The City of Hamilton is asking the RCMP to include the Ford government's decision to expand urban boundaries in its investigation of the Province's Greenbelt scandal.
During Wednesday's City Council meeting, Councillors voted to approve a motion requesting the RCMP look into the Government of Ontario's decision to open up 2,200 hectares of Hamilton's rural areas for housing development — a decision that the motion says would "result in the permanent loss of 1,630 to 2,190 hectares of largely prime agricultural areas, as well as impacts to natural heritage and water systems."
The motion, brought forward by Councillor Maureen Wilson, says that Hamilton city staff were not consulted on the changes, and were not given an opportunity to review or respond to the proposed amendments.
"We know that in October, private meetings were held with private land developers, their lawyers, their agents where they were given an opportunity to submit comment and an opportunity to engage with government decision-makers that were not afforded to our professional planning staff, and by extension, were not afforded to this community," Wilson said when presenting her motion.
"Unlike a cabinet, which does things behind closed doors, we have both the blessing and the curse of [having] to do everything publicly. And so the purpose of my motion is not to impugn or suggest, the purpose of my motion is to state that the residents of Hamilton are deserving of the information, are deserving of accountability."
The Province's decision to expand the urban boundaries of several municipalities was — just like the decision to remove lands from the protected Greenbelt — walked back recently. Both about-faces came after many months of public pushback, two scathing reports from government watchdogs, and several government resignations. They also both came after many weeks of the provincial government defending their decision and refusing to budge in the name of getting much-needed housing built.
Recently appointed Minister of Housing Paul Calandra has overseen the two major turnarounds. He assumed the position following Steve Clark's resignation amid the Greenbelt land swap scandal. Clark was found to have violated multiple sections of the Members' Integrity Act for his failure to properly oversee the Greenbelt land selection process, which was found to have been biased and rushed, and gave preferential treatment to certain developers.
The RCMP confirmed earlier this month that they are conducting a criminal investigation into the decision to remove lands from the Greenbelt.
Another investigation is ongoing at the hands of Acting Auditor General Nick Stavropoulos, who has confirmed his office is looking into the provincial government's use of Minister's Zoning Orders to override municipal approval processes and facilitate developments.