they investigate “irregularities in the disposition of the Greenbelt surrounding Toronto.” The RCMP said they will review and assess the information before determining whether to launch a full investigation.

Mr. Ford said Friday he had never directed Mr. Amato on what lands to remove from the Greenbelt, and that he didn’t know the proposal was coming forward until it came to cabinet. In his resignation letter, Mr. Amato said he has been unfairly depicted and that he’s confident he acted appropriately.

Opposition parties have repeatedly called on Mr. Clark to resign, saying it’s implausible that he didn’t know what Mr. Amato was doing. Mr. Ford stood by his Housing Minister.

“I have full confidence in Steve Clark,” Mr. Ford said Friday. “He’s out there trying to build homes. He’s out there trying to cut red tape.”

Asked about the Auditor-General’s claim that a small group of well-connected developers are set to potentially earn billions in profits after developing on the Greenbelt land, Mr. Ford said his intention has always been to address the housing crisis and build more homes.

“I don’t give two hoots about the builders. Are they part of the solution, along with many other people? Yes. My full intention is to make sure that we have homes, attainable homes, affordable homes,” he said.

The Premier also pushed back against the suggestion that the developers are his friends. “I have more friends, regular common folk, than builders,” he said.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said Mr. Ford has shown “an outrageous display of indifference” toward the people of Ontario over the Greenbelt changes. She said the government’s actions were the talk of last week’s meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference.

“The word there was that they’ve never seen anything like the corruption of this government and the collusion that we’re seeing today,” she told reporters.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said the Premier “is trying to play us all as fools.”

“Ontarians know it is simply not believable that one political staffer – a rookie chief of staff – was behind all of this,” he said, reiterating his earlier call for Mr. Clark to resign.

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