Blue Line

RCMP evaluating Greenbelt info for potential probe after referral from OPP

August 23, 2023  By The Canadian Press

Aug. 23, 2023, Toronto, Ont. – The RCMP has started to look into a potential investigation related to the Progressive Conservative government’s removal of some areas from Ontario’s protected Greenbelt for housing development, the police force said Wednesday.

A day after the resignation of the Municipal Affairs and Housing minister’s chief of staff, who was at the centre of a damning Ontario auditor general’s report into the Greenbelt land swap, the Ontario Provincial Police said it had referred the matter to the Mounties.

“The OPP has received a number of inquiries regarding an investigation into the Greenbelt,” the provincial police wrote in a statement Wednesday.

“To avoid any potential perceived conflict of interest, the OPP referred this matter to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”


The RCMP was similarly tight lipped, but confirmed the police are looking into it.

“At this time, RCMP O Division is beginning our evaluation of the available information as referred by the Ontario Provincial Police,” the Mounties wrote.

“After we have conducted a full assessment, we will determine whether to launch an investigation.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking at an unrelated news conference Wednesday, declined to comment on the probe and directed questions to RCMP.

While Trudeau recognized a need for more affordable homes across the country, he said “we don’t think that the only solution is to build on protected lands.”

News of the potential police probe came a day after Ryan Amato resigned as chief of staff to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that all but one of the 15 sites ultimately removed from the Greenbelt last year were suggested not by civil servants, but by Amato, who was given packages at an industry event by two key developers.

Developers who had access to Amato wound up with 92 per cent of the land that was removed from the protected Greenbelt, Lysyk found.

Both Clark and Premier Doug Ford have said they were unaware the process was being controlled by Amato, but opposition politicians have said that is not credible and are still calling for Clark himself to resign.

Last year, the province took 7,400 acres of land out of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes and replaced it with about 9,400 acres elsewhere.

Lysyk found Amato formed a small team of public servants to look at specific sites and if some of those did not meet the criteria for selection, such as for environmental reasons, the criterion was simply dropped, rather than selecting a different site.

Ford has said no one received preferential treatment.

The premier has said he accepts Lysyk’s recommendations on process changes, but not the recommendation that he reconsider the removal of those lands from the Greenbelt. He has said that the province has an urgent need to build housing as the population rapidly grows.

The province’s housing task force had previously said in a report that the Greenbelt land was not needed to achieve the province’s goal of building 1.5 million homes over 10 years.

Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development.

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