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Tory MPPs vote down committee probe of Greenbelt scandal

Liberal MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon's attempt to launch a parliamentary investigation into the controversy was unsuccessful
Ontario’s minister of housing Steve Clark, left, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford wait to speak at a press conference in Mississauga, Ont. on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a Village Media website devoted exclusively to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park

A parliamentary committee won't be investigating the Ford government's Greenbelt land removals after Progressive Conservative MPPs controlling the voting majority shut down an opposition attempt to launch a new probe on Wednesday.

A motion that would have prompted former housing minister Steve Clark and potentially staff from Premier Doug Ford's office and the housing minister's office to be called to appear for questioning by MPPs over a series of meetings was defeated six votes to three.

The motion that Liberal MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon tabled at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy was also supported by NDP MPPs Jennie Stevens and Jill Andrew. 

Six PC MPPs voted down her attempt, including Aris Babikian, Vijay Thanigasalam, Graham McGregor, Billy Pang, Sheref Sabawy, and Hardeep Singh Grewal.

McMahon's motion called for a series of meetings to be held during the first two weeks of the fall sitting. MPPs are due to return to regular legislative business on Sept. 25.

Paula Dill, chair of the Provincial Land Development Facilitator (PLDF), would have also been called to appear for questioning by MPPs, had McMahon's motion passed. The PLDF has been tasked with settling agreements with the developers responsible for building homes on the lands removed from the Greenbelt last year.

McMahon's motion also would have opened the door to the committee calling cabinet office staff and other public servants to appear for questioning at meetings on the Greenbelt land removals.

Over the last month, the Ford government has been consumed by the controversy around the Greenbelt changes that it made last year. Since Aug. 9, two provincial watchdog offices — the auditor general's and integrity commissioner's — have released bombshell reports coming after months-long investigations into the process that led to specific land removed from the Greenbelt.

Both reports found that specific developers who had access to Clark's former chief of staff, Ryan Amato, were advantaged by a deeply flawed and unusual process that Amato led to choose specific land sites for removal from their environmental protections. Bonnie Lysyk, whose 10-year term as auditor general concluded earlier this month, found that developers owning the removed land stand to make upwards of $8.3 billion from the changes.

Both Clark and Amato have resigned amid the controversy.

The issue has also hurt the PCs in the polls.

A survey Pallas Data conducted for The Trillium just before the integrity commissioner's report was released on Aug. 30 found that most Ontarians felt the Ford government's land-selection process was "corrupt." 

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Charlie Pinkerton

About the Author: Charlie Pinkerton

Charlie has covered politics since 2018, covering Queen's Park since 2021. Instead of running for mayor of Toronto, he helped launch the Trillium in 2023.
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