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Fighting for the truth about the Greenbelt scandal

October 19, 2023

In November 2022, the Ontario government made the controversial announcement that it was removing 7400 acres on 15 sites from the provincially protected Greenbelt.

People across Ontario, including dedicated community activists, environmental groups, farmers, and Indigenous Peoples, criticized this decision and pushed for it to be reversed.

The process for removing Greenbelt lands was publicly admonished by the Auditor General and the Integrity Commissioner.

In the fallout of the Greenbelt scandal two ministers have resigned, and in September 2023, the government announced it would reverse its Greenbelt plan.

Important questions remain about the involvement of Cabinet and the Premier in the Greenbelt scandal. There are information gaps in the Auditor General’s report, and in the investigation carried out by the Integrity Commissioner.

In the wake of the Greenbelt removal decision last year, and other harmful land use planning decisions on official plans, Ecojustice acted swiftly on behalf of Environmental Defence to make four key freedom of information requests about how decisions on official plans and greenbelt issues were made.

The Ontario government has failed to comply with its legal obligation to respond to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Ecojustice on behalf of Environmental Defence regarding the involvement of the Minister and the Premier in developer requests to dismantle the Greenbelt.  Ecojustice secured an order from the Information and Privacy Commissioner requiring the government to respond by September 15, 2023, and the Government did not comply with the order. The Information and Privacy Commissioner also recently ordered the Government to preserve records and look for deleted emails.

Ecojustice, on behalf of Environmental Defence, is suing the Ontario government to make sure they tell the public the truth about the Greenbelt scandal and its relationship with developers.

Ecojustice is going to court to find out the truth for the people of Ontario.

The Premier swore under oath to the Integrity Commissioner that he had no knowledge of developer involvement of developer influence on the Greenbelt decision. Releasing the information under the Freedom of Information (FOI) request could help the public understand what top officials knew about the Greenbelt plans and when.

One minister has already resigned after making incorrect statements to the Integrity Commissioner about a meeting with a developer that was related to both the expansion of Hamilton’s Official Plan and the removal of Greenbelt lands in Hamilton.

Since being elected to office, the Ontario government has rolled back numerous provincial environmental protections. These choices have benefited developers while putting Ontario’s natural heritage up for sale and undermining the province’s planning laws. It also forced the expansion of urban boundaries of several municipalities, including Hamilton, running roughshod over local democracy.

Ecojustice submitted the FOI request to find out what kind of influence developers had on the Ontario Cabinet and Premier in its Greenbelt decision.  These matters are now also subject to an ongoing RCMP investigation.  Regardless of the outcome of that investigation, the public deserves to have access to all of the relevant records.

Ecojustice Staff

Laura Bowman
Ian Miron 


Environmental Defence