The RCMP has confirmed that it is looking into the Ford government’s Greenbelt land swap controversy after the matter was referred to them by Ontario Provincial Police.
The RCMP initially issued a statement which said they were asked to “investigate irregularities in the disposition of the Greenbelt surrounding Toronto” by Ontario Provincial Police.
They later issued a second statement to clarify where they stood with regards to the Greenbelt.
“At this time, RCMP O Division are beginning our evaluation of the available information as referred by the Ontario Provincial Police,” the second statement said. “After we have conducted a full assessment, we will determine whether to launch an investigation.”
On Tuesday morning, provincial police announced that they had referred the matter to their federal counterparts in an effort to avoid any “perceived conflict of interest.”
A spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford told Global News that the decision to hand the investigation over to the RCMP was made independently and also referenced the province’s response to a recent auditor general’s report on the matter.
“The government is currently working to implement all 14 recommendations put forward in the report related to process,” Ivana Yelich said in an emailed statement.
Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk released an explosive report on Aug. 9 that said Ontario developers had received “preferential treatment” and had direct influence over the Ford government’s decision to extract lands from the Greenbelt.
According to the report, the province began working on removing protections to the Greenbelt land as soon as it won re-election in 2022.
Lysyk released the report after a six-month investigation and interviews with a number of those involved, including Ford, who denied any wrongdoing.
The report provides links between the premier’s office, Housing Minister Steve Clark, a central political staffer who drove the project and developers who benefitted from the deal.
The move to lift the protections on the 15 parcels, containing about 7,400 acres of land, raised their value for the property owners by $8.3 billion, according to the auditor general.
Lysyk’s report also noted that six staffers were given three weeks to decide which areas of land should have their protections removed. It also said that most of the areas under consideration came from Steve Clark’s chief of staff.
On Monday, Ford’s office confirmed that Ryan Amato, chief of staff to the minister of municipal affairs and housing, had resigned.
Ford accepted Amato’s resignation “effective immediately,” the premier’s office said.
The news of Amato’s resignation has spurred opposition party calls for Clark to follow suit.
“The Auditor General’s report was very clear—this staffer obviously didn’t act independently,” NDP Leader Marit Stiles said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Now it’s time the Minister take responsibility, do the right thing, and step down.”