A timeline of key events following Ontario’s decision to develop Greenbelt lands | PKBNEWS

Ontario Housing Minister Steve Clark apologized Thursday for his role in the Greenbelt land swap, a day after the province’s Integrity Commissioner discovered he violated two sections of the Members’ Integrity Act.

Here is a timeline of the events of the controversy:

November 4, 2022: Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark announced in a news release that Ontario would remove 7,400 acres in 15 different areas of the Greenbelt, while adding 9,400 acres elsewhere, to build 50,000 homes. This contradicts a commitment he made in 2021 not to open the Green Belt “to any type of development”.

November 11th : CBC reports that landowners who could benefit from the removal of Greenbelt lands include high-profile developers and that a purchase took place as recently as September.

November 30: Clark says he didn’t notify the developers before announcing the changes to the Greenbelt. Premier Doug Ford said the same a day later.

January 6, 2023: The Ontario Provincial Police say they are working to determine if they should investigate the matter.

January 18: Both the Integrity Commissioner and the Auditor General of Ontario announce that they will conduct separate investigations. The Integrity Commissioner launches an investigation into Clark based on a complaint from NDP Leader Marit Stiles. She asked the commissioner to investigate whether Clark breached ethics rules by making a public policy decision to advance someone’s private interests.

February 23: Stiles asks the Integrity Commissioner to issue an opinion on Ford’s actions regarding his daughter’s bachelor party before her wedding. Ford acknowledged that some developers, friends, attended the $150-a-ticket event, and media outlets say lobbyists and government relations firms were also invited. Stiles claims in his complaint that several people and promoters who attended the subsequent wedding received favorable zoning orders from the Minister and that at least one benefited from the changes to the Greenbelt.

March 16: The Integrity Commissioner is temporarily canceling the trade request, saying there is an overlap with the Greenbelt investigation already underway. The commissioner says he and his team are reviewing “all of the documents” collected so far, have carried out independent research and are preparing summonses for numerous witnesses to be interviewed.

August 9: Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk releases her report. Its findings include that all but one of the 15 sites removed from the Greenbelt were not suggested by officials, but by Clark’s chief of staff, who was handed packages by two key developers during a industry event, and that developers who had access to the most senior staff ended up with 92 percent of the land that was taken away. If some sites did not meet the selection criteria, for example for environmental reasons, the criterion was simply dropped, rather than selecting a different site, Lysyk notes.

August 10: The Integrity Commissioner’s Office said it has begun reviewing a request from Ford’s office to investigate Clark’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato.

August 14: Ford’s office says it’s creating a task force to implement Lysyk’s recommendations on process improvement.

August 16: Stiles asks the Integrity Commissioner to consider Lysyk’s findings that political staff used personal email accounts and routinely deleted emails.

August 22: Amato resigns.

August: 23: The OPP refers the matter to the RCMP for fear of a perceived conflict of interest. The RCMP says they will a*sess the information and determine whether to open an investigation.

August 25: Ford, in his first comments since Amato’s resignation, said he was “confident” that nothing criminal happened in the Greenbelt case.

August 28: First Nations leaders across the province are calling on Ford to return Greenbelt lands. Ontario chiefs say they are upset they weren’t consulted on the land swap involving multiple First Nations traditional territories. Ontario chiefs say the greenbelt moves violate the Williams Treaties made with the province and the federal government in 2018.

August 29: Ford is threatening to return Greenbelt land after discovering that one of the housing lots in Ajax, Ont., has allegedly been put up for sale. A representative of the landowner, who lives in China, said it was a misunderstanding. John Dong said the landowner, Yuchen Lu, is an investor who was looking for a development partner and that “at no time is the property going to be sold outright”.

August 30: Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake releases his report on Clark. He found that Clark violated two sections of the Members’ Integrity Act and recommended to the Ontario Legislative Assembly that the minister be reprimanded. Wake found that the process of selecting lands to be removed from the Greenbelt was marked by “unnecessary haste and deception.” He also found that Amato was the “driving force” behind this process and that Clark was unaware, when he should have known, what his chief of staff was doing on such a sensitive subject. The report prompted new opposition calls for Clark’s resignation.

August 31 : Ford supports Clark, saying “he has a tough job”. Clark, in a separate press conference, apologizes for his role in the Greenbelt controversy. He accepts his responsibilities and pledges to do better in the future, but does not provide details.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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