Housing minister Steve Clark accepted complete responsibility for the flawed process of removing land from the Greenbelt, but he will not be resigning despite calls to do so.
Earlier this month Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released a scathing report on the Doug Ford government’s decision to remove 15 sites from Greenbelt protection and open it up for development.
In a report released this week (Aug. 30), Integrity Commissioner David Wake determined Clark contravened two sections of the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994 “by failing to oversee the process by which lands in the Greenbelt were selected for development.”
Wake recommended to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that Minister Clark be reprimanded for his failure to comply with the Act.
“I accept that I ought to have had greater oversight over my former chief of staff and over the process and to Ontarians I want to say very sincerely that I apologize that I did not,” said Clark at a press conference held the afternoon of Aug. 31. “I am committed to making sure that the flaws of the kind outlined in the report by Justice Wake do not happen again. That’s why we’ve worked very closely and transparently with the Integrity Commissioner’s Office…And that’s why as a government we are already taking steps to improve the decision-making process moving forward.”
He added, “As the Integrity Commissioner also noted, our government’s motivation has always been to build homes including those that came about as result of the changes we made to the Greenbelt.”
The integrity commissioner’s inquiry looked into the process and found Clark’s Chief of Staff Ryan Amato, who resigned recently, was the “driving force” behind the lands that were selected to be developed. The report describes the process as “rushed” and “flawed.”
“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,” states the report. “Minister Clark did not question or properly oversee Mr. Amato’s selection process before the matter was presented to cabinet.”
Clark acknowledged that changes need to be made to change the process.
“The buck stops with me,” said Clark both in a statement after the report was released and at the press conference.
“I take the recommendations from both the Auditor General and the Integrity Commissioner very seriously. I’ve been very open with Ontarians today in terms of accepting complete responsibility over the process that took place in the Ministry. I am committed as well, and our government is committed, to ensuring that we do better moving forward.”
At an unrelated press conference on Aug. 31, Ford was asked repeatedly if Clark would step down in light of the Integrity Commissioners findings.
“I have full confidence in Minister Clark,” said Ford. “I take full responsibility. The buck stops with me… We understand the process could be better but our goal at the end of the day is to build 1.5 million homes at minimum. We’re going to build them, we’re going to do everything we can, we’re going to use every single tool we can.”
The full report can be found at Report Re Minister Clark – August 30, 2023.pdf (oico.on.ca)
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