Ontario’s Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner is considering launching an investigation into the province’s Greenbelt changes following a scathing audit that revealed political staff had deleted records and used personal email accounts to communicate with lobbyists. If an investigation is initiated, Information and Privacy Commissioner Patricia Kosseim would join several other watchdogs in examining the scandal surrounding the Ford government. The RCMP recently confirmed that they are reviewing potential irregularities related to the Greenbelt changes. The flurry of police involvement came shortly after the resignation of Clark’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato, who was deemed responsible for selecting 92 percent of the Greenbelt land for development. However, Amato stated in his resignation letter that he had been unfairly depicted.
The audit, conducted by auditor general Bonnie Lysyk, found that the government had shown “preferential treatment” to a select group of well-connected developers and that political staff regularly deleted emails, which was contrary to provincial recordkeeping laws. The audit also discovered that political staff used personal email accounts to communicate with lobbyists, a violation of provincial guidelines. In response to Lysyk’s findings, Premier Doug Ford’s Office has accepted her recommendations to improve record-keeping processes and is working with the information watchdog to implement these changes.
The controversy arose in 2022 when the Ford government announced plans to remove 15 sections of land from the Greenbelt for housing development. Although the province added compensatory land elsewhere, the decision elicited backlash from opposition parties, environmentalists, First Nations, and the public.
It remains unclear if the alleged deleted emails can be recovered. Two developers who were major beneficiaries of the Greenbelt changes have sought to avoid providing records and answering questions in court. The Greenbelt scandal mirrors previous record-keeping scandals that have damaged the reputations of past governments. The opposition Ontario NDP has requested that the information watchdog ensure the recovery and preservation of all records related to the Greenbelt decision, citing concerns about the government’s transparency and record-keeping practices.
What prompted the investigation into Ontario’s Greenbelt changes?
An audit conducted by the auditor general revealed that political staff had deleted records and used personal email accounts to communicate with lobbyists, prompting concerns about government transparency and record-keeping practices.
Which watchdog is considering launching an investigation?
The Office of Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, headed by Patricia Kosseim, is considering initiating an investigation into the Greenbelt changes.
What were the findings of the audit?
The audit found that the government had given preferential treatment to certain developers and that political staff regularly deleted emails, which violated provincial recordkeeping laws. It also uncovered the use of personal email accounts to conduct government business, contrary to provincial guidelines.
How has the Ford government responded to the audit?
Premier Doug Ford’s Office has accepted the recommendations put forth by the auditor general to improve record-keeping processes and is working with the information watchdog to implement these changes.
What is the controversy surrounding the Greenbelt changes?
The Ford government’s decision to remove sections of land from the Greenbelt for housing development has faced significant backlash from opposition parties, environmentalists, First Nations, and the public.