Ford government defends Ontario Greenbelt land swap that benefits PC donors


Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark insists controversial changes to Ontario’s Greenbelt are about building new homes, not rewarding wealthy developers who donate to the Progressive Conservatives.

Asked by reporters Monday if “cronyism” was at play, Clark said, “No, it’s a bold action by the government to ensure that we meet our housing target at the end of the day.”

The Tories are facing criticism after revelations party donors stand to benefit from the opening up of 7,400 acres of protected Greenbelt land to housing construction.

As part of a land swap, 9,400 acres in other areas will be added to the two-million-acre swath of farmland and wetlands.

“We will have a significant portion of the Greenbelt to be added upon and at the same time have as a minimum 50,000 new homes,” said Clark, who has pledged to build 1.5 million new homes over the next decade to alleviate the “severe housing crisis.”

But an investigation by the Toronto Star and the Narwhal found that of the 15 areas where development will soon be allowed, eight included properties purchased since Premier Doug Ford’s election in 2018.

NDP MPP Marit Stiles (Davenport) has asked the auditor general to probe the land deals. She said the Tories are making changes to “benefit powerful landowners” with ties to the governing party.

“Given how suspicious this looks, the least the government can do is be transparent about what has been happening behind closed doors,” said Stiles. “How did the government choose which lands were going to be removed from the Greenbelt?”

Pointing out that the Tories’ own housing task force concluded there was enough land already available for housing, Liberal MPP Stephanie Bowman (Don Valley West) said “the optics don’t look great” for the government.

“This could be to support wealthy landowners who bought land just before this was announced. That seems very suspicious,” said Bowman.

Nine of the developers who stand to benefit most from the Greenbelt land swap have donated about $572,000 to the Tories since 2014. The Liberals, who created the Greenbelt and were in office from 2003 to 2018, received around $326,000 from the same donors over that same period.

In one case, a company associated with developer Michael Rice purchased nearly 700 acres in the Greenbelt in the Township of King for $80 million, just two months before the government announcement.

Elections Ontario records show Rice’s companies, someone named Michael Rice, and donors whose names match those of his senior staff, have given the Tories $47,000 since 2014.

He and the other developers have either not disputed the donation records or not responded to requests for comment.

Similarly, they have not commented to the Globe and Mail, which published a followup investigation Monday after the Star’s findings were disclosed Nov. 17.

Green Leader Mike Schreiner said the Tories are “absolutely rewarding literally a handful of wealthy land speculators who are going to turn a million into billions.

“This is a huge land play for a handful of people to cash in and the people of Ontario are going to pay the price for it,” said Schreiner, warning of other consequences for agriculture and the food supply.

“People don’t realize that once you start saying protected land can be developed, you can engage in speculation on protected land,” he said.

“So it’s going to make that land unaffordable for farming because farmers are never going to be able to purchase land that is being valued for (potential) development.”

Clark — whose related Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, passed into law Monday — stressed there “will be about a minimum of 50,000 units (on) those 15 properties” being removed from the Greenbelt.

“It’s very important for us to do everything we can to get shovels in the ground for 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years, coupled with the added immigration targets that we’ll be facing,” he said.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.


Source link

Denial of responsibility! galaxyconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.