Ontario Housing Minister Steve Clark Resigns Amid Controversy Over Greenbelt Land Swaps

Steve Clark

Ontario’s Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, has stepped down from his cabinet position. This move follows weeks of intense scrutiny and criticism from political rivals, First Nations communities, and the general public, all stemming from multiple inquiries into the ministry’s handling of Greenbelt land transactions.

The resignation came on the heels of an investigation by Ontario’s integrity commissioner, which concluded that Clark failed in adequately supervising the selection of Greenbelt lands for housing projects. The commissioner recommended that Clark be officially reprimanded for his actions.

A few weeks before this, the province’s auditor general disclosed that a limited number of influential developers, who could potentially earn billions from the land deals, had excessively influenced the selection process for the parcels of land to be used for housing.

In a public letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Clark stated, “Although my initial thought was that I could stay in this role and establish a proper process so that these mistakes don’t happen again, I realize that my presence will only cause a further distraction from the important work that needs to be done and that I need to take accountability for what has transpired.”

Clark also mentioned his commitment to continuing his duties as the MPP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, adding, “As such, please accept my resignation as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.”

The Greenbelt, initially established in 2005, was designed to safeguard agriculturally and environmentally significant land from being exploited by urban expansion. However, the Ford administration modified the Greenbelt’s borders last December, arguing that the move was essential for the construction of 50,000 homes as part of a plan to build 1.5 million homes in the coming decade to tackle the housing crisis.

Clark’s resignation was preceded by the departure of his chief of staff, Ryan Amato, whose selection of 14 out of 15 sites removed from the Greenbelt came under fire following the auditor general’s report.

Premier Ford thanked Clark for his service but made no further comment on the resignation.

Leaders of opposition parties have welcomed Clark’s decision but demand further accountability. Marit Stiles, leader of the Ontario NDP, stated, “The only way they climb back from this is returning the land to the Greenbelt, and then we can talk about how we change governments.” Interim leader for the Ontario Liberals, John Fraser, and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner also called for greater transparency and accountability from the premier’s office.