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Chief of staff for Ontario housing minister resigns amid Greenbelt report

The chief of staff for Ontario’s housing minister has resigned following a scathing Greenbelt report that alleges he and the government favoured certain developers when opening up the protected land for development.

The Premier’s Office confirmed the news in a statement Tuesday, saying they have accepted Ryan Amato’s resignation “effective immediately.”

Amato was the staffer primarily responsible for choosing which sites on the Greenbelt would be opened up for development. On Aug. 10, Ontario’s integrity commissioner confirmed the Premier’s Office had requested an investigation into his handling of the file. The integrity commissioner has not yet decided to launch an investigation.

The request made by the Premier’s Office was one of 15 recommendations made in a bombshell auditor general report released earlier this month.

The report, among other things, heavily criticized the process in which decisions regarding the Greenbelt’s development were made, indicating that it “favoured certain developers,” lacked transparency and failed to take factors such as environmental, agricultural and financial impacts into consideration.

The process for determining which sites would be cut from the Greenbelt took place within a strict three-week timeline, which the auditor general says was implemented by Amato.

The report also suggested that certain criteria for the sites were altered when it was determined that most of the sites would not fit the set parameters.

Fourteen of the 15 final Greenbelt sites removed were directly proposed by Amato. The auditor general notes that 92 per cent of the land removed was requested by developers the chief of staff dined with at a September Building and Land Development Association’s Chair’s dinner.

“At this event, the Housing Minister’s Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff were seated at the same table as prominent housing developers and a registered lobbyist,” the report reads.

“The Chief of Staff told us two developers provided him with packages at this event containing information about two sites from the Greenbelt: the (Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve) lands in Durham Region and the Bathurst-King site in York Region.”

Amato told the auditor general that he did not open the packages at the dinner. Instead, he put them in a pile on his desk to be opened at a later time.

The owners of the 15 land sites, the report indicated, could see more than an $8.3 billion increase to the value of their properties.

For weeks since the report went public Housing Minister Steve Clark has repeatedly said the premier remains confident in both him and his staff. No indication was given that either would resign as a result of this report, despite repeated calls by opposition parties and Indigenous leaders to do so.

On Tuesday, following Amato’s resignation, Ontario opposition parties continued to call for Clark to leave his position as housing minister.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles called Amato’s resignation the “bare minimum of accountability for one of the most serious breaches of public trust in Ontario’s history.”

“The Auditor General’s report was very clear—this staffer obviously didn’t act independently. Now it’s time that the Minister take responsibility, do the right thing, and step down,” Stiles’ statement read in part.

“It is simply not believable that one political staffer was behind this $8.3 billion cash-for-your-land-scheme,” Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said in a statement.

“The truth of the matter is that the Minister and the Premier brought forward and supported this scheme at cabinet with the full knowledge of what they were doing. Mr. Amato’s resignation does not resolve this situation. Minister Clark must resign and Premier Ford must open the books to a full investigation.”

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said that while Amato’s resignation is a “first step in the long process to restore public trust,” it’s not enough.

“If the Premier believes this is the end of the story, he’s mistaken,” he said.

In a statement to CTV News Toronto, a spokesperson for the Premier’s Office said Doug Ford continues to have confidence in his housing minister. Ford has also denied that his government gave certain developers preferential treatment. Top Stories

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