Letter: The public deserves accountability for the Greenbelt scandel

Below is a letter, made available for publication in local outlets, addressed to local MPPs who supported this government’s land grabs in the Greenbelt.

August 29, 2023 - Simcoe County

Dear MPP Downey, MPP Dunlop and MPP Mulroney,

In December of 2022, you and your cabinet colleagues signed off on removal of 7400 acres of Greenbelt lands.

Thanks to a thorough investigation by the Auditor General the public now knows that the process that led to your approval of Greenbelt takeouts was “biased” and gave “preferential treatment” to a select few developers, some of whom also attended personal events held by their Premier’s family, as well as having been identified as friends by the Premier when asked by the Integrity Commissioner.

We also know that this land grab is likely to result in an increase in asset value for these developers of at least $8 billion.

Moreover, the report stated that environmental standards, if they stood in the way of lands being removed from the Greenbelt, were stripped out of the decision-making process.

The Auditor General also outlined that staff involved were deleting emails and using personal addresses to conduct government business. Deleting records related to government business is quite likely just as illegal now as it was during the gas plant scandal, for which a former chief of staff to the Premier was found guilty.

Now the RCMP is assessing whether it will investigate further and seek criminal charges.

As a coalition of over 45 groups from around Simcoe County, we, and we suspect the rest of your constituents, expect accountability for this betrayal of the public’s trust. Accordingly, we would like you to answer to the following:

  • Your vote to remove these lands went against public feedback submitted via the Environmental Registry, which showed overwhelming opposition to these takeouts. How do you justify this?
  • What did you know about the Greenbelt land grabs before you voted? Did you have knowledge of the process used, and/or of the landowners who would benefit?
  • Why did you support the Greenbelt land grabs when your own Housing Affordability Task Force and Regional Planning Commissioners of Ontario determined that there is more than enough land already available to accommodate future housing?
  • Now that you know the process was flawed, do you support the government’s stance to not reconsider the Greenbelt land removals – the 15th recommendation made by the Auditor General?
  • When in opposition, your party argued that cash for access events led to preferential treatment. Given the cash-for-access and preferential treatment likelihood found with the Greenbelt fiasco, and your own continued use of $1000 a ticket events, has your stance on this changed? If not, will you support legislation to end cash for access fundraising and will you commit to no longer host these types of events?

We believe the public is owed answers regarding these questions. We have already sent you an invitation to attend our Public Forum on the Greenbelt, happening September 12 at 7 pm at Grace United Church in Barrie, at which you can answer these questions.

The public has entrusted you with power to make good decisions on their behalf and we expect you to be accountable to that trust. We look forward to your response.

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