Ontario Premier Doug Ford has acknowledged mistakes were made in deciding to remove 7,400 acres of protected land from the Greenbelt, in the wake of a blistering report from the province’s auditor general investigating his government’s handling of the whole affair.
Speaking after the report — which said developers with access to political staff had direct influence over land removal from the Greenbelt — the premier admitted the province “could have had a better process.”
The report estimated the value of land removed from the Greenbelt subsequently increased by $8.3 billion dollars.
In her report, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk laid out a detailed timeline of the events leading up to removal. She noted which key players were informed when, and the requests that influential developers made to the Ford government.
The timeline stretches back to the creation of the Greenbelt and beforehand. Global News has selected key dates from 2022 illustrating how changes removing protected land made their way through government.
March: The Ford government makes changes to the terms of reference for the Greenbelt Council, weakening its mandate and making its advice confidential.
June 2: Doug Ford wins a second term as premier, forming a majority government after an Ontario-wide general election.
June 29: Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark receives his mandate letter from the premier outlining government priorities for his ministry. It says that, in the fall, his ministry should complete “work to codify processes for swaps, expansions, contractions and policy updates for the Greenbelt.”
July 4: The premier’s office appoints a new chief of staff for the housing minister, who will shepherd through the Greenbelt plan.
Aug. 11: A stag and doe party is held for Ford’s daughter. The premier’s office confirms that developers, identified as Ford’s “personal friends,” were in attendance.
Aug. 30: The housing minister’s chief of staff is briefed on “potential tools available” to amend the Greenbelt, and whether a system-wide or site-by-site review is better.
Sept. 14: A development organization holds a dinner event. Two developers at the event approach the housing minister’s chief of staff and give him “packages that contain information on two sites in the Greenbelt.”
Sept. 15: The sale of one parcel of land in the Greenbelt in King Township is finalized and transferred to a developer. It sells for $80 million.
Sept. 16: The housing minister’s chief of staff informs the ministry the government wants to look at land to be removed from the Greenbelt on a site-by-site basis, not through a complete review.
Sept. 25: The premier’s daughter’s wedding is held. Photographs of the seating arrangements for the wedding include the developer for a couple of sites removed from the Greenbelt.
Sept. 27: A law firm sends requests directly to the housing minister’s chief of staff by email asking to have a site that is eventually removed taken out of the Greenbelt.
Sept. 29: The same firm sends a letter to the housing minister in an email to his chief of staff requesting an area be rezoned. Another email is sent by the same firm on the same day asking to remove a different area from the Greenbelt.
Oct. 3-5: A group of six staff, the Greenbelt Project Team, is formed.
Oct. 6-13: The Greenbelt Project Team is required to sign confidentiality agreements.
Oct. 7: The housing minister’s chief of staff receives another message from the same law firm asking for land to be removed from the Greenbelt.
Oct. 13-31: Five USB sticks are given to the Greenbelt Project Team by the housing minister chief of staff with information on sites proposed for removal from the Greenbelt.
Oct. 24: Municipal elections are held.
Oct. 26: The chair of Greenbelt Council resigns and is replaced by Hazel McCallion.
Nov. 1: The chief of staff briefs his minister and associate minister on the proposed changes to the Greenbelt, including specific sites that will be removed. The premier is also briefed on the changes by political staff.
Nov. 2: Cabinet approves the changes and the beginning of a public consultation process on the land removal.
Nov. 3: Property owners and developers are told their land will be removed from the Greenbelt.
Nov. 4: The Progressive Conservative caucus is brief about the land removal, which is made public the same day when notices are posted on the Environmental Registry.