Politics

Integrity commissioner recommends housing minister be reprimanded over Greenbelt land swap

Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner is recommending that Housing Minister Steve Clark be reprimanded for his role in the province’s contentious Greenbelt land swap, calling it a “rushed and flawed process” marred by a “lack of oversight.”

In a report issued Wednesday, David Wake said Clark failed to properly oversee the process that led to protected Greenbelt lands being selected for housing development, “leading to the private interests of certain developers being furthered improperly.

“Minister Clark’s lack of oversight led to some developers being alerted to a potential change in the government’s position on the Greenbelt, resulting in their private interests being furthered improperly,” Wake wrote on his office’s websiteYou can read Wake’s full report at the bottom of this story:

Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development. Last year, the province took 2,995 hectares of land out of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes and replaced it with about 3,000 acres elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the province’s auditor general released a scathing report that showed property developers with close ties to the government influenced the decision to open up the Greenbelt to their benefit. The fallout has triggered the resignation of the housing minister’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato, and the RCMP is considering launching an investigation into the matter.

Wake said his report established that Amato was the “driving force for the process” for which lands were selected for housing development, and that Clark “misinterpreted” a mandate letter in relation to the Greenbelt, especially when it came to what was expected, and by when, which “led Mr. Amato to embark on a rushed and flawed process.

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“This process was unfair to those landowners who had an interest in seeing their lands removed and who were unaware of the potential change to the government’s Greenbelt policy,” Wake wrote. “Since supervision of staff is incumbent on the minister, Minister Clark’s lack of oversight led to some developers being alerted to a potential change in the government’s position on the Greenbelt, resulting in their private interests being furthered improperly.

“Minister Clark did not question or properly oversee Mr. Amato’s selection process before the matter was presented to cabinet.”

CBC News is seeking comment from both the premier’s office and Clark.

More to come.

Here’s the integrity commissioner’s report:

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