Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario government are back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons today as the RCMP has announced it is initiating an investigation in the Ontario government’s dealings around the Greenbelt land swap.
“Following a referral from the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP ‘O’ Division’s Sensitive and International Investigations (SII) unit has now launched an investigation into allegations associated to the decision from the province of Ontario to open parts of the Greenbelt for development,” read an article in the Toronto Star sharing the news via a statement from the RCMP.
“While we recognize that this investigation is of significant interest to Canadians, the RCMP has a duty to protect the integrity of the investigations that it carries out, in order to ensure that the process leads to a fair and proper outcome. Therefore, no further updates will be provided at this time,” the RCMP statement concluded.
The Progressive Conservative government of Ontario initially announced plans to use 7,400 acres of Greenbelt land for building 50,000 homes.
However, after extensive scrutiny over the land swap deals the Province initiated with private developers, which included critical reports including one from the Ontario Auditor General and one from Ontario’s independent integrity commissioner along with several key resignations in response to these reports, Premier Ford ultimately reversed this decision.
Premier Ford issued a brief statement in response to the RCMP announcing an investigation.
“The government will fully cooperate with any investigation,” read the statement. “We have zero tolerance for any wrongdoing and expect anyone involved in the decision-making about the Greenbelt lands to have followed the letter of the law. Out of respect for the police and their process, we will not be commenting further at this time.”
Leader of the Official Opposition NDP Marit Stiles, whose requests launched the Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner investigations into this corruption scandal, responded to the news by stating that she welcomed the news.
“Now we have a Premier under criminal investigation and a government that is spiraling out of control,” she said, in a statement.
“It is absolutely shameful that under Premier Ford’s leadership this government has appeared to have acted so improperly that the RCMP was compelled to launch an investigation. Times are tough for a lot of people right now, and instead of helping them, this government has made it worse.”
In addition to news of the RCMP investigation, calls continue for the Ford government to cancel the proposed Hwy. 413 project that would pave over hundred of acres of the Ontario Greenbelt and thousands of acres of farmland.
“The fact that Premier Doug Ford has promised us, once again, that he will not touch the Greenbelt says to me that the 413 should also now be off the table, since sections of it will plow through the Greenbelt,” said Betty de Groot, EcoCaledon. “We’re here to remind him to keep his promise and look into other solutions for traffic congestion like stopping urban sprawl, increasing transit options and opening up lanes on the 407 for trucks.”