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‘Somebody knew something’: NDP Stiles says

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Marit Stiles announced new information which bolsters her request for the Integrity Commissioner to investigate Doug Ford’s Greenbelt plans.

Incoming NDP leader Marit Stiles announced Wednesday at Queen’s Park new information which she believes strengthens her case for an investigation into Housing Minister Steve Clark and the Conservative Greenbelt plan.

She claimed one developer, RICE Group, contacted Steve Pellegrini, Mayor of King Township, three days before Ford’s initial Greenbelt announcement.

According to the NDP, the company told the mayor an area of protected land could be made available for development for a fee. RICE Group had purchased the land on Sept. 15, 2022.

“The evidence tells us that someone knew something before the government relayed its plan to the public,” Stiles said. “The more we learn about days and months around this deal, the shadier I think this becomes.”

The NDP said they became aware of the development following a freedom of information request put in by a Newmarket resident.

Pellegrini has denied his government had any knowledge of the province’s plans to open protected lands. He said he wants an apology from the NDP for their allegations.

The NDP also raised attention to potentially improper lobbying done by a former chief of staff to the minister of municipal affairs and housing.

Luca Bucci, who worked in Clark’s office from January 2021 to April 2022, is now acting as the CEO for the Ontario Homebuilders Association (OHBA). A month after leaving his position, Bucci registered to lobby the ministry.

However, in his application he states that he “will not lobby the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Office of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and/or the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, until at least April 1, 2023.”

Stiles’ letter to Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake said Bucci “answers to the OHBA Board of Directors, whose members include Alana De Gasperis of TACC, a major beneficiary of Minister Clark’s decision to remove lands from the Greenbelt.”

Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner announced on Jan. 18 that he would be investigating the conduct of Ontario’s Housing Minister, following a request by Stiles. Specifically, he would look into whether Clark broke section two or three of the Ontario Member’s Integrity Act.

The new information was submitted to the Commissioner’s office on Friday and Stiles said she believes it has been accepted into the investigation.

Premier Doug Ford and Clark previously denied allegations saying they had previously notified developers of the decision to open the protected land.

“The government has been very clear in our postings on what our intention is regarding the property. We’ve been open, clear and transparent, and we look forward to receiving comments from the public,” Clark said on Nov. 30, 2022.

Stiles argued the meeting between RICE Group and the King Township Mayor indicates the Conservative government has not been truthful when denying these allegations.

“I’ll just say that where there’s smoke, you better be looking for fire anyways,” Stiles said. “I think that we saw Premier Ford already lied to the people of Ontario multiple times.

“He lied before the last election, he lied during the last election that he wasn’t going to touch the Greenbelt. He lied,” she said.

In addition to the investigation by the Integrity Commissioner, Ontario’s Auditor General has launched a value-for-money audit on the potential financial and environmental impacts of removing the Greenbelt lands.

The Ontario Provincial Police are also currently deciding if they will launch an investigation into complaints made about the decision.

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