The Auditor General told us when introducing her withering report on the changes to the Greenbelt that fair, transparent and respectful consultation did not take place. 

The changes to the Greenbelt boundaries made by Ryan Amato were made by Regulation, through delegated powers.

The Legislature is supposed to keep an eye on these things through its Procedure and House Affairs Committee whose membership includes my MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy.

I handed in this letter (below) to Dawn's Constituency Office at 2.10pm this afternoon asking for a meeting to discuss the issue. Dawn's assistant asked me if I represented anyone and I said it was just me, a constituent. He then asked what it was about and I told him. I asked if I could make an appointment there and then. He said he couldn't do that because he didn't have Dawn's schedule. And that's where it has been left.

Click "read more" for my letter to Dawn Gallagher Murphy.

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21 August 2023. By hand and by email. 

Good Afternoon Dawn

Re: The Auditor General’s Special Report on Changes to the Greenbelt and its implications for the work of the Ontario Legislature’s Procedure and House Affairs Committee

I hope you are well.

I would like to make an appointment to meet you to discuss your role on the Legislature’s Procedure and House Affairs Committee in the light of the recent report from the Auditor General.

Your Tweet on 19 August 2023 about your visit to Indiana reminded me of your membership of this Committee.

The Committee’s mandate includes the provisions provided for by section 33 of Part III (Regulations) of the Legislation Act, 2006. All regulations stand permanently referred to the Committee which has powers:

“…to examine the regulations with particular reference to the scope and method of the exercise of delegated legislative power without reference to the merits of the policy or objectives to be effected by the regulations or enabling statutes…”   

The Auditor General expressed concerns at the way in which the Greenbelt Regulations had been dealt with. The Auditor noted (and I have underlined certain parts for emphasis): 

The removal of the 15 land sites occurred through changes to regulations (O. Reg. 567/22 amended O. Reg. 59/05 under the Greenbelt Act, 2005 and O. Reg. 568/22 amended O. Reg. 140/02 under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001) and need not have been part of any combined legislative changes in late 2022. Because Greenbelt boundary amendments are made by regulation, changes can be made—with sufficient public consultation under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993—independent of the Legislative Assembly’s schedule of legislative business. 

Following the 30-day public consultation period, the Housing Ministry sought final approval from Cabinet to amend the Greenbelt Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and Greenbelt boundary regulation. According to the Housing Ministry, it received over 35,000 comments during the consultation period from members of the public, municipalities, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders (including the environmental, development and agricultural sectors). 

On December 14, 2022, 10 days after the conclusion of the public consultation period, the Housing Ministry filed O. Reg. 567/22 under the Greenbelt Act, 2005, and O. Reg. 568/22 under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001, which implemented the proposed Greenbelt Area boundary amendments for 15 land sites, and Cabinet approved Order in Council 1745/2022 to amend the Greenbelt Plan. The government made no changes as a result of the public consultation process.

I am left wondering if the Government could seriously consider 35,000 comments in 10 days?

The Ontario Government says it reviews all the comments it receives and considers them before making a decision.

When introducing her report on 9 August 2023, the Auditor General said this:

“Our review of the procedures used to amend the Greenbelt boundary in 2022 raises serious concerns about the exercise used, the way in which standard information gathering and decision-making protocols were sidelined or abandoned and how changes to the Greenbelt boundaries were unnecessarily rushed through.

We also noted that fair, transparent and respectful consultation did not take place. We found that the housing ministry's public consultation - which is required by the environmental bill of rights - was undermined by incomplete and inaccurate notices on the environmental registry of Ontario - limiting the public's ability to fully understand and comment on the proposed changes and their potential impacts. Nor did the housing ministry carry out a comprehensive analysis of the 35,000 comments posted on the registry which were overwhelmingly negative and ultimately no revisions were made to any of the proposed land removals.”

It appears to be the case that changes to the regulations were made without giving proper consideration to comments from the public. It seems to me this matter falls within the remit of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee.

Before we meet you may wish to have a look at the Auditor General’s reports for 2019 – 2022 which address this issue of the Environmental Bill of Rights 1993 and the requirement properly to consult the public.

I am copying this to the local press and media.

Best Wishes

Gordon Prentice