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'I'm sorry we didn't do a better job': Housing Minister apologizes but won't step down over Ont. Greenbelt report

Steve Clark dismissed calls to resign as Ontario’s housing minister Thursday and instead apologized after a scathing report found he broke ethics rules when land was extracted from the Greenbelt.

“I want to make it very clear to Ontarians that I'm sorry that we didn't do a better job and that I personally didn't do a better job in terms of the oversight,” Clark said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Clark’s remarks came hours after Premier Doug Ford reiterated his confidence in him at a separate press event, noting that he “is a part of our team and will continue to be a part of our team.”

However, both interim Liberal Leader John Fraser and Green Leader Mike Schreiner told reporters on Thursday afternoon that they believe Clark needs to resign. 

  • To read the full integrity commissioner report follow this link.

The resignation calls come on the heels of a scathing report from the province’s integrity commissioner, which found Clark broke ethics rules when the Ford government carved up the Greenbelt for development. Calls for his resignation quickly following the report's release.

At Clark’s press conference, he pinned the failures on his former chief of staff who has since resigned, despite the commissioner recommending Clark himself be formally reprimanded for his actions. The commissioner also acknowledged in his report that there will likely be a “political price to be paid.”

Following Clark's words, the Ontario Liberals and Greens reiterated their calls for the minister to resign or be removed from cabinet, with Fraser stating, "It is simply not believable that one political staffer was the sole mastermind behind this $8.3 Billion scheme."

Schreiner said the Ford government's Greenbelt land swap has never been about building housing.

“The reason this government is failing to address the housing crisis is because they're more focused on helping a handful of wealthy well connected insiders cash in $8.3 billion then they are in actually building homes that people can afford in the communities that they want to live in -- and the rest of us are paying the price for that.”

Ontario Housing Minister Steve Clark takes questions at the podium at the Queen's Park media room on Aug. 31, 2023 (Craig Wadman)Integrity commissioner J. David Wake's report, released Wednesday, revealed Clark had failed to oversee the process of Greenbelt land selected for development, which led to furthering “the private interests of certain developers.”

The province took 7,400 acres out of the Greenbelt last year with plans to build 50,000 homes on the land, and replaced it with about 9,400 acres elsewhere.

Holding the top job on the housing file, it was Clark’s responsibility to supervise the process – characterized by Wake as “chaotic and almost reckless."

Throughout Ford’s media availability, the premier dodged questions about firing his embattled housing minister and instead, reiterated his steadfast support for Clark.

“I have confidence in Minister Clark. The buck stops with me,” Ford said.

Ford became combative with a reporter when asked how the people of the province should trust his leadership after standing by Clark, maintaining that his government's focus was on building housing.

“You have a home but many people don't have a home,” he said

“We're going to build homes until people have the same opportunity that you have. You have a nice home down the street. But guess what, there's hundreds of thousands of people that don't have your opportunity.”

Pressed further, Ford said, “You don’t attack me, I don’t attack him.”

The premier met with Clark and the federal housing minister on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking to CP24 on Thursday afternoon, Opposition Leader Marit Stiles, who has been calling for Clark's resignation, said it's disappointing that the minister has not stepped down.

"The premier needs to demand the resignation of the minister. It's the least that should happen here," Stiles said. "Why isn't he doing that? I can't understand it. To me, what it says is that the premier has something to hide."

The Ontario NDP leader also wants Ford to reverse the move and return the properties to the Greenbelt.

"I think the only way we move forward now is to reverse the deal and fire the minister," Stiles said.

She added that she will continue pressuring the minister to resign, promising to bring forward motions in the legislature when it reconvenes next month to get him out of the job.

"Ontarians all across this province are not being fooled by this," Stiles said. "They want answers. They want the government to actually take responsibility and reverse this."

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Siobhan Morris and Katherine Declerq Top Stories

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