‘Yes or no?’: Housing minister pressed to say if developers have been warned of Greenbelt changes
Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark insisted proper procedures were being followed, but refused to say ‘no’ when repeatedly asked if developers were notified of the opening more Greenbelt land for housing.
NDP MP Jessica Bell’s question follows a Toronto Star and Narwhal investigation that found eight of the 15 Greenbelt areas where development will soon be allowed have been bought up since the Progressives were elected. Prime Minister Doug Ford’s Conservatives in 2018.
A growing furor over the controversial plan to build more homes on conservation land has prompted Green Leader Mike Schreiner to file a complaint with the provincial Integrity Commissioner demanding an investigation into the property transactions.
“More than half of the parcels of land open for development in the Greenbelt were purchased after Premier Ford was elected and some of those parcels of land were purchased as recently as September of this year,” said Schreiner said.
« It doesn’t pass the smell test…we need to clear the air. »
Schreiner’s complaint came three days after NDP MP Marit Stiles (Davenport) wrote to the province’s auditor general asking for an investigation into the land deals. Neither the auditor nor the Integrity Commissioner commented specifically on the claims.
Clark was under pressure again in the Legislature on Tuesday.
“I asked the minister very clearly three times if they had spoken to developers in advance and given them notice,” said Bell (University-Rosedale), his party’s housing spokesperson, after the daily question period.
“The Minister only has to answer the question: yes or no?
Clark told reporters « we followed all the procedures » in terms of releasing the proposed changes that would open up 7,400 acres of Greenbelt conservation land to housing construction.
They are part of a controversial land swap that would see 9,400 acres added in other areas to the Greenbelt Protected Area, which covers two million acres of agricultural fields and wetlands.
“I am the Minister of Housing. I meet people who want to build homes, whether it’s Habitat for Humanity, Ontario Native Housing Services, or a private builder who builds a house a year or 1,000 houses said Clark.
« I have been honest, open and transparent. »
He noted that the 15 properties are expected to yield at least 50,000 homes to ease a « housing crisis » that has seen prices soar, making homes unaffordable for many due to a shortage of supply. The Ford government has pledged to build 1.5 million new homes over the next decade.
« We need to put shovelfuls in the ground…we need to take bold, transformative action, » Clark said.
The Progressive Conservatives are facing criticism following revelations that party donors are in a position to benefit from the opening up of more Greenbelt land.
“The people of Ontario deserve to know, there have been so many media reports raising important questions that a handful of land speculators will literally turn millions into billions,” Schreiner said of his complaint. to the Integrity Commissioner.
Schreiner is investigating whether Ford and Clark breached any sections of the Members’ Integrity Act, or any other parliamentary convention, when they made their decision to open Greenbelt lands to development. .
He also wants an investigation into whether unregistered lobbying activities have taken place by or on behalf of landowners who will be able to develop Greenbelt land.
« The fact that today in Question Period the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing did not explicitly deny providing leaked information to Greenbelt land speculators about their plans reaffirms the need for this investigation,” Schreiner said.
« Clearly, the minister should be able to simply say, ‘No, I didn’t do that,' » added interim Liberal leader John Fraser. “Why don’t you say that? If so, that’s the easiest thing to say.
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