Developers lobbied government staff in Greenbelt snatch, Auditor General report finds

Housing Minister’s Chief of Staff was lobbied by Greenbelt developers whose property values were set to increase by billions.

Developers lobbied government staff in Greenbelt snatch, Auditor General report finds
The Canadian Press / Arlyn McAdorey
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Ontario’s auditor general has just released a “Special Report on Changes to the Greenbelt” amid Premier Doug Ford’s development attempts in the province.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk accuses the government of failing to consider “environmental, agricultural and financial risks and impacts, proceeded with little input from experts or affected parties, and favoured certain developers/landowners.”

Ontario’s Greenbelt is the world’s largest protected green space that includes lush farmlands, forests, wetlands and watersheds. It has been the target of housing development as the province battles a worsening housing crises, which Ford claimed was necessary to meet an ever increasing demand in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Yet the auditor general's report found the government did not have evidence that removing land from the Greenbelt was needed to meet housing targets.

Furthermore, the report found that developers and landowners could see a $8.28 billion increase in the value of their land after the removal of 15 sites from the Greenbelt. The estimates were according to property values determined by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.

It was also determined that certain developers with direct (and timely) access to Housing Minister Steve Clark's Chief of Staff were given preferential treatment, which the auditor general called a “truncated, highly restricted selection exercise.”

Approximately 92% of the acreage slated to be removed from the Greenbelt was from five land sites passed on to the housing minister’s Chief of Staff from two developers, including a land site associated with a third developer, the report highlighted.

The report also noted the “government did not assess financial impacts such as serviceability costs, taxation impacts and land value impacts of Greenbelt boundary changes.”

Premier Doug Ford has since stated he will be implementing 14 of the 15 recommendations contained in the auditor general report.

“Unequivocally, we won’t touch the greenbelt,” Ford said in 2018. Ford acknowledged that Ontario was faced with a housing crisis at that time, which has only gotten worse.

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