Ontario Investigates Suspected Greenbelt Land Removal and Illegal Political Donations

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An Ontario electoral watchdog is spearheading a fresh inquiry into the peculiar circumstances that led to the removal of lands from the protected Greenbelt of the province. The investigation hinges on the actions of a company helmed by an individual identified only as “Mr. X”. The question at stake is the procurement and subsequent donation of two $1,500 fundraiser tickets for Premier Doug Ford.

The situation described by Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch relates to “Mr. X” whose company managed to offer these tickets for the Progressive Conservative Leader’s Dinner in March to two Pickering councillors. Moreover, none of the involved parties was registered among provincial political donors.

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Concerns are mounting, with Conacher suggesting this apparent discrepancy demands an investigation by the chief electoral officer at Elections Ontario to ascertain if any regulations were breached.

“Mr. X” was cast in an unflattering light by the province’s integrity commissioner in a recent report. The unnamed individual allegedly was part of several entities who contributed to the unjust process of transforming affordable farmland into high-value land for developers. Interestingly, “Mr. X” does not hold an official lobbyist registration.

The ongoing controversy saw the resignation of ex-Housing Minister Steve Clark and his chief of staff. Premier Doug Ford promises a thorough review of all lands in the Greenbelt, though he remains mum about reversing the previous agreements.

Multiple anonymous sources have identified “Mr. X” as the former mayor of Clarington, John Mutton. The integrity commissioner’s report quotes a contract indicating Mutton was set to receive a significant “Greenbelt fee” upon the removal of 86 acres north of Nash Road in Clarington from the Greenbelt and further profits upon its development.

Following this, Mutton reportedly offered two high-value tickets to a political dinner to Pickering councillor Maurice Brenner, an offer that was rejected.

Declared gifts for Pickering’s Mayor Kevin Ashe and Councillor Lisa Robinson included a $1,500 ticket from Mutton’s company, Municipal Solutions. Findings by Pickering’s Integrity Commissioner judged these gifts as exceeding the permissible limit but did not impose a penalty.

The province’s integrity commissioner noted in its report an ongoing investigation of “Mr. X” for possible lobbying violations. Such violations, defined by profitable results from lobbying efforts, breach the rules.

The premier, Doug Ford, distanced himself from the presumed “Mr. X”, stressing that any rule violations would be held accountable.

While the PC Party claims they do not accept corporate donations, questions remain on the source of the fundraiser tickets. The party’s director of communications, Zachary Zarnett-Klein, affirmed that all individual donations would be publicly disclosed on the Elections Ontario website.

According to Conacher, another dubious aspect of the situation involves the sale and transfer of a ticket to another person, which he contends is against the rules.

Public records reveal no entries connecting Mutton, his company, Mayor Ashe, or Councillor Robinson with the $1,500 donations in the Election Ontario database.

The controversy emerged due to Pickering’s new lobbyist and gift registries, which, according to councillor Brenner, aid transparency for voters to monitor their elected representatives.

In response to this scandal, Ontario’s Attorney-General plans to review the legislation governing lobbyists, recognizing the findings that some individuals were unfairly advantaged. The mayor of Clarington also expresses an intention to inaugurate a new lobbyist registry to augment transparency.