The Greenbelt review is supposed to protect greenspace: Doug Ford wants the opposite
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The Greenbelt review is supposed to protect greenspace: Doug Ford wants the opposite

Despite promising a “public, open and accountable” review of all Greenbelt lands, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, under new Minister Paul Calandra, has not provided any details on how the review will be undertaken.

The Pointer asked the Ministry to explain the process of the review and what checks and balances would be put in place to ensure the same breach of conduct that defined the initial Greenbelt Plan does not happen again. The ministry never responded despite multiple attempts to get answers.

“Our government’s actions are reckless, irresponsible and corrupt. And they must be stopped,” Tim Gray, executive director for Environmental Denfence told a room full of concerned Ontarians Tuesday night at an event held by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition (SCGC).

An extensive review of Greenbelt lands was announced following former housing minister Steve Clark’s resignation following an Integrity Commissioner report that revealed Clark broke rules throughout the process of the Greenbelt Plan. But despite the promise from Minister Calandra — who was shuffled into the MMAH from the Ministry of Long Term Care — to undertake the process transparently, he suggested the possibility of even more lands that could be removed from the Greenbelt. This flies in the face of the key recommendation by Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk who issued a damning report that found widespread problems around a developer-driven Greenbelt Plan. She called for the remaining 14 parcels of land swapped out for development to be reconsidered with the aim of returning them to protected status. 

Ford and his government have ignored the recommendation, instead promising a review that could put even more Greenbelt land at risk of being bulldozed.


New Housing Minister Paul Calandra has doubled down on the PC Greenbelt plan, suggesting even more lands could be carved out for development.

(Government of Ontario)


“It will look at the entirety of the Greenbelt. There might be lands that need to be added to the Greenbelt. There may be some lands that are removed, but it will be a fair and open process that will live up to the spirit of the original intent of the Greenbelt," Colandra said of the review on September 5. Instead of reversing its plan that would create $8.3 billion for some of the nation’s wealthiest developers, the government is now pressuring builders to accelerate development on these lands.

“Today, Ford failed to reverse the corrupt decision to remove land from the Greenbelt. Instead, he declared open season on the Greenbelt by announcing a process to make even more Greenbelt land available for development,” Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner wrote on social media in response to the review.

“It’s disgusting that the government is rolling out the red carpet for wealthy, well-connected land speculators to cash in on destroying the land that feeds us, protects us from flooding and cleans our drinking water,” he wrote in an earlier press release.

The Ford government has repeatedly claimed in its defence of the Greenbelt Plan that a review of the protected greenspace is mandated every ten years under the Greenbelt Act. Margaret Prophet, executive director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, questions why a review not due until 2025 is suddenly being fast tracked two years early and being used to justify the possible removal of more land for development.

“So it's not that they're following processes, they're actually bumping it up quite a bit, a significant amount of time, which I think is just them taking an opportunity,” she told The Pointer.

The previous Liberal government undertook a review of the Greenbelt beginning in 2015, and implemented in 2017, as dictated by the Greenbelt Act which states a formal review must be conducted every ten years. During their review process, which took 27 months, the Liberals received over 700 requests for lands to be removed from the Greenbelt. Of all the requests only a few minor removals accounting for just over 700 acres were approved. In exchange, Kathleen Wynne’s government extended protection to 21 urban river valleys and seven coastal wetlands.

“Its purpose is to make the Greenbelt better, and to expand the Greenbelt,” David Crombie, former mayor of Toronto who helped conduct the Liberal’s review of the Greenbelt, told The Pointer. “And it's also to bring together the four major plans of the Greenbelt, and all of that. So it's a positive thing for the Greenbelt.”

He said this is the opposite of what the Ford government is proposing with its review.


A map of the 15 parcels removed from the Greenbelt in November 2022 totalling 7,400 acres. One parcel in Ajax has since been returned to the Greenbelt.

(Auditor General of Ontario)


“A responsible government, doing things in the ordinary way in which you expect governments to operate, would announce the review, give some understanding of its historical context, that the review is fitted into the legislation for 2005. And say, ‘Here's the review, in relation to the requirements of that legislation, we're going to make an open public and independent of the government’,” he said, calling the review a ruse. “They didn't do any of that, they just blurted out they're going to have a review. That's why I'm deducing that they just simply want to take people's attention away from the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the Greenbelt.”

