Ontario could return some land to Greenbelt after developers tried to sell: Ford government

Two Ajax Greenbelt properties reportedly were put up for sale while in negotiations with the provincial government. Now Premier Doug Ford is telling other landowners - 'you're on notice'. Caryn Ceolin with the latest.

Two parcels of land could soon be returned to the Greenbelt after the property owners listed the land for sale, the Ford government says.

The properties in Ajax were chosen as part of a land swap that the province says will bring tens of thousands of new homes to Ontario. A statement from Premier Doug Ford alleges the two sites at 765 and 775 Kingston Road East were put up for sale without disclosure and the government has immediately started the process of putting the land back into the Greenbelt.

“At no point was the intention to sell disclosed to the government’s facilitator during active and ongoing discussions,” reads Ford’s statement. “This behaviour goes against everything that our government is doing to bring home ownership into reach for more people.”

Ford says other property owners involved are being put on notice and their land could also be returned if they don’t meet the government’s conditions, “including showing real progress by the end of the year to get shovels into the ground by 2025.”

Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development. 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.

Earlier this month, the auditor general found the Ford government gave preferential treatment to certain land developers when it removed the land.

Last week, Ford said he was confident nothing criminal took place in his government’s process of removing land. He and Housing Minister Steve Clark have also said they didn’t know how sites that were removed from the protected area were selected.

The opposition has insisted that Clark needs to resign or be fired. NDP leader Marit Stiles says Ford should recall the legislature so the lands in question can be restored to Greenbelt protection.

“Ford’s Conservatives are changing their tune simply because they got caught,” reads a statement from Stiles. “Clearly, this is a government that has one set of rules for those with close connections to their party and a different set for everyone else.”

Clark’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato, resigned last week after the scathing report found that developers who had access to him wound up with 92 per cent of the land that was removed from the protected Greenbelt.

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 matter.

With files from The Canadian Press

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