November 14, 2023

Paul Calandra has become crucial to the Ford government, taking swift action to address the Greenbelt scandal, distancing himself from controversies, and attempting to limit damage while navigating potential fallout and a criminal probe.

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday November 14, 2023

Calandra’s Political Choreography: Mopping Up Ford’s Greenbelt Fallout

In the intricate political drama surrounding Premier Doug Ford’s Greenbelt scandal, Housing Minister Paul Calandra has emerged as Ford’s cleanup crew and guardian against further erosion of public trust. Taking charge of the scandal-ridden department, Calandra swiftly cleared the decks, ousting most of his predecessor’s staff to set the stage for significant policy reversals.

With the impending release of potentially damaging documents under freedom of information legislation from the era of former minister Steve Clark, Calandra has been on a mission to minimize the fallout for Ford’s government. Distancing himself from Clark, who resigned under a cloud, the new minister reversed controversial changes to municipal boundaries and canceled his predecessor’s alterations to official city plans across various regions.

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The situation, however, remains precarious, as the Mounties’ investigation looms, casting uncertainty over the government’s agenda. Concerns are growing within the Tory ranks that the scandal is becoming a substantial obstacle.

CBC’s report revealing Clark’s involvement in amendments to Hamilton’s official plan, influenced by developer Sergio Manchia, added another layer of complexity. Calandra, in a decisive move, scrapped his predecessor’s changes to official city plans in multiple areas, citing a failure to meet the necessary standards.

Ford’s about-face on the Greenbelt development scheme further heightened the political drama, with Calandra subsequently tabling legislation to prevent future attempts to open up the Greenbelt to development. NDP Leader Marit Stiles, during question period, drew attention to connections between well-connected developer Sergio Manchia and Conservative donors, suggesting preferential treatment in both the Greenbelt issue and a controversial stag and doe party linked to the Conservative fundraising team.

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As the NDP pressed Calandra on the integrity commissioner’s report and Premier Ford’s interactions with Manchia, the minister strategically avoided direct answers, emphasizing the changes at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
The integrity commissioner’s report painted a damning picture of Clark’s actions, indicating ethical violations and a lack of transparency in decision-making. The Greenbelt fiasco has already claimed the resignations of two ministers and two senior aides, but with an ongoing RCMP criminal probe and additional revelations expected in upcoming FOI documents, the Tories are bracing for further challenges on the horizon. (AI)

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