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Ford Announces Comprehensive Evaluation of Greenbelt Lands by His Administration

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government will do a “complete review” of all Greenbelt lands—a move to correct the current land selection process which two provincial watchdogs recently found to be rushed and flawed.

At a press conference on Sept. 5, Mr. Ford said the review will include hundreds of additional applications for land removal from the protected Greenbelt and not limited to the 14 that were already selected. The process for the latter was found by the province’s auditor general and integrity commissioner to favour certain developers.

“There’s going to be a complete review from top to bottom and they’re going to have to stand on their own merit. And it’s not just the 14 lands, it’s going to be the seven or 800 lands right across the board,” he told reporters.

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The premier added that the re-evaluation is part of a larger review mandated by the previous Liberal government in 2005 that Greenbelt lands be reviewed every 10 years.

Paul Calandra, who took the helm as housing minister after Steve Clark resigned from his post on Sept. 4, will “spend the coming days and weeks working with his officials to design and launch this review,” Mr. Ford said.

Asked what he meant by lands passing on their own merits, the premier did not elaborate, but said the selection process for all applications in the future will be accountable.

“We’re putting together a process, a process through government officials that we’re going to make sure the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted. We’re going to make sure that there’s merit to every application that comes forward,” he said.

‘Wasn’t Happy With the Process’

In December 2022, Ontario amended the Greenbelt Plan boundary created in 2005 to protect some of Canada’s most productive farmland, removing or redesignating 7,400 acres across 15 sites to build 50,000 homes.

However, a report by Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk on Aug. 9 found that about 92 percent of the 7,400 acres could be tied to three developers with direct access to Mr. Clark’s chief of staff Ryan Amato, who resigned on Aug. 22.
Ms. Lysyk said the selection of 15 land sites opened for development “favoured certain developers.”

On Aug. 30, the province’s Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake released his findings in a report, concluding that Mr. Clark breached ethics rules for the way the government opened up parts of the protected Greenbelt for development.

The commissioner also found neither Mr. Clark nor the premier knew what Mr. Amato was up to. Five days after Mr. Wake’s report was published, Mr. Clark tendered his resignation, prompting a cabinet shuffle later that day.

“I wasn’t happy with the process. We are correcting the process,” Mr. Ford said, adding that he respects Mr. Wake’s findings and that his government will follow 14 of the 15 recommendations made by the auditor general in her report.

“We realize it, we admit our mistakes. I’ve come out here, we’ve apologized, we’re moving forward. But nothing is more important than building homes.”

Of the 15 original sites slated for development, the premier said a site in Ajax will be put back into the Greenbelt after the province learned that the owner listed the property for sale rather than for building houses.

The remaining 14 sites will continue to be developed amid the review process.

“A provincial facilitator will continue working with the landowners, the builders to move forward, but it’s going to be based on the merits,” Mr. Ford added. “In fact, her work, to ensure the landowners pay for important community infrastructure like parks, community centers,

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