The Ontario government has announced that it will begin the process of returning 104 acres of land to the protected Greenbelt after the attempted sale of the land for housing development came to light. The property owner of 765 and 775 Kingston Rd. E. in Ajax listed the land for sale, with a portion intended for a business park instead of homes.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has defended his decision to remove land from the Greenbelt, citing the need for housing development. However, his government has faced increasing pressure following a critical auditor general’s report on the Greenbelt plans.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing stated that the sale listing took the province by surprise, and the lack of transparency from the owner raises concerns about their ability to meet the government’s expectation of timely construction. In response, the government plans to consult with local Indigenous communities and launch a 45-day public and municipal consultation to return the Ajax site to the Greenbelt.
First Nations leaders in Ontario have demanded the return of all lands removed from the Greenbelt and called for a criminal investigation of the Ford government. The Chiefs of Ontario (COO) have suspended their working relationship with Ontario’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister until further notice, citing inadequate consultation with First Nations on Greenbelt changes.
The government also warned other owners of Greenbelt land open for housing development to adhere to the province’s requirements. Failure to comply may result in the land being returned to the Greenbelt. The auditor general’s report revealed a flawed and biased process in the decision to open up parts of the Greenbelt for development.
Ontario’s Greenbelt, established in 2005, protects agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands from development. The government aims to build 1.5 million new homes in the next decade, involving the removal of 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt and the addition of 9,400 acres elsewhere.
Sources: Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, CBC, Ontario auditor general’s report