Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford Fundraiser Tickets Linked to Greenbelt Space Reduction Probe

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A call for an escalated probe into the intrigue enveloping the reduction of spaces within Ontario’s safeguarded Greenbelt is underway. This time around, the focus dwells on how a firm operated by a character christened “Mr. X,” managed to acquire and subsequently donate two $1,500 tickets to a Premier Doug Ford fundraiser dinner.

Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch is bewildered by the donation of two tickets, for the Progressive Conservative Leader’s Dinner in March, to a duo of Pickering council members by a company linked to “Mr. X.” Conacher’s concern primarily hinges on the noticeable absence of all three parties’ names in provincial political donation disclosures.

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The enigmatic “Mr. X” was a principal character in an excoriating report from the integrity commissioner of the province that categorized him as one in a cabal of unregistered lobbyists instrumental in pressuring the removal of select lands from the Greenbelt. This irregular process not only transmuted inexpensive farmland into exponentially valuable prospects for developers, but also led to the resignation of the former Housing Minister Steve Clark and his Chief of Staff. Premier Doug Ford has pledged a review of all Greenbelt lands, however, has refrained from answering requests from critics to reverse the previous transactions.

Sources have disclosed to CTV News that the true identity behind “Mr. X” is former Clarington mayor, John Mutton. The report from the integrity commissioner cited a contract guaranteeing Mutton a $225,000 “Greenbelt fee” after the detachment of 86 acres north of Nash Road in Clarington from the Greenbelt. Notably, an additional $775,000 was tied to its future development potential.

One of fifteen parcels removed in November, this is the land where Mutton was contractually bound to receive payment within 120 days of its removal from Greenbelt jurisdiction. Shortly after this transpired, Pickering councillor Maurice Brenner revealed that Mutton offered him tickets to the PC Leader’s Dinner in March that were valued at roughly $1,500 each. However, Brenner declined, stating he had no desire to attend any political fundraiser in Ontario.

An examination of the city’s gift registry reveals Mayor Kevin Ashe and Councillor Lisa Robinson each received a $1,500 ticket from Mutton’s company, Municipal Solutions. However, despite findings by Pickering’s own Integrity Commissioner that these gifts were above the allowable limit, no disciplinary action was initiated.

Apart from these persistent issues, there are further probes into “Mr. X” for possible lobbying violations. This stems from the integrity commissioner’s mention in its report that compensation contingent on lobbying results contravenes the established rules. Yet, attempts to link Premier Ford with Mr. Mutton via social media photos with the premier were dismissed by Ford claiming he takes countless photos.

A recurring question is who purchased the fundraiser dinner tickets and their numbers. The PC Party staff emphasized that corporate donations are non-compliant and that fundraiser tickets would be regarded as donations—promptly reported to Elections Ontario. However, clarifications regarding purchasers were far from conclusive. They cited that around 4,000 tickets had been purchased for the fundraiser.

In Conacher’s view, the selling and transfer of a ticket to another individual breach the rules, as they equate to a third-party donation. Upon examination of Election Ontario’s database, neither Mutton, his company, Mayor Ashe, nor Councillor Robinson’s names can be traced beside $1,500 donations. Unsurprisingly, contact attempts by CTV News remained unanswered.

The scenario garnered attention due to Pickering’s new lobbyist and gift registries, which according to Brenner are invaluable in delivering transparency for constituents. Following the integrity commissioner’s report revealing some privileged individuals receiving an unfair advantage, Ontario’s Attorney-General declared an imminent review of the present lobbying legislation. Clarington’s mayor also plans to establish a lobbyist registry to ensure greater transparency.