Chief of Staff for Ontario Housing Minister resigns amid Greenbelt controversy

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office says the Housing Minister's chief of staff has resigned. Richard Southern with the move, which comes after a scathing report into the Ford government's decision to open parts of the Greenbelt for development.

By Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

The senior Ontario political staffer at the centre of a scathing report into the provincial government’s decision to open up protected Greenbelt lands for housing development resigned Tuesday.

Ryan Amato’s resignation comes after a recent report from the auditor general found that developers who had access to Amato wound up with 92 per cent of the land that was removed from the protected Greenbelt.

“The Premier’s Office has accepted Ryan Amato’s resignation as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, effective immediately,” a government spokesperson said.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that the process of selecting the 15 specific sites to be removed from the Greenbelt for housing development was not transparent.

She said in her report that all but one of the sites were suggested by Amato, who was given packages at an industry event by two key developers instead of civil servants.

Both Clark and Premier Doug Ford have said they were unaware that the process was being controlled by Amato, but opposition politicians have said that defies credulity.

Doug Ford

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks during a press conference in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston.

“This is the bare minimum of accountability for one of the most serious breaches of public trust in Ontario’s history,” NDP Leader Marit Stiles wrote in a statement.

“The auditor general’s report was very clear — this staffer obviously didn’t act independently.”

“Mr. Amato’s resignation does not resolve this situation,” Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser wrote in a statement. “Minister Clark must resign, and Premier Ford must open the books to a full investigation.”

RELATED: Ontario’s massive greenbelt scandal, explained in full

Last year, the province took 7,400 acres of land out of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes and replaced it with about 9,400 acres elsewhere.

Ontario Green Party Leader, Mike Schreiner, said Ontarians deserve accountability from the Ford government over the Greenbelt scandal.

“But ever since the Auditor General’s report was released, Ford has repeatedly failed the accountability test,” Schreiner said in a statement. “The resignation of Minister Clark’s chief of staff is the first step in the long process to restore public trust — one that Ontario Greens have called for.”

Schreiner said the Green Party is calling on Clark’s resignation “to restore public trust and bring accountability to the people of Ontario. And for the Premier to keep his promise not to pave over the Greenbelt.”

The province’s housing task force had previously said in a report that the Greenbelt land was not needed to achieve the province’s goal of building 1.5 million homes over 10 years.

With files from Lucas Casaletto of CityNews

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