MPP Fraser and Opposition Leaders Ask Auditor General to Investigate Greenbelt Sale

Bonnie Lysyk
Office of the Auditor General of Ontario
Suite 1530
20 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON   M5G 2C2

January 11, 2023

Dear Ms. Lysyk,

Over the last few months, we have independently raised concerns with the government’s decision to remove 7,400 acres of land from the Greenbelt to allow for development on what was protected land. Today, we are writing to you together to ask that your office conduct a value-for money audit and an assessment of the financial and environmental impacts of the government’s decision to remove lands from the Greenbelt and repeal the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Act.

The removal of protections from these lands has instantly shifted wealth to property owners, who have likely benefited substantially from the rezoning of this land from undevelopable agricultural land to developable land. For example, about 4,500 of the 7,400 acres of Greenbelt land formerly belonged to the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve (DRAP) and had easements protecting the land as farmland in perpetuity under the DRAP Act. These easements represented a multi-billion-dollar public investment in Ontario’s natural and agricultural systems by the people of Ontario, who gave up enormous profits when the Ontario government sold these lands at discounted prices on the condition that they forever remain farmland. The removal of these easements means these speculative profits will now flow to private landowners, with no compensation to the public.

Removing protections from the DRAP lands also has potential environmental impacts. These lands are adjacent to Rouge National Urban Park, and Parks Canada has raised concerns that the removal of protections would have a detrimental impact on park lands and the local ecosystem. In their submission to the provincial government, Parks Canada wrote, “there is a probable risk of irreversible harm to wildlife, natural ecosystems and agricultural landscapes within Rouge National Urban Park.”

Hundreds of concerned Ontarians and stakeholders shared similar concerns through the Environmental Bill of Rights consultation process. The consultation showed broad opposition to the government’s decision to remove land from the Greenbelt, including concerns regarding anticipated negative environmental impacts. Many groups identified that the Greenbelt plays an important role in Ontario’s ability to address climate change and emphasized the importance of protecting natural areas.

Given the strong likelihood of negative impacts on the environment, we are requesting your office investigate the environmental impact of the removal of these Greenbelt lands on agricultural and natural systems. Additionally, we are requesting a value-for-money audit investigating how much public wealth has been transferred to property owners and whether these land transactions are in the public interest.

Collectively, we are very concerned with the impact that the removal of these Greenbelt lands will have on the future well-being of our province. We thank you for your time in reviewing our request and would be happy to meet with you and your team to further discuss our concerns.

Marit Stiles, MPP
Incoming Leader
Ontario NDP

John Fraser, MPP
Interim Leader
Ontario Liberal Party

Mike Schreiner, MPP
Leader
Ontario Green Party

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