Most Ontarians believe the Ford government's approach to selecting lands within the Greenbelt for housing development was corrupt, with nearly three-quarters calling for an RCMP investigation, a new poll has found.
The poll conducted for Village Media by Pallas Data surveyed 940 eligible adult voters in Ontario between Aug. 28 and Aug. 29. The survey, which has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 per cent with a 95 confidence level, was done after the release of the highly critical report by the auditor general and the resignation of Ryan Amato as chief of staff for Housing Minister Steve Clark. The poll results were tallied before this week’s report by Ontario’s integrity commissioner, who determined Clark had violated the law.
The poll found 47 per cent of respondents "strongly" agreed the process was corrupt, while an additional nine per cent "somewhat" agreed. Only 23 per cent either partially or strongly disagreed with this perspective.
According to the poll, nearly three-quarters of respondents (73 per cent) — including 58 per cent of past Progressive Conservatives (PCs) voters — said the RCMP should investigate the land transfers. Meanwhile, 29 per cent of PC voters opposed the RCMP investigation.
In general, 60 per cent of respondents expressed the view that all the Greenbelt land should remain safeguarded. Among all voters, one in five individuals advocated for the allocation of certain portions of land, while a mere 12 per cent supported making a substantial amount of land available for development, the poll suggests.
Despite the Greenbelt scandal, support for Doug Ford and his PCs was still higher than any other opposition party, with 37 per cent of decided voters saying they would vote Progressive Conservative. The provincial Liberals and NDP still trail with 25 and 24 per cent support, respectively, from decided voters.
On Thursday, Ontario’s housing minister apologized for the Greenbelt scandal and acknowledged he personally could have done a better job in overseeing the process of the Greenbelt land swap. Ford expressed his trust in his housing minister and intends to allow Clark to continue his work.
Ford has consistently defended his decision last year to remove land from the Greenbelt on the grounds it is necessary for housing development to address provincewide shortages. However, his government has faced growing pressure in recent weeks following a scathing auditor general’s report on the Greenbelt plans, which found the Greenbelt parcels were handpicked and favoured developers with political access to the housing minister’s chief of staff.
Earlier this week, First Nations leaders in Ontario also demanded the return of all lands removed from the Greenbelt for development, calling for a criminal investigation of the Ford government.
The poll found 47 per cent of respondents "strongly" agreed the process was corrupt, while an additional nine per cent "somewhat" agreed. Only 23 per cent either partially or strongly disagreed with this perspective. #Greenbelt.
Since the report’s release, Clark’s chief of staff has resigned and the Ontario Provincial Police has handed over its review of the Greenbelt land swap to the RCMP for investigation. Ford has expressed his confidence that the RCMP investigation will reveal no criminal wrongdoing.
The Ontario premier said he believes no criminal activities will be uncovered and remains determined to develop the areas his government exempted from the Greenbelt.
This story was produced in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights for the Afghan Journalists-in-Residence program funded by the Meta Journalism Project.