The Greenbelt land swap controversy continued on Wednesday, as Ontario Housing Minister Steve Clark was found to have violated multiple sections of the Members' Integrity Act for his failure to properly oversee the land selection process.
The report, published by the province's Integrity Commissioner, J. David Wake, reiterated many of the points laid out in the Auditor General's report released earlier this month: that Clark's former Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, heavily steered the selection process for Greenbelt land removal in a manner that led to "the private interests of certain developers being furthered improperly." Amato selected 14 of the 15 properties ultimately chosen for removal from the Greenbelt and opened up for housing development after receiving information packets directly from developers.
The new 166-page report goes beyond pointing the finger at Amato, as the Auditor General report did, and places blame on Clark.
"The inquiry found that Minister Clark misinterpreted the mandate letter in relation to the Greenbelt particularly with respect to what was expected and by when, which led Mr. Amato to embark on a rushed and flawed process," Wake wrote in the report. "This process was unfair to those landowners who had an interest in seeing their lands removed and who were unaware of the potential change to the government’s Greenbelt policy.
Since the release of the Auditor General's report, Clark has seemingly hidden behind a defence of not having been involved in the selection process, having been unaware of Amato's questionable actions. The Integrity Commissioner pointed to this as a key problem.
"Since supervision of staff is incumbent on the minister, Minister Clark’s lack of oversight led to some developers being alerted to a potential change in the government’s position on the Greenbelt, resulting in their private interests being furthered improperly," the report reads. "Minister Clark did not question or properly oversee Mr. Amato’s selection process before the matter was presented to cabinet."
Amato resigned from his position last week.
The Integrity Commissioner recommended that Clark be reprimanded for his failure to comply with the Members' Integrity Act, though he did not specify how.
The Integrity Commissioner's investigation, launched in response to a request from Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles, was extensive, obtaining evidence from 62 witnesses and more than 2,300 documents.