Premier Doug Ford says he is ‘confident’ nobody within his government tipped off developers about plans to open up a portion of previously protected lands within Ontario’s Greenbelt.
Ford made the comment to reporters during a news conference in London on Friday, just two days after the Ontario integrity commissioner confirmed his office would be investigating whether Housing Minister Steve Clark gave developers advance notice about the changes.
The investigation comes after multiple media outlets reported large developers had purchased Greenbelt land since the Progressive Conservative government was first elected in 2018, with the most recent transaction occurring in September.
“I’m confident no one gave anyone a heads-up,” Ford said. “It’s not government land. It’s private individuals’ land. They have the right to sell to anyone they want.”
The Ford government issued new regulations last month which will remove 7,400 acres from the protected Greenbelt, effectively opening that land up for housing for the first time.
At the same time the government is adding 9,400 acres in Greenbelt land elsewhere.
Ford has insisted the changes to the Greenbelt are necessary for the province to meet its goal of building 1.5 million new homes over the next decade.
However, the opposition parties at Queen’s Park have suggested the move will only enrich developers.
“It is not just in the middle of some marsh or something,” Ford insisted. “It’s bumped up against an existing community. So you have a community with all the services there on one side of the road with hundreds, if not thousands of homes, and on the other side of the road you have an empty field. We have people coming here. We need to build homes.”
In a statement provided to CTV News Toronto earlier this week, a spokesperson for Clark said the minister “looks forward to being cleared of any wrongdoing at the conclusion of the (integrity commissioner) investigation.”
Ford did not comment specifically on the integrity commissioner investigation on Friday. In a report released on Wednesday, Commissioner David Wake said both the premier and Clark have advised his office “that the selection of the affected lands was made by public servants who were subject to an enhanced confidentiality protocol and that the minister was briefed and accepted their proposal only a few days before he presented it to Cabinet.”
The Ontario Provincial Police’s anti-rackets branch has said it is still reviewing complaints being made against the Ford government in order to determine if they will investigate further.
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