September 6, 2023

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday September 6, 2023

Doug Ford’s Tenuous Grip on Power Unravels Amid Scandal

In a desperate bid to salvage his government’s reputation, Doug Ford has been forced into a cabinet shuffle of epic proportions. This dramatic move comes on the heels of Steve Clark’s resignation, finally succumbing to mounting pressure and the overwhelming stench of scandal surrounding the $8.28-billion Greenbelt land swap controversy.

For weeks, the embattled municipal affairs and housing minister clung to his post, defiant in the face of allegations that he had allowed his former chief of staff to personally select lands for removal from Greenbelt protection, all to facilitate the construction of 50,000 houses. The fallout was inevitable, and Clark’s resignation on Monday morning was a begrudging admission that he had become a “distraction” for Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford shuffles cabinet after housing minister resigns

This development has thrown Ford’s government into a Labour Day scramble as it attempts to rebrand itself and distance from the Greenbelt debacle that has raised eyebrows and the potential interest of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As Clark made his exit, Ford shuffled his cabinet, a desperate attempt to put a fresh face on a government mired in controversy. But is it too little, too late?

The premier’s statement about “building Ontario” may sound reassuring, but it’s hard to ignore the cloud of suspicion hanging over his administration. New Democrat Leader Marit Stiles quickly dismissed the new cabinet as a “slapdash team,” and she may have a point.

Clark’s departure is the latest blow in a series of events that have left Ford looking like a dead man walking. A scathing report from provincial ethics commissioner J. David Wake accused Clark of having “his head in the sand” and breaking ethics legislation. Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s report further criticized Clark’s role in a process that seemed to favor certain developers. Despite initial efforts to stay in his role, Clark ultimately acknowledged that his presence would only perpetuate the distraction from the important work that needs to be done.

The Greenbelt scandal, with its potential criminal investigations, has been a noose around Ford’s neck. The only person to resign before Clark was his former chief of staff, Ryan Amato, who played a significant role in selecting the parcels of land to be removed from the Greenbelt. Opposition parties have long argued that Clark’s resignation was long overdue and that the corruption extends far beyond his office.

Ford and Clark’s claims of ignorance regarding Amato’s actions seem increasingly incredulous as the scandal unfolds. Rival parties have called for transparency and accountability, demanding answers about how this $8.3-billion cash-for-land scheme could have occurred under their watch.

PC support is sliding as Greenbelt fallout continues, poll suggests

Clark’s decision to remain in his ministerial role despite the mounting evidence against him stands in stark contrast to his previous calls for Liberal cabinet ministers to resign when the Conservatives were in opposition. The tangled web of lawyers involved in Clark’s defense, some of whom had ties to former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty’s chief of staff David Livingston, only deepens the intrigue surrounding this scandal.

As Doug Ford attempts to put a brave face on his cabinet shuffle and the Greenbelt scandal, the writing on the wall appears clear: his government’s credibility has been seriously eroded. With the specter of potential criminal investigations looming and a growing chorus of calls for transparency, Ford’s political future is hanging by a thread. He may try to “build Ontario,” but first, he must reckon with the crumbling foundation of his own government. (AI)

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