Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s scrapping his plan to open up parts of the Greenbelt that has led to the resignation of two cabinet ministers, and rocked his government.
“I made a promise to you that I wouldn’t touch the Greenbelt. I broke that promise. And for that, I am very, very sorry,” Mr. Ford told a news conference in Niagara Falls, Ont., on Thursday.
As a first step to regain the trust of Ontario voters, Mr. Ford said he would be reversing the changes made to the Greenbelt, and won’t touch the environmentally protected lands in the future.
Mr. Ford and his Progressive Conservative government have faced widespread criticism for the decision last fall to open up 3,000 hectares of the province’s Greenbelt to development, breaking an oft-repeated promise that he would leave the land intact. There’s an Explainer here on the situation.
“Even if you do something for the right reasons, with the best of intentions, it can still be wrong,” Mr. Ford said Thursday.
“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. This process, it left too much room for some people to benefit over others. It caused people to question our motives.”
Mr. Ford said he was acting after receiving feedback from members of his PC caucus, meeting in Niagara Falls for a retreat. “We aren’t going to touch the Greenbelt,” he said.
On Wednesday, Kaleed Rasheed, who was Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery, resigned from both cabinet and the PC caucus after his office admitted to giving incorrect information to the province’s Integrity Commissioner during the Greenbelt investigation.
Mr. Rasheed was the second minister to leave cabinet in the aftermath of a report from the province’s Integrity Commissioner, J. David Wake. Former housing minister Steve Clark also resigned from cabinet after Mr. Wake determined that he broke ethics laws for failing to oversee his former chief of staff, who drove the process for selecting lands from the Greenbelt for development. Full story here.
Also Thursday, the Integrity Commissioner says there are “insufficient grounds” for him to conduct a full investigation into whether Mr. Ford breached ethics rules regarding his daughter’s stag and doe party. Story here.
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Canada reduces diplomatic staff in India, citing threats to safety – The federal government is cutting staff levels at its diplomatic missions in India, citing a fear for the safety of its employees, as bilateral tensions remain high over allegations New Delhi was behind the slaying of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia. Story here. Diplomatic tensions between New Delhi and Ottawa threaten to curtail a relationship that finances a significant portion of Canada’s postsecondary education system. Story here.
Liberal government introduces bill to strengthen competition watchdog’s powers, waive GST for new rental housing – The minority Liberal government introduced a bill Thursday that includes strengthened powers for Canada’s competition watchdog and aims to spur more housing construction by waiving the GST on new rental housing. Story here.
Premier Danielle Smith to move ahead with plans to leave CPP, set up Alberta pension plan – Alberta will pursue plans to leave the Canada Pension Plan this fall after the provincial government on Thursday released a report that said Alberta is entitled to more than half of the assets in the national program, a proposal that would decimate the country’s retirement safety net. Story here.
Conservative MPs told not to talk to media or post about ‘parental rights’ protests – Conservative MPs were told not to post online or talk to media about competing protests on Parliament Hill that saw protesters clash over how schools should handle LGBTQ+ issues. Story here from CBC.
Notes suggest City of Ottawa considered leaving big-rig trucks on Wellington indefinitely, court hears – Notes taken during a meeting between city employees and convoy protesters show that the City of Ottawa entertained allowing big-rig trucks to remain on the street along Parliament Hill indefinitely, the court heard Thursday. Story here.
B.C. municipalities vote to ask province to put more restrictions on decriminalized illicit drugs – British Columbia city councillors and mayors have voted to ask the province to expand a ban on illicit drug use and possession near areas where children are likely to gather, as concerns mount about public disorder that the politicians say is the result of decriminalization. Story here.
Ottawa forecasts 1.4 million international student applications a year by 2027, document shows – The number of foreign students applying to come to Canada each year is forecast by the federal Immigration Department to rise to 1.4 million by 2027, an internal policy document says, which also raises concerns that such growth is “unsustainable.” Story here.
Higgs greets marchers opposing LGBTQ rights – New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and his Education Minister joined a noisy march against LGBTQ policies in schools on Wednesday, a decision that was quickly denounced by supporters of gay and trans rights. Story here from CBC.
THIS AND THAT
Today in the Commons – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Sept. 21, accessible here.
Deputy Prime Minister’s Day – In Ottawa, Chrystia Freeland held private meetings then held a media availability, with Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Housing Minister Sean Fraser, Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez and Treasury Board President Anita Anand, on legislation to remove GST charges from new rental developments and update the country’s competition law.
