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Ontario integrity commissioner investigating government decision to open Greenbelt land to housing development

ontario integrity commissioner investigating government decision to open greenbelt land to housing development

Ontario’s integrity commissioner says he will investigate a complaint against Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark and his decision to open the protected Greenbelt to housing development.

A complaint from incoming NDP leader Marit Stiles asks the commissioner to look into what she calls “curious timing of recent purchases of Greenbelt land by powerful landowners with donor and political ties to the Ontario PC Party.”

She cites media reports that some developers bought that land over the past few years, despite Clark and the premier previously publicly saying it wouldn’t be developed, with one purchase happening as recently as September, two months before Clark announced he’d open the lands up.

Clark announced in November that the government will remove land from 15 different areas of the protected Greenbelt, while adding acres elsewhere so that 50,000 homes can be built.

Stiles asked the integrity commissioner to investigate whether Clark broke ethics rules around making a public policy decision to further someone’s private interests.

Clark and Premier Doug Ford have both denied tipping off developers ahead of the public announcement. A similar complaint about the Greenbelt lodged by Green Party leader Mike Schreiner was also dismissed Wednesday, something a spokesperson for Clark said the minister welcomed.

“The Minister also looks forward to being cleared of any wrongdoing at the conclusion of the investigation,” Chris Poulos said in a statement.

Cabinet passed two regulations on Dec. 14 that enacted its controversial plan to open up land for development in different areas of the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine. It also added some 3,800 hectares in other areas. 

The province says the move was made as part of its goal to build 1.5 million homes over 10 years.

But prominent developers — some who bought land that couldn’t be developed as recently as September, according to investigations by CBC News, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Narwhal — stand to benefit from the move. 

Ontario Provincial Police have also said investigators are working to determine whether they should launch their own investigation into the government’s move to open the Greenbelt to development. Police said earlier this month they’re still looking into the matter.

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