Green Party leader Schreiner echoes call for OPP investigation into “shady” Greenbelt land swap

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Published December 15, 2022 at 1:50 pm

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove some references to Bill 23. The original article said Greenbelt development is included in the bill. We regret the error. 

Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner says Housing Minister Steve Clark and Premier Doug Ford’s recent denials–after initially providing unclear answers in the legislature–that developers weren’t tipped off before 7,400 acres of land were removed from the Greenbelt “don’t pass the smell test” and repeated calls for an OPP investigation into the matter.

The land swap was made public on Nov. 4, shortly after another controversial bill, Bill 23, was introduced in the Legislature on Oct. 25. Bill 23, which removes development charges from some new residential units, was made law on Nov. 28 before consultation in the Legislature had wrapped up.

Saying that this will create more space for housing, the Greenbelt swap–which removes 15 areas (or approximately 7,400 acres) from the edge of the Greenbelt area and adds 9,400 acres, including a portion of the Paris Galt Moraine and 13 urban river valleys in the Greater Golden Horseshoe–opened up for development thousands of acres of formally protected Greenbelt lands.

Ford initially promised he would not touch any of the Greenbelt, famously stating in 2018 that “unequivocally, we won’t touch the Greenbelt. Unlike other governments that don’t listen to people, I’ve heard it loud and clear that people don’t want me touching the Greenbelt. We won’t touch the Greenbelt.”

What’s particularly galling to Schreiner and to Environmental Defense, one of Canada’s largest environmentalist groups, is shortly before the announcement, numerous media outlets conducted studies on who owned the land now available for development.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner

They found developers had bought up much of the previously protected land for low costs. The most recent purchase was made in September, mere weeks before Nov. 4.

That prompted Environmental Defence to call for the OPP investigation and for Schreiner, who has been tipped by some observers as Ontario’s next Liberal Party leader, to call the land sales “shady land deals” that need investigating.

“People deserve a government that acts in the public interest,” Schreiner said.

When asked earlier this month in the Legislature directly if certain developers were told of the impending legislation, Clark waffled and did not give a definitive answer. Both he and Ford offered emphatic denials the next day.

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