Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Integrity Commissioner finds Housing Minister Steve Clark broke ethics rules in Ontario Greenbelt land swap, recommends reprimand

Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner has said Housing Minister Steve Clark violated ethics rules in the Greenbelt land swap process and should be reprimanded.

In a report filed today with the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, K.C., determined that “Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and MPP for Leeds–Grenville–Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes contravened the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994”.

“Minister Clark contravened sections 2 and 3(2) by failing to oversee the process by which lands in the Greenbelt were selected for development, leading to the private interests of certain developers being furthered improperly,” the report stated.

The inquiry also established that “Minister Clark’s former Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, was the driving force for the process by which lands in the Greenbelt were selected for development”. The report says Amato was involved in the selection of 14 of the 15 properties that were removed from the Greenbelt or redesignated and received information provided to him by certain developers.

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 Amato to embark on a rushed and flawed process. 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 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. Minister Clark did not question or properly oversee Mr. Amato’s selection process before the matter was presented to cabinet.

In conducting the inquiry, the Commissioner, general counsel and Office staff received evidence from 62 witnesses and reviewed more than 2,300 documents.

Commissioner Wake launched an inquiry into this matter after Marit Stiles, Leader of the Official Opposition and MPP for Davenport in December 2022 requested an opinion under section 30 of the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994.

In view of this finding, Commissioner Wake has recommended to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that Minister Clark be reprimanded for his failure to comply with the Act.


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