Ford just might get away with the land swaps - details on just how it went down

By Pepper Parr

August 15th, 2023



It’s an issue that impacts all of us – on two levels.

The first – the way the provincial government treats the people who voted for them.

Second – how the provincial government manipulated issues and some of the senior people on the political side and the staffing side.

Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Housing Steve Clark trying to talk their way out of the responsibility for lands that were taken out of the Greenbelt Boundary.

During the media event in Streetsville where the Premier and the Minister of Housing were handing out provincial money to a housing development that was oriented to people who had drug and coping problems one of the reporters asked the Premier why they were throwing Ryan Amato under the bus.

In the world of journalism you don’t too many opportunities to ask questions like that; once in a career if you are lucky.

I think Minister of Housing Steve Clark gulped.

If Ryan Amato was watching the media event – not sure if he was attending, didn’t see him in the small group, but he must have shuddered when he heard the question.

The Premier has sent the issue of Amato’s behaviour along to the Integrity Commissioner letting him hold the axe that will be used to dispose of Ryan Amato.  The Integrity Commissioner said “it is reviewing a request from Premier Doug Ford’s office to investigate a senior aide about his role in selecting which lands in the protected Greenbelt would be approved for housing development.”

Recall that Amato worked very closely with a number of developers who were giving him documents that suggested which properties could be taken out of the Greenbelt Boundary and made available for development to solve the hosing crisis.

Nate Erskine Smith, one of five people running for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party who is currently a federal politician sitting in the House of Commons where he represent a Toronto constituency – Beaches—East York said:” now I’ve been in politics long enough to know that there is no chance, there is no chance that a chief of staff takes all of these significant steps without informing the minister or the Premier’s office.

Well just what were those “significant steps”

Nate puts it this way:
The Auditor General found that the developers received preferential treatment, incredibly of the 15 sites approved for removal 14 were brought into the project by the housing Minister’s Chief of Staff and it doesn’t stop there.

92% of the acreage ultimately removed were from five land sites passed to the housing Minister’s Chief of Staff from two developers, including, by the way have a package handed to him on September 14 at a dinner function.

What has to be interesting is that the names of the developers who were passing information along to Amato are not yet named.

We do know now that most of the land is in  Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy  constituency Pickering—Uxbridge

On September 14, 2022 at the  Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD dinner, two prominent developers provide packages to the chief of staff including site nine. The next day on September 15, the sale of site nine is completed (it hadn’t even been completed when they handed the package over). The following day, September 16. The Chief of Staff communicates three priority sites for removal from the Greenbelt, including site nine.


A Toronto Star columnist puts it this way:
“The housing minister’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato was directing the process for choosing which land would be opened up.”

The senior civil service staff involved were under the impression that Amato was doing what the Minister wanted so they didn’t speak up. Also because of the tight three week timeline, and the confidentiality agreements civil servants were obligated to sign, the sites could not be fully examined by experts, nor could many alternative sites be suggested, the auditor found.

Again from the Star columnist:
“Of the 15 parcels of land that were being considered,14 were proposed by Amato, not non-partisan provincial staff tasked with the work. Of the 14,, 12 were brought to Amato by the developers themselves. During the selection process, Amato changed the rules so that these properties would be more likely to qualify.”

NDP leader of the Opposition Marit Stiles

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk even uncovered instances where portions of emails from developers to political staff were copied and pasted and forwarded to deputy ministers for inclusion in legislation. The civil servants involved did not know the text they were writing into law had been drafted by those who the law would affect.

Premier Doug Ford and Housing Minister Steve Clark say, essentially, that they didn’t realize that’s how it went down. “The process should have been better,” Ford said.

Toronto Star columnist Reg Cohn put it this way: “The politician who first came to power alleging corruption by a previous Liberal government now presides over a corrupted political process of his own making, on his own watch.”

All this ended up with the Auditor General when NDP leader of the Opposition Marit Stiles asked the Auditor to investigate. Interestingly Stiles gets little mention for that initial step she took asking the Auditor General to investigate.

Related new story:

Follow the money.

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2 comments to Ford just might get away with the land swaps – details on just how it went down

  • Ted

    Perhaps it was more a matter of how FAST builders could react and start new housing, vs. hundreds of individual landowners trying to get the highest price for their land to then sell to developers…. The release of the Greenbelt was to create new housing, not create development delays. The landowners who own larger tracts of land just so happen to also be experienced developers/builders. THEY would be able to get houses built faster than anyone else. Who cares who makes a dollar… it’s houses we need.

  • Peter Menet

    The timing of the sale of site nine speaks volumes. Thank you for showing the link between the BILD dinner, where “brown envelopes” were delivered to Clark’s chief of staff, and the following day when the sale was completed. The table talk at the BILD dinner needs to be investigated.