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'This is a small first step': London opposition MPPs react to Housing Minister Steve Clark’s resignation

London’s three opposition MPPs are reacting to the resignation of Ontario Housing Minster Steve Clark.

Pressured for weeks over the $8.28-billion Greennbelt scandal, Clark stepped down Monday. He acknowledged he has become a “distraction” for the government.

“It took a while but it's about time that the minister took some accountability for this scandal that seems to be ever deepening,” says Peggy Sattler, London West NDP MPP.

“I think we're just scratching the surface of this.”

Monday, MPP Steve Clark stepped down saying the housing crisis “demands someone who is not a distraction from the important work that needs to be done.”

His resignation from cabinet comes amid two damning Greenbelt reports that outlined a deeply flawed process that favoured certain developers and lacked transparency.

It also comes as Ontario’s integrity commissioner recommended Clark be reprimanded in the legislature for “failing to oversee the process by which lands in the Greenbelt were selected to development.”

As a result, he was found to have breached sections 2 and 3(2) of the Members' Integrity Act, which pertain to conflicts of interest and the use of insider information.

An NDP petition calling for the protection of the Greenbelt which calls on the Doug Ford government to return the lands to the Greenbelt. Pictured in London, Ont. on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London) A month earlier, Ontario’s auditor general found that of the 7,400 acres of land removed from the Greenbelt, about 92 per cent could be tied to three developers with direct access to the housing ministry.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk suggested the process “favoured certain developers,” lacked transparency and failed to consider environmental, agricultural or financial impacts. The owners of the 15 land sites chosen through this process could see more than an $8.3 billion increase to the values of their properties, she wrote in the report.

“Now we're hoping that we're going to have that RCMP investigation unfold and the truth really come out,” says Teresa Armstrong, London-Fanshawe NDP MPP.

“I hope that they realize their error of their ways and that they understand that it's a protected piece of