OTTAWA – Stephen Blais, MPP for Orléans and the Ontario Liberal Critic for Municipal Affairs and Housing, has written a letter to the Auditor General of Ontario requesting an investigation into the Ontario government’s unilateral decision to expand the City of Ottawa’s urban boundary by 654 hectares in 2022, without any consultation or transparency.
“The Auditor General’s report on the Greenbelt exposed how the Ford government has been playing fast and loose with development decisions, putting party insiders and friends ahead of the public interest,” says MPP Blais. “I am asking the Auditor General to investigate whether the same thing happened in Ottawa.”
In February 2021, the City of Ottawa voted to add over 1,200 hectares to the urban boundary. After sitting on the Minister’s desk for a year, on November 4, 2022, the former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, used his ministerial powers to override the City’s Official Plan and added an additional 654 hectares to the urban boundary, without any consultation or justification.
One area of concern specifically is the urban boundary expansion pertaining to the 37-acre farm located at 1177 Watters Road, which was zoned Agricultural Resource by the City and was protected from development. Previous Provincial Policy Statements have expressly dictated that Agricultural Resource lands should not be considered for urban expansion.
According to media reporting, In August 2021, when the property was still designated as Agricultural Resource, it was purchased for $12.7 million by 1177 Watters Developments Ltd, a company whose directors are all associated with the Verdi Alliance Group of Companies. The same reporting indicates the directors of the company have donated a combined $12,315 to the Provincial Conservatives in 2021 and 2022.
Just one year after purchasing the farm, Minister Clark expanded the urban boundary to include the land for development.
Ontario Liberals have called on the Auditor General to investigate and report on the following questions:
- What was the rationale and criteria used by the Minister to select the additional lands to Ottawa’s urban expansion?
- What internal process was used in the Ministry and the Minister’s Office to provide advice on this decision.
- How did the minister assess the impacts of his decision on the environment, economy, and governance of the City of Ottawa and the province?
- How did the minister consult or communicate with the City of Ottawa, other municipalities, Indigenous communities, stakeholders, and the public before and after his decision?
- What impact, if any, did political association and lobbying efforts, have on the Minister’s decision.
- Did the buyers of 1177 Watters Road or the other lands added to the boundary receive inside knowledge to purchase the land zoned for agriculture prior to the Minister changing Ottawa’s Urban Boundary?
“Ontarians deserve to have a say in how their cities grow and develop, and those decisions should be based on evidence, not political influence,” adds MPP Blais. “I hope that the Auditor General will shed some light on this matter and hold the Ford government accountable for their actions.”