After the Ford government signed off on the removal of 15 parcels of land from the Greenbelt in November — one has since been returned — there was widespread public backlash over the decision to alter and destroy land that was supposed to be protected. Building more homes, despite the government’s own experts stating new land is not needed for housing developments, is the justification Ford has repeatedly doubled down on. 

Opposition leaders demanded an investigation into the process and the Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner produced damning reports that led to Clark’s resignation and Ford’s plummeting approval according to polling figures.

Eight of the Greenbelt parcels approved for housing construction were purchased by developers since the election of Ford, after he promised a room full of developers in 2018 he would open up “large chunks” of the Greenbelt for construction, prompting Official Opposition Leader of the NDP Marit Stiles to call the legislative changes “suspicious”. It was confirmed when Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released her special report on August 1, that “certain developers” were highly favoured by the Greenbelt Plan process. The report highlighted former housing ministry chief of staff Ryan Amato’s actions, under the leadership of Ford, to hand select 14 of the 15 parcels chosen for removal. Amato resigned following the release of the AG report but criticism of Ford for using the unelected official as a scapegoat flooded social media and was levelled by opposition politicians and advocates.

When Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake published his report two weeks later, he found Clark broke several ethics rules by failing to adequately monitor staff under his control. Wake wrote in his report that in speaking with the former minister he showed “no remorse” for his actions or lack thereof, but a few days after the report was released, Clark resigned.

Immediately following his resignation and Ford’s reshuffling of cabinet, the new review was announced. 

Crombie says he has little faith that the review will follow proper processes and involve meaningful consultation.

“They just think that they announce things, and that by announcing, it equates to doing.”


The Greenbelt scandal follows major changes to development legislation through Bill 23 and the increasing use of Minister's Zoning Orders.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer)


Following the announcement on September 5, Ford wrote on social media, “When it comes to accountability and why the people of Ontario can trust this government, our track record speaks for itself.” 

Crombie says little of this trust remains.

“If you don't trust the government, you're in trouble. This is an untrustworthy government.” 

Despite two resignations over the scandal, Ford has offered few details about his own role, after he promised to hand over a “big chunk” of the Greenbelt to developers if they helped him get elected in 2018. Builders who stand to gain more than $8 billion in value from the land swamp Ford has since approved, are among his largest political donors.

And despite claiming throughout the investigations into the Greenbelt scandal that he did not know about the selection process to choose lands for development until November 2, after decisions had been made, notes show there were communications with the Premier’s Office before that, while the swaps were being finalized. 

“Not only do we have a government that is opposed to the Greenbelt and wants to get rid of it, they are willing to engage in any kind of process, or politics, that undermines its ability to continue,” Crombie says. “It has gone way out of its way to show that they're willing to corrupt processes, they're willing to act in dishonorable and dishonest ways, willing to say things that are not true. All in order to achieve their own goals.”

He says the government is going down the same destructive path again, but he does think Ford has finally recognized the severity of the situation.

“They must know by now that they are in deep trouble. And unless they change their ways, they're going to hurt a lot of people as they go down.”

Doug Ford and former housing minister Steve Clark. With the next provincial election three years away, experts are examining whether the toll of the Greenbelt scandal will sway voters in 2026.

(Government of Ontario)


According to new data from an Angus Reid poll commissioned a day after the Integrity Commissioner report was released, less than 28 percent of Ontarians think Ford is doing a good job as Premier, the lowest his score has dipped since first taking office in 2018 and a sharp decline from his 45 percent approval in June of last year. Ford dropped five points since before the release of the Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner reports.

The online survey, which polled 800 Ontarians, shows in order for Ford to regain popularity, he needs to listen to the demands of the public. An expert panel at a recent event held by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition said the same thing. Members encouraged constituents to make their voices heard and to put pressure on the government to adopt all 15 recommendations of the Auditor General, including returning the lands to the Greenbelt.

“If they’re not inconvenienced, they won’t do what you want,” Myiingan Minonaakwhe, former chief of the Beausoleil Nation on Christian Island, said.

The RCMP is currently probing the Ford government’s handling of the Greenbelt after being handed control of an investigation by the OPP to avoid any potential conflict of interest. The Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner will also release follow-up reports over the next year.

The panelists encouraged residents to get in touch with their local leaders. 

“Don’t forget your place in democracy,” Prophet, from the SCGC, added. “You are not a victim of it, you are the driver of it.” 


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rachelnaida_

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