Kingston and the Islands MPP calls for full inquiry into Greenbelt changes

Kingston and the Islands MPP Ted Hsu has called on the provincial government to undertake a full inquiry into the changes made to the Ontario Greenbelt under the current Ford government. Photo via Greenbelt Foundation.

Today, Friday, Aug. 25, 2023, Kingston and the Islands Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Ted Hsu called on the provincial government to establish a commission under the Public Inquiries Act, 2009, to conduct a full independent public inquiry into “how the Ford government subverted democratic accountability to transfer $8 billion of wealth to private developer interests,” as detailed in the Auditor General of Ontario’s report, A Special Report on Changes to the Greenbelt.

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced they have asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing in the matter.

“The OPP has received a number of inquiries regarding an investigation into the Greenbelt. To avoid any potential perceived conflict of interest, the OPP referred this matter to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP),” said Bill Dickson, OPP Acting Manager of Media Relations, in a press release.

“In order to protect the integrity of the process, it would not be appropriate to provide any further comment.”

This follows the resignation of Ryan Amato, the former Chief of Staff for MPP Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Amato has been widely implicated in the changes to the Greenbelt, which is overseen by Minister Clark — the MPP for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, the riding situated to the east of Kingston and the Islands and to the south of the Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston riding. In announcing his call for an inquiry, Hsu referred to Amato as Minster Clark’s scapegoat in the matter, who “indignantly” stated in his resignation letter that he “acted appropriately, and that a fair and complete investigation would reach the same conclusion.” 

The original Greenbelt map, as laid out in 2005, according to the Greenbelt Foundation, which describes the Greenbelt as “the world’s largest, protecting farmland, forests, wetlands, rivers, and lakes.” Graphic via Greenbelt Foundation.

“A commission under the Public Inquiries Act has the power to compel testimony under oath from anybody involved in this process, compel the production of documents, and compel the disclosure of relevant private, electronic communications or confidential information. No party, including the Premier, the Minister, developers or lobbyists, will be able to avoid questioning from a commission, which would be able to examine the facts in a way that the Auditor General cannot,” Hsu said.

The local MPP added that Ford’s “Greenbelt Giveaway” has “seriously undermined public trust in the government and the home-building industry.”

An interactive map on the Greenbelt Foundation website depicts the sections of the Greenbelt considered “provisional removals” as a result of what Hsu called “Ford’s Greenbelt Giveaway” of 2022. View the interactive map here. Graphic via Greenbelt Foundation website.

“At a time when Ontarians need the leadership of the government to marshal all resources to tackle the housing crisis, we need a full public commission of inquiry to learn the truth. We need to know who knew and did what when and whether any laws were broken,” Hsu continued.

“I call on the Ford Government to establish a full public inquiry without delay if they have nothing to hide. If Premier Ford refuses, I am prepared to commission a public inquiry into Greenbelt land transactions as the first order of business in a newly elected Liberal government, if I am elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.”

MPP Hsu announced his candidacy for leader of the Ontario Liberal Party in May of this year, having been elected MPP for Kingston and the Islands in the last provincial election of June 2022. Hsu, who previously served as the federal Member of Parliament (MP) for Kingston and the Islands from 2011 to 2015, currently serves the critic roles for the Liberal caucus in the areas of energy, mines, natural resources and forestry, as well as citizenship and multiculturalism. A longtime proponant of sustainable energy — who completed his PhD at Priceton in physics in 1989 before moving into the science research, then research and finance sectors — Hsu is a staunch opponent of Premiere Doug Ford and his government, who states on his website dedicated to his run for Liberal leadership in Ontario, “The recent proposals to adjust the Greenbelt’s boundaries troubles me. Using terms like ‘justification,’ without defining them precisely, creates room for encroachments driven by short-term interests. ‘Land swaps’ or ‘equivalent lands’ might sound balanced on the surface, but the underlying ecological and agricultural complexities could have long-lasting consequences.”

With files from Tori Stafford.

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