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Ontario minister denies claims that he tipped off developers about Greenbelt changes

Steve Clark, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, speaks to journalists at the Queens Park Legislature, in Toronto on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.Clark offered an emphatic denial today that he tipped off developers ahead of announcing changes to the Greenbelt.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark offered an emphatic denial Wednesday to allegations that he tipped off developers ahead of announcing changes to the Greenbelt.

The denial comes after Clark refused to be explicit a day earlier, when answering similar questions in the legislature and from reporters.

Clark announced earlier this month that he is proposing to remove land from 15 different areas of the Greenbelt, so that 50,000 homes can be built, while adding acres elsewhere — despite previous promises from Premier Doug Ford and the minister that they wouldn't touch the protected land.

Media reports have suggested that some prominent developers who areProgressive Conservative donors stand to benefit from the move. Some bought that land in the past few years despite Ford and Clark's public pronouncements it wouldn't be developed, with one purchase happening as recently as September, according to investigations by the CBC, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Narwhal.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner asked the integrity commissioner earlier this week to investigate whether Clark or Ford broke ethics rules around making a public policy decision to further someone's private interests.

On Wednesday, Clark was asked for a second day by the NDP if he gave any landowner, developer or lobbyist information about the Greenbelt plan before it became public.

Where he was vague a day earlier — saying only that he often meets with developers and followed all of the rules for posting his Greenbelt proposal to the environmental registry for a public comment period — he was definitive on Wednesday.

"No," Clark said. "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."

A spokesperson for the Office of the Integrity Commissioner said Schreiner's complaint was received and the matter is under review.

The NDP has also asked the auditor general to investigate.

Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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