Doug Ford beats a rapid retreat from his controversial scheme to open up the Greenbelt’s protected land to development.

Doug Ford has made a rapid retreat from his controversial scheme to open up the Greenbelt’s protected land to housing development.

The Progressive Conservative leader backed down one day after it emerged he had privately assured property developers he would “open a big chunk” of the 800,000-hectare swath of environmentally sensitive land around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area if the Tories win the June 7 election.

“The people have spoken — we won’t touch the Greenbelt. Very simple. That’s it, the people have spoken. I’m going to listen to them, they don’t want me to touch the Greenbelt. We won’t touch the Greenbelt. Simple as that,” Ford said Tuesday afternoon.

“There have been a lot of voices saying that they don’t want to touch the Greenbelt. I govern through the people; I don’t govern through government.”

The rookie PC leader, who took the reins of the party on March 10, said the forthcoming PC election platform would “increase the supply of affordable housing across the GTA while protecting the Greenbelt in its entirety.”

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