Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie is formally requesting an update from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on the ongoing investigation into the Ford government's $8.3-billion Greenbelt scandal.

Crombie’s request came after new documents obtained through a freedom of information request by the Ontario NDP reveal previously undisclosed meetings between Premier Doug Ford's staff and a developer.

The information, first reported by the Toronto Star, was not available at the time of the initial inquiry by Ontario’s Auditor-General and integrity commissioners who investigated and issued reports in 2023.

“I urge you to closely review this new information, to assess whether further investigations are warranted into the conduct of Premier Ford and his staff and provide the public with a progress update on the current investigation,” Crombie wrote to RCMP in a letter shared with Canada’s National Observer.

Crombie referenced the Toronto Star story which revealed that Carlo Oliviero, former executive director of stakeholder relations for the premier’s office, used his personal email to set up a meeting with a developer about Hamilton land later removed from the Greenbelt.

This new information challenges Premier Ford's assertions that his office was not directly involved in specific site selections.

“The documents reveal Ford government officials covering their tracks and concealing their intentions to give preferential treatment to certain speculators as they planned to remove 7,400 acres of land from the Greenbelt,” reads the NDP statement. “The documents also point to officials in the Premier’s office having greater involvement in the Greenbelt scheme than was previously disclosed.”

Crombie also expressed concerns about the “revolving door” between the Premier’s office and corporate lobbyists involved in the Greenbelt scandal. She highlighted that Oliviero has since become a registered lobbyist, joining others who allegedly leverage their government connections for private gains.

Canada’s National Observer reached out to Ford's office and Oliviero, who is now a senior vice president at Edelman Global Advisory Toronto, a registered lobbyist in Ontario, but did not receive a reply in time for publication.

Crombie’s request came after new documents obtained through freedom of information by the Ontario NDP reveal previously undisclosed meetings between Premier Doug Ford's staff and a developer. #Greenbelt #RCMP investigation #Ontario Liberal #Crombie.

In response to Canada's National Observer request, the RCMP said it understands this issue is of significant interest to the people of Ontario. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not in a position to provide comments or further information at this time.”

Advocates say the release of these documents raise further questions about transparency and the premier's involvement in the Greenbelt land swap.

“We have no idea what happened in that meeting, but it does not look good that a high ranking government official would meet with a developer and later, their land gets removed from the Greenbelt,” said Abdullah Mir, a member of the environmental advocacy group Stop Sprawl Durham. “Anyone can put two and two together. If something untoward did not happen, then the premier and senior government officials need to come clean and say on the record that nothing untoward occurred, otherwise the perception is certainly unfavourable.”

Mir said the NDP and Ontario Liberal Party push for further investigation is “well warranted.”

A swath of about two million acres known as the Greenbelt was created in 2005 to permanently protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands from development. It spans natural landscapes, farmlands and urban river valleys, and stretches about 325 kilometres from the east end of Oak Ridges Moraine near Rice Lake to the Niagara River.

But in December 2022, the Ford government removed 7,400 acres of land from the Greenbelt for housing development as part of the province’s commitment to build 1.5 million new homes over the next decade. Following significant public pressure and critical reports from the provincial Auditor-General and integrity commissioner, Premier Doug Ford reversed the plan. However, the RCMP has officially launched a criminal investigation into the $8.3-billion Greenbelt land swap.

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