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'You're on notice': Ford warns land will return to Greenbelt if conditions not met

'If you don’t meet our government’s conditions, including showing real progress by year end with a plan to get shovels in the ground by 2025, your land will go back into the Greenbelt,' premier says after developer listed parcels for sale
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province is looking to return land to the Greenbelt that a developer recently sold. Ontario’s minister of housing Steve Clark listens as Ford speaks during a press conference in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Ontario is looking at returning land to the Greenbelt after a developer recently listed two parcels for sale, Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday.

In a written statement, Ford said the government learned the owner of two parcels in Ajax, Ont., that were part of the Greenbelt land removal had listed the properties for sale.

"At no point was the intention to sell disclosed to the government’s facilitator during active and ongoing discussions," Ford said.

"This behaviour goes against everything that our government is doing to bring home ownership into reach for more people. In response, our government is exploring every option available to us, including immediately starting the process to put these sites back into the Greenbelt."

Ford said he was issuing a warning to other owners of sites removed from the Greenbelt for housing.

"To the other property owners, you’re on notice: if you don’t meet our government’s conditions, including showing real progress by year end with a plan to get shovels in the ground by 2025, your land will go back into the Greenbelt," Ford said.

READ MORE: Ford's threat to return land to Greenbelt based on misunderstanding: owners' rep

Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development.

Last year, the province took 7,400 acres of land out of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes and replaced it with about 9,400 acres elsewhere.

The move sparked anger from critics and several investigations by different authorities. 

The auditor general found earlier this month that the province gave preferential treatment to certain developers when it removed land from the Greenbelt. 

Bonnie Lysyk found that Housing Minister Steve Clark's chief of staff, Ryan Amato, selected most of the sites that were removed for housing, rather than a team of civil servants struck for that purpose.

Lysyk said that developers who had access to Amato at a dinner at a developer conference wound up with 92 per cent of the land. The property owners of the 15 sites removed from the Greenbelt stand to see their land rise in value by at least $8.3 billion, she found.

Amato recently resigned from his job.

Ford said last week that he was confident nothing criminal took place in his government's process of removing land from the Greenbelt. He and Clark have also said they didn't know how sites that were removed from the protected area were selected.

The integrity commissioner is investigating both Clark and Amato while the RCMP have said they are weighing whether they will investigate.

The auditor general's report lists Buena Vista Development Corp. as the primary developer and/or the landowner for the land recently listed for sale. A large parcel of the land in question was bought in June 2018.

The auditor general found that 98 per cent of that land is classified as the highest quality soil that produces cash crop production. It is also a priority area that maintains Greenbelt connectivity in the Ajax and Whitby, Ont., corridor.

Buena Vista could not be immediately be reached for contact.