Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters Thursday that one of the reasons he decided to open up the Greenbelt was because of the Trudeau government’s record-level immigration targets. 

Ford made the comments after a CIBC economist revealed that Ottawa was undercounting how many immigrants were in Canada by omitting nearly one million non-permanent residents and foreign students who have remained in the country despite their visas expiring. 

“In the last election, we didn’t have a housing crisis. And just up to a few months back, I didn’t know the federal government was going to bring in over 500,000. Now we learned that those aren’t accurate numbers. It’s probably up to 800,000 arriving, like I didn’t get a phone call from the Minister,” said Ford. 

“I didn’t get a phone call from the prime minister saying: ‘Surprise, surprise, we’re dropping these many people into your province. And by the way, good luck, you deal with them.’ That’s the reason. We have to make sure that we use every tool in our toolbox to build homes.”

According to CIBC Capital Markets Deputy Chief Economist Benjamin Tal, the federal government’s official statistics underestimate the number of people currently in Canada which skews projections for the number of houses required to be built. 

“Their software, their coding, makes the assumption that 30 days after your visa expired you left the country, despite the fact you have not left the country,” explained Tal. 

“The practical implication of that undercounting is that the housing affordability crisis Canada is facing is actually worse than perceived, and calls for an even more urgent and aggressive policy action.”

Ford is currently under fire for opening up the Greenbelt to developers via a land swap – a move which prompted the province’s integrity commissioner to recommend reprimands for Ontario Housing Minister Steve Clark. 

In response to the integrity commissioner’s report, Ford has stood by Clark saying that the minister will continue to remain in the position. 

“Minister Clark is part of our team and will continue to be part of our team,” Ford said earlier this week. 

“At the end of the day, I’m not happy with the process, we’re changing the process, but I have to build these homes, and we’re going to continue to build the 1.5 million homes in every corner of this province.”