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Greenbelt – Updates & Next Steps

In Development
Aug 30th, 2023
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Dear Friend,

Earlier this month, the Auditor General presented a report about what actually happened with the Ford government and the Greenbelt. The damning report, available here, concluded that the steps taken by the Ford government to change the designation of protected lands was driven by “preferential decision-making” and likely meant a windfall of more than $8 billion dollars to the friends of the Premier. The report also made 15 recommendations including one to revisit the whole fundamentally wrong decision.

Ford responded by saying he would adopt all the 15 recommendations in the Auditor General’s report except for the one that called for a revisiting the whole decision to give this huge gift to his developer friends.

The AG also found that senior Conservative staff had been deleting emails related to the issue, which is illegal. Last evening, two weeks after the AG’s revelations, the Housing Minister’s Chief of Staff’s resignation was accepted; the Official Opposition stated, “This is the bare minimum of accountability for one of the most serious breaches of public trust in Ontario’s history… the Auditor General’s report was very clear – this staffer obviously didn’t act independently.”

You may recall that in 2018, former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Chief of Staff was sent to jail for directing mass destruction of emails, by deleting computer hard drives, related to the gas plant scandal. Destruction of records is serious.

Since January 2023, the OPP has said they are still trying to decide whether or not to investigate the Greenbelt development plan. Breaking news this morning, reveals that the OPP is turning the matter over to the RCMP who will now conduct an “evaluation” of the information provided. According to this Globe and Mail article, “After we have conducted a full assessment, we will determine whether to launch an investigation.” From my experience with the gas plant scandal, it can take a while for the police to conclude that there is enough evidence available to actually set up an investigation.

As of today, the Province’s Integrity Commissioner is still investigating the situation in response to a complaint from the NDP.

This week the NDP asked the Privacy Commissioner and the head of the Public Service to take steps to protect, recover and retain the records in the Province’s data systems that pertain to the Greenbelt. Correspondence states that, “Acting now to preserve public documents related to this matter is essential for the accountability, and transparency that Ontarians deserve from their government and institutions.”

We have also asked that the Legislature be recalled immediately to reverse Ford’s decision to end protection for the Greenbelt lands. You can see the media release here.

As you are also probably aware, Doug Ford pushed back against the Auditor General’s report insisting that he acted to build housing – this despite the fact that, as the Auditor General  pointed out, Ford’s own housing study made it clear that the Greenbelt lands were not needed for housing. Just a note that when the Greenbelt was set up a large area of land closer to Toronto was designated for housing and not put under any restriction. However, because housing could be built there, that land was more expensive than land that was supposed to be protected. Protected land could be bought cheap and so when the protection was removed, suddenly developers close to Ford were in line for the $8 billion bonus.

It has become clear that Ford’s intent was not to stop with the land that lost protection, but to dismantle the whole Greenbelt. At least for now the only safeguard that the Greenbelt really has is public attention and anger.

I will continue to raise this issue in the legislature along with my colleagues and to keep you informed of any upcoming actions, events and ways to keep engaged on this important issue.  If you have not already signed my Greenbelt petition, please sign it now. We have to make it clear that public anger is not going away if we want any chance to save the Greenbelt.

Thanks for taking the time to read this email and to act to protect the Greenbelt.

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