In Ottawa – International Trade Minister Mary Ng, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, and Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson welcomed a delegation from Japan led by that country’s Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura for meetings on fortifying commercial ties and fostering collaboration between industries and government bodies.
Ministers on the Road – Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, in New York City for the 78th United Nations General Assembly, held a news conference. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly was also in New York, attending the General Assembly, particularly a high-level UN meeting on Haiti. In Guelph, Ont., Filomena Tassi, minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for southern Ontario, attended the opening of a food-packaging manufacturer.
Commons Committees – Peter Lundy, director-general of the foreign affairs’ department’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Secretariat is among the witnesses at a briefing on the Indo-Pacific Region situation held before the standing national-defence committee. Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, is among the witnesses appearing before the standing finance committee on prebudget consultations ahead of the 2024 budget.
PRIME MINISTER'S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in New York City for the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly, held private meetings, then met with Ariel Henry, the Prime Minister of Haiti. Mr. Trudeau then chaired a high-level UN meeting on Haiti. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly also attended. The Prime Minister then held a media accountability, and departed for Ottawa.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet attended Question Period.
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre held a fundraising event on Bay Street in Toronto.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is in her Vancouver-Island riding, participating virtually in the Commons.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is in interviews and meetings in Ottawa.
On Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, The Globe’s Ontario provincial politics reporter, Jeff Gray, answers audience questions about the fallout from Premier Doug Ford saying he would open up parcels of land in the environmentally protected Greenbelt. On Thursday, Mr. Ford said he is scrapping the policy. The Decibel is here.
OPINION – HARDEEP SINGH NIJJAR
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Ottawa owing Canadians the full truth on the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar: “Ottawa’s belief that India played a role in Mr. Nijjar’s shooting in the parking lot of a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C., clearly goes much further than mere suspicion. The government has already taken significant action. Mr. Trudeau said he raised the matter directly with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at last week’s G20 meeting. Canada also conveyed its concerns to senior Indian intelligence officials. Our allies, including the United States, Britain and Australia, have been briefed. Canada has expelled a senior Indian diplomat, frozen trade talks with India and postponed a federal trade mission. Yet Mr. Trudeau has not spelled out to the nation exactly what has been uncovered that compelled the government to take those steps, and to ignite a serious – perhaps enduring – diplomatic crisis with India. The Prime Minister needs to lay out his case, immediately, to bolster support for the government’s actions both at home and abroad.”
Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on how far Canada should go in pressing India over Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing: “Bringing forward the India case was politically useful for Mr. Trudeau because his being seen to act forthrightly deflected criticism for his dithering on the Chinese interference file. But until more facts and evidence are available, we don’t know whether it was the right thing for him to do or whether he acted prematurely. In the meantime, relations with the Modi government are in the sewer, Canada is more isolated economically, and allies are annoyed because we’ve put them in a more difficult position with India. The consequences are brutal, and unless Mr. Trudeau finds a way to lower the temperature, they could get worse.”
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on the question of the price India would pay if involved in killing a Canadian citizen: “Still, there are surely people in the PMO imagining a scenario in which it is determined agents of the Indian government sanctioned the hit on Mr. Nijjar. What would happen in that case? What price would India pay for the extrajudicial killing of a Canadian citizen? For those expecting a severe, stiff response from the Trudeau government to such a development – as appropriate as it might be – I have some bad news: that is unlikely to be the case. The world today doesn’t operate that way, especially when you’re a middle power dependent on countries like India to maintain the high standard of living to which you are accustomed.”
Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) says to lift up Indigenous people, protect the children: “It was unusually hot for a late September day in Ontario, so searing that even the rez dogs were lying down, immobile. But the children didn’t care about the heat on Tuesday. They ran around chasing each other in front of those gathered outside the new blue building in town, the home of the First Nations child protection and representation program Kaa Yaa Me Sta Maa Ket, waiting for the red ribbon to be cut.”
Lee Airton, Scout Gray, Jake Pyne, Mik Turje and Tracy Whitmore (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how support for trans kids and parent-child relationships are not mutually exclusive: “We believe a transgender student’s best interests are served when school staff take an active role in supporting parent-child relationships. This includes supporting a transgender student in coming to feel safe and comfortable sharing their gender information with their parents, whenever possible. In our experience, this is typically what happens in schools. In fact, it is very rare that school staff respond to a transgender student’s request for confidentiality only by taking steps to ensure that this information stays private. This typically happens when there is evidence that a student is at risk of harm from their parents.”