The mysterious Mr. X and the Greenbelt scandal that won’t go away

Who is the mysterious Mr. X mentioned in the Greenbelt ethics report? Can the Ford government get ahead of more potentially damning investigations to come? Cynthia Mulligan asks a strategist where the Conservatives' strategy is failing.

By Cynthia Mulligan

It was another wild week in the Greenbelt fiasco at Queen’s Park. The government was probably hoping revelations certain developers were given an unfair advantage when the land was improperly selected would die down a bit.

Maybe, but it’s sure to heat up again after the long weekend. Both Housing Minister Steve Clark, who was found in violation of ethics rules, and Premier Doug Ford have said “the buck stops with them.”

“It’s all fine to say the buck stops with me, whether it’s the Premier or the minister, but if nothing ultimately happens about it did the buck really stop or is it still spinning?” says Jamie Ellerton, a founding partner with the public relations firm Conaptus Ltd.

Ellerton, who worked for the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Ontario’s Leader of the Opposition, believes Clark – who acknowledged he let his inexperienced former chief of staff Ryan Amato select 92 per cent of land removed from the Greenbelt with no oversight – needs to step down.

“What is so important that he stays that he stays in the role? What is it that they feel they’re trying to accomplish by keeping him there as opposed to showing some accountability,” says Ellerton.


There are still many unanswered questions, like who is the mysterious “Mr. X”? The Integrity Report finds he stood to make $1 million if he could open up a parcel of land for development in Clarington.

The report indicates Mr. X offered golf and Raptors tickets to Amato, who says he did not go. The ethics watchdog found Amato’s efforts to downplay his relationship with X somewhat “strains credulity.” My. X was not registered as a lobbyist – by law he should have been.

“The salacious way that Mr. X reads in all of this is just taking the story to a whole other level of intrigue, and reads more of something out of a Hollywood script, or like a Vegas heist rather than an Ontario political story and I just think it shows how extraordinary all this is,” says Ellerton.

The scandal is chipping away at the Premier’s image. He has consistently tried to position himself as a politician who fights for the average guy, a man who once railed against political elites. Now three or four developers stand to gain $8.3 billion from a land swap deal that Ford and his housing minister both agree was flawed.

“I think the premier’s office and Premier and government more broadly speaking needs to get to the bottom of this, figure out what wrong doing has taken place, know that a political spin is not going to buy you another day and hope this thing goes away – that’s clearly not happening, and get to the worst part of this crisis as fast as possible,” explains Ellerton.

The scandal could get even harder for the Ford government. The Integrity Commissioner is also looking into how developers were invited to his daughter’s wedding and stag-and-doe and the watchdog also strongly hinted there could be an investigation into Mr. X. The RCMP is also considering whether or not to launch its own investigation.

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