Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford speaks at Valiant plant in Windsor, May 13, 2022. Photo by Maureen Revait) Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford speaks at Valiant plant in Windsor, May 13, 2022. Photo by Maureen Revait)

Ford government's Greenbelt plans subject of multiple investigations

Ontario's auditor general and integrity commissioner are both looking into allegations that the Ford government gave insiders a heads up before opening a portion of the Greenbelt for development.

In November, the Ford government removed environmental protections on more than 7,000 acres of land in the Greenbelt. After documents showed that a significant portion of the land is owned by Progressive Conservative campaign donors, the opposition demanded an investigation.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark has said the plan would result in 50,000 homes being built.

"I would like to confirm that my Office will be conducting certain audit work on this issue commencing within the next few weeks. The exact scope of the audit has not as yet been finalized, but I can assure you we will take the matters raised in your letter into consideration in determining the full scope of our work," Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk wrote in a letter to incoming NDP Leader Marit Stiles, interim Liberal leader John Fraser, and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner sent on Wednesday.

Meantime, the integrity commissioner is also launching an investigation.

David Wake said there are "reasonable and probable grounds" for an investigation and that he "decided to conduct an inquiry under section 31 of the Act on the request of Ms. Stiles," as per a report he released on Wednesday.

“I am relieved to see that this matter is being treated with the seriousness that it deserves and pleased to see this response from the Integrity Commissioner and the Auditor General. Ontarians are owed answers about the Greenbelt, and I am confident that today is a step in the right direction to understanding what happened," said Stiles in a release on Wednesday. "I am hopeful that Ontarians will be able to get answers in a thorough, timely manner because of these investigations.”

"I am alarmed by the ongoing media reports that outline curious timing of recent purchases of Greenbelt land by powerful landowners with donor and political ties to the Ontario PC Party," Stiles added. "Many of these developers have been on the receiving end of favourable Ministerial Zoning Orders and have a demonstrable long-standing relationship with the government."

Ontario's Greenbelt is two million acres of protected land in and around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, created by the province in 2005.

The OPP is also investigating how certain portions of the land were selected for development.

“There are serious unanswered questions about how certain Conservative connected land speculators knew to buy the parcels in question – some of these transactions occurring mere months before the government’s announcement," Schreiner said Wednesday. "We need to know how much this deal is costing taxpayers and why the Ford government is putting private interest ahead of public benefits.”

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