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Ford government insists ‘no’ insider information was shared with developers in Greenbelt land swap

Premier Doug Ford’s government did not tip off any developers before a controversial land swap on the environmentally sensitive Greenbelt, insists Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark.

After waffling amid opposition claims the Progressive Conservatives may have shared insider information with land speculators, Clark scrambled to clear the air Wednesday.

Asked by NDP MPP Jeff Burch (Niagara Centre) if any Tory had divulged the “plan for removing lands from the Greenbelt before it became public on Nov. 4,” the minister rose in the legislature.

“No,” a glowering Clark told the hushed chamber.

His denial came the morning after Green Leader Mike Schreiner filed a complaint with the provincial integrity commissioner seeking an investigation into property deals revealed by the Toronto Star and the Narwhal.

A Star/Narwhal investigation found eight of the 15 areas of the Greenbelt where development will soon be allowed have been purchased since the Tories were elected in 2018.

“I’m going to be assisting the integrity commissioner in his investigation. I look forward to being vindicated and I look forward to the apology from the official opposition,” said Clark.

Interim NDP Leader Peter Tabuns said he is “not satisfied” with the minister’s sudden switch to a “no” answer.

“I now have to think there are speculators that have extraordinary predictive powers,” said Tabuns, noting Clark had refused to answer that question from opposition MPPs and journalists earlier this week.

The New Democrats have also asked the provincial auditor general to probe the land deals.

As part of the Tories’ push to build 1.5 million new homes in the next decade, they have opened 7,400 acres of protected Greenbelt land to housing construction.

In exchange, 9,400 acres will be added in other areas of the Greenbelt, which covers two million acres of farm fields, wetlands and other ecological sensitive parcels.

The 15 suburban and exurban properties being made available for development should allow for at least 50,000 homes to be built, said Clark.

But critics fear it will create even more sprawl in and around the Greater Toronto Area.

There are also concerns the Tories enabled donors to the party’s campaigns to benefit from the land swap.

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.

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