The Ontario government's process for choosing which parts of the Greenbelt to open for housing development was "biased" and did not show "effective land-use planning," says the province's Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.
Ms. Lysyk found that the selection of 15 land sites opened for development "favoured certain developers." About 67 percent of the land is on sites two developers spoke to the housing minister's chief of staff, Ryan Amato, about at an industry function they all attended in September 2022, Ms. Lysyk said.
Another 25 percent is on sites one of those same developers later spoke with Mr. Amato about, she said.
"We're going to correct the process," Mr. Ford said. He said he would follow all of the auditor general's recommendations except one: He will not reconsider the current development plans. The land approved for development will stay approved.
"We're going to continue building," Mr. Ford said. "We're not going to stop building."
Site SelectionThe government has received hundreds of requests to remove sites from the Greenbelt for development, but Ms. Lysyk found the housing ministry considered only 22 sites, 21 of which were suggested by Mr. Amato.
He altered the criteria, she said, to facilitate the selection of sites he provided. Mr. Amato gave staff working on the selection three weeks to make the decision and imposed confidentiality provisions. This limited their ability to appropriately assess the land sites, Ms. Lysyk said.
Mr. Amato did not reply to an Epoch Times inquiry as of publication.
Owners of the 15 selected sites stand to gain $8.3 billion in increased property value, Ms. Lysyk said.
Mr. Ford told reporters that the developers were not his friends, despite one of them having attended his daughter's wedding.
Change of PlansWhen Mr. Clark was asked why he didn't review Mr. Amato's work and the site selection process more closely, he said it was about moving too quickly.
"I acknowledge we moved very fast," Mr. Clark said.
Mr. Ford and Mr. Clark mentioned new immigration data and targets as the reason for heightened urgency.
That's also why, Mr. Ford said, the auditor general's finding that Greenbelt land didn't even have to be touched to meet housing targets is inaccurate.
"Almost immediately after the report was tabled, the situation changed," he said. "We're certainly not at the pace of new Canadians coming here."
New Greenbelt LandThe plan removes about 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt to build about 50,000 homes. It also adds 9,400 acres to the Greenbelt in other areas. But Ms. Lysyk criticized the swap.
About 2,400 acres of the added land is largely undevelopable anyway, Ms. Lysyk said. She also criticized the addition for not containing enough agricultural land, as protecting agrarian land is a key purpose of the Greenbelt.
“While the people of Ontario deserve prompt action to solve societal problems like those generated by a need for housing, this does not mean that government and non-elected political staff should sideline or abandon protocols and processes that are important to guide objective and transparent decision-making based on sufficient and accurate information,” Ms. Lysyk said in the report.
Her recommendations include clarifying the role of public service staff—including chiefs of staff—in decision-making, being more transparent, putting controls on lobbyist material, and reducing the risk of the appearance of conflict of interest.