submitted by Steve Gabell
President, Local Ontario Greens Constituency Association
A bombshell report was released by the Ontario Auditor General this week on changes to the Greenbelt, and it should serve as the death knell for Premier Ford’s and Minister Clark’s political careers. The AG found that developers received “preferential treatment” in determining which land was to be removed from the Greenbelt.
In a June 2022 mandate letter, Premier Ford directed Minister Clark to conduct “swaps, expansions, contractions, and policy updates” related to the Greenbelt, despite both promising numerous times before the election that the Greenbelt would not be opened up for development. Minister Clark’s Chief of Staff implemented this policy, and he received packages from prominent housing developers with specific sites to target. A team of government employees were bound by confidentiality and given just three weeks to identify and assess 22 parcels of land for removal, and when the lands failed to meet development standards to allow for removal, the criteria was changed to specifically allow pieces of land owned by developers with access to the government to be removed. In total, of the 7400 acres to be removed from the Greenbelt, 6700 or 92% was removed as a direct result of developer access to Clark’s Chief of Staff.
The three developers who own the land to be removed from the Greenbelt stand to benefit from an increase in land values of at least $8.3 billion, and some of this land was purchased shortly before being removed from the Greenbelt. In February of this year, there were concerns that developers had been tipped off as to which land was to be removed from the Greenbelt, which would be a scandal, yet we now find that land was being removed at the direct request of developers who stood to benefit.
Premier Ford and Minster Clark are trying to claim they did not know how their policy was being implemented by Clark’s Chief of Staff. Are they telling the truth, in which case they should resign for gross incompetence, or are they trying to protect themselves by creating a sacrificial lamb?
The removal of land from the Greenbelt, which was meant to be protected from development in perpetuity, is claimed to be needed to meet housing targets yet key planning figures have told the Province that the Greenbelt could remain untouched without impacting housing goals.
Ontario Greens leader and MPP Mike Schreiner said:
“What this demonstrates to me is a total lack of care for the people of Ontario – a willingness to break all the rules to sell off the land that feeds us and protects us to wealthy insiders, leaving the rest of us to foot the bill. While the rich get richer, we lose thousands of acres of prime farmland, wetlands, and woodlands.
Ontario Greens want a Province where everyone has a great place to live in an affordable, connected community. Where we make sustainable decisions that will help us grow now and in the future. Where the government works for the people it represents, instead of trying to deceive them.
We are calling on Minister Clark, our local MPP, to resign both his position as Minister and as MPP, and to cooperate fully in any future investigations into this scandalous episode. We need to restore the public’s trust in politics, to stop this corrosion of public life.