Greenbelt timeline: From conservation plan to scandal
A timeline of what’s happened so far.
Struggling to keep up with the Greenbelt saga? The ongoing scandal around Ontario’s land swap has been moving at a furious pace. Here is a timeline of major Greenbelt events going all the way back to 2005 when it was first created.
- The Greenbelt Plan is officially launched by Premier Dalton McGuinty, designating protected land in Southern Ontario to prevent urban sprawl and promote agricultural and environmental conservation. It establishes the world’s largest Greenbelt, encompassing the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine, and nearly one million acres of farmland: “Our government made a choice to preserve greenspace and plan intelligently for growth. This will improve the quality of life for the people of Ontario and make this province the place to be for years to come.” – McGuinty
- The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe is introduced to complement the Greenbelt Plan, focusing on urban development, transportation, and infrastructure. Officials noted that the region is a massive economic driver for the province and the country, generating upwards of 25% of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product.
- The Niagara Escarpment Plan, Canada’s first large-scale environmental land use plan and another component of Ontario’s land use planning framework, is revised to align with the Greenbelt Plan.
- The Greenbelt is expanded to include additional land in the Lake Simcoe area.
- The province of Ontario releases the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review, which includes proposed changes to the Greenbelt boundaries.
- February: The Ontario government, under Premier Doug Ford, announces plans to open up the Greenbelt for development, which sparks controversy and opposition from environmental groups and the public.
- May: After intense public outcry, the Ontario government reverses its decision to open up the Greenbelt for development: “I looked at it as making sure we have more affordable housing. The people have spoken. I’m going to listen to them, they don’t want me to touch the Greenbelt, we won’t touch the Greenbelt.” – Ford
- The Ontario government releases the final report of the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review, which includes changes to the Greenbelt boundaries, such as minor expansions and adjustments.
- Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark announces plans to cut 7,400 acres in 15 different areas of the Greenbelt to construct 50,000 homes. However, he notes that the province also intends to add 9,400 acres in other areas, in order to build 50,000 homes. It contradicted a pledge he made in 2021 not to open up the Greenbelt “to any kind of development.”
- August: Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk releases a blistering report that finds the Greenbelt deal heavily favoured a small group of developers and did not consider environmental impacts. The report comes with a list of recommendations that include revisiting the deal in a way that follows proper procedures.
- Premier Doug Ford accepts all recommendations but one, refusing to undo the deal: “I have admitted numerous times that the process could have been a lot better and we are moving on that, but the good news story is that there are going to be 150,000 people with a roof over their heads.” -Ford
- Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake releases his report on the Greenbelt deal, recommending that Housing Minister Steve Clark receive a reprimand for his role in the land swap: “Minister Clark’s lack of oversight led to some developers being alerted to a potential change in the government’s position on the Greenbelt, resulting in their private interests being furthered improperly.” – Wake
- In conducting the inquiry, the commissioner, general counsel and office staff received evidence from 62 witnesses and reviewed more than 2,300 documents.
- The RCMP consider whether or not to investigate the land swap after a referral from provincial police in Ontario.
- September: Facing intense pressure in the fallout of the Wake report, Clark resigns from his position as minister: “As someone who has given my life to serving the people through our democratic institutions, it is my responsibility to adhere to the principles of Ministerial accountability.” – Clark
- Ford reshuffles his cabinet after Clark’s resignation.
- Ford announces a sweeping review of the Greenbelt lands and development applications. The province already has a mandate to review the Greenbelt lands every 10 years. This decision bumps up the mandatory review by two years.
- Ford reverses decision to allow development in the Greenbelt: “I made a promise to you that I wouldn’t touch the Greenbelt. I broke that promise. And for that I am very, very sorry.” – Ford
- Mississauga East-Cooksville MPP Kaleed Rasheed resigns from Ford’s cabinet after reporting shows he spent time with developers while on a trip to Las Vegas.
- October: The RCMP O Division’s Sensitive and International Investigations (SII) officially launches an investigation into the land swap deal after a referral from Ontario Provincial Police.