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Ontario to create working group to handle Greenbelt probe

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The province of Ontario said Monday that it is creating a working group to implement recommendations made in an incriminating audit report released by the province’s Auditor General last week on the government’s decision to remove land from the protected Greenbelt.

In a memo from Premier Doug Ford’s chief of staff and the secretary of the cabinet to ministers’ chiefs of staff and deputy ministers, the province said all cabinet submissions to address the recommendations must be complete, including options and risks during the approval process.

“A comprehensive response to the report is a top priority and a working group is being established to support implementation,” the memo said.

On Friday, Premier Ford and Ontario Housing Minister Steve Clark said that their government will abide by 14 out of 15 recommendations put forward in Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s report. However, the Ford government remained staunch on using the greenbelt space for house building, citing their pledge to create 1.5 million houses in Ontario by 2031.

Last year, the province took 7,400 acres of land out of the Greenbelt and replaced it with about 9,400 acres elsewhere. Lysyk’s report found that the decision and the choice of the land were biased and greatly influenced by the developers that own the land.

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Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk

The report outlined the developers that owned about 92% of the land recommended for housing had direct contact with Clark’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato. Lysyk’s report outlined that these developers could add billions of dollars of value to their properties through the project.

The integrity commissioner is reviewing a request to investigate Amato, one of the 15 recommendations in the audit report.

Premier Ford and Minister Clark have maintained that they were unaware of any third-party influence on the decisions regarding the properties.

Rahat Sandhu

NEWS

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