OPP says Ford government Greenbelt probe being referred to RCMP

The RCMP will now decide if the Ford government’s handling of the Greenbelt land swap warrants a criminal investigation. Shauna Hunt with the latest developments out of Queen’s Park including the resignation of the housing minister’s chief of staff.

By Patricia D'Cunha

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) says it will be up to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to decide if there will be a police investigation into the Ford government’s plans to open up parts of the Greenbelt for housing development.

“The OPP has received a number of inquiries regarding an investigation into the Greenbelt,” the OPP said in a release.

“To avoid any potential perceived conflict of interest, the OPP referred this matter to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).”

In their original statement, the RCMP indicated that an investigation was underway but later clarified to say it is not investigating at this point.

“At this time, RCMP O Division is beginning our evaluation of the available information as referred by the Ontario Provincial Police. After we have conducted a full assessment, we will determine whether to launch an investigation.”

MPP and interim Liberal leader John Fraser believes the referral from the OPP to the Mounties is a sign that the situation is becoming more serious.

“The RCMP has a strong white-collar investigations unit,” Fraser said. “I think it was the right thing for the OPP to do so there would be no appearance of something unfair.”

This latest development comes a day after the resignation of Ryan Amato, the chief of staff to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, following a scathing report from Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk that found developers who had access to Amato wound up with 92 per cent of the land that was removed from the protected Greenbelt.

CityNews obtained Amato’s resignation letter to Ford, in which he states “public statements about me in recent weeks have unfairly depicted me and my role regarding the Greenbelt.”

“I am confident that I have acted appropriately, and that a fair and complete investigation would reach the same conclusion. However, these public statements have made it impossible, as a practical matter, for me to continue in my present role. I do not wish to be a distraction from the Government of Ontario’s important work in getting more homes built faster.”

Earlier this year, the OPP told CityNews that its Anti-Rackets branch received requests to investigate the Greenbelt matter.

At the time, the OPP said it was reviewing those requests to determine if there were grounds for an investigation.

After releasing her report on Aug. 9, Lysyk was asked whether the the OPP should launch an investigation into Greenbelt, and she said it was up to the police force to decide.

“My understanding is that whatever happens in the future will be up to the OPP to decide if there is merit in looking at any situation further,” she said.

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.

With files from The Canadian Press

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