Former Clarington, Ontario mayor John Mutton has been identified as the elusive “Mr. X” who featured in a damning report by Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner, J. David Wake. The report focused on the contentious removal of 34 hectares of land from Ontario’s Greenbelt for development purposes.
Wake stated that Mutton, as a consultant hired by landowner Peter Tanenbaum, may have engaged in unregistered lobbying and other potential violations. Nico Fidani-Diker, principal at OnPoint Strategy Group, confirmed he collaborated with Mutton on the Nash Road project. “I had no interactions with Mr. Mutton other than this one file,” said Fidani-Diker, who formerly worked as an executive assistant to Premier Doug Ford.
Two anonymous sources close to the province’s Progressive Conservative government corroborated Mutton’s identity as Mr. X. Attempts to reach Mutton for comment were unsuccessful, but in a Toronto Star report, he said, “I’m not a lobbyist. I have a development services company where we provide planning, engineering and everything. I’ve never been contracted to do any type of lobbying to get any lands out of the Greenbelt.”
The saga is the latest episode in the ongoing scandal surrounding Ontario’s Greenbelt, an 810,000-hectare conservation area. Wake found that Mutton had interactions with senior staff in the office of Housing Minister Steve Clark, arranged but possibly did not participate in golf outings, and offered Raptors basketball tickets. He was also promised a million-dollar bonus if he succeeded in securing building permissions on Tanenbaum’s land.
Wake, who also serves as Ontario’s lobbyist registrar, highlighted potential non-compliance with the Lobbyists Registration Act, saying, “I will deal with the possible non-compliance separately, in my capacity as Ontario’s Lobbyist Registrar, outside of this report and inquiry.”
Ontario opposition parties were quick to react. NDP Leader Marit Stiles said, “Every new revelation in the Conservatives’ growing scandal makes it even clearer that their dirty dealings on the Greenbelt Grab were corrupt.” Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser called the situation “shady,” and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said it showed the premier was more focused on helping insiders than solving the housing crisis.
According to property records, Tanenbaum purchased the contested land for $2.75 million in 2003. A $6,000 per month contract signed with Mutton in August 2022 promised a $225,000 “Greenbelt fee” and a $775,000 “rezoning fee” contingent upon successful lobbying, an arrangement Wake noted runs afoul of existing lobbyist legislation.
Wake’s report further revealed that key information on the Nash Road property was included in a package of 15 properties eventually removed from the Greenbelt, casting further shadows on the controversial dealings.
Attempts to reach the premier’s office for a comment were not immediately successful.