Ford government faces probe into Greenbelt deals | Rare Techy


Provincial politicians are asking the integrity commissioner and auditor general to launch an investigation into a massive land swap deal that will see eleven parts of the Greenbelt handed over to developers to build new housing estates.

On Monday, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner sent a letter to the integrity commissioner asking whether Premier Doug Ford and Housing Minister Steve Clark violated the MPP Integrity Act and whether developers were notified of the impending decision.

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Schreiner said the Integrity Act prohibits members from knowingly making decisions that advance an individual’s private interest and from communicating inside information that furthers an individual’s private interest.

“I think we need this investigation,” Schreiner said. “Government action doesn’t pass the smell test.”

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In early November, the Ford government unveiled plans to remove 7,400 acres of land from various parts of the Greenbelt, which stretches from Niagara Region to Durham Region, and replace it with a single 9,400-acre property.

A proposal for Greenbelt amendments that would remove 11 sections from land swaps with Ontario developers.

Government of Ontario

The government said the deal would allow private developers to build at least 50,000 new homes, in line with the province’s goal of 1.5 million homes by 2031.

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But Ford’s government has come under intense scrutiny after media reports revealed that in some cases developers bought the land for sale just weeks before the Queen’s Park decision.

A Toronto Star / Narwhal An Ontario developer bought 700 acres of Greenbelt land for $80 million in September, which was part of a Ford government land swap two months later, the investigation found.

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The NDP estimates another developer who would benefit from the land swap will stand to gain more than $600 million from the government’s regulatory changes once the land is developed.

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At Queen’s Park, Housing Minister Steve Clark faced direct questions about the deal and whether businesses benefiting from the swap were given advance notice.

“Did the minister or any other government party official share information with any landowners about the government’s plan to remove land from the green belt before it was made public?” asked NDP representative Jessica Bell.

Minister Clark did not say no, despite being asked the question repeatedly.

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Instead, the minister later told reporters that while he regularly meets with “people who want to build housing,” he “followed all the rules” when the government posted a proposal to change the Greenbelt on Ontario’s environmental registry.

“I did not hide the post, I was honest, open and transparent,” Minister Clark said.

Last week, the NDP sent a letter to the auditor general asking for an investigation and demanding that “the appropriate authorities” be contacted if AG Bonnie Lysyk finds that the Ford government is in violation of the rules.

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“I think where there’s a lot of smoke, somebody better look for fire,” said NDP leadership candidate Marit Stiles. “This deal smells a bit fishy.”

Lysyk’s office told Global News that while his office received the letter, the office “has not made a decision yet.”

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Meanwhile, Schreiner wants the Integrity Commissioner to investigate whether the Premier or Minister Clark engaged in unregistered lobbying on Greenbelt.

“Our initial search for registered lobbyists shows that some of the people who have been reported by the media to have recently purchased land in the Greenbelt are not registered,” Schreiner told reporters at Queen’s Park.

The Office of the Integrity Commissioner told Global News that “the matter is under review”.

© 2022 Global News by Corus Entertainment Inc. department.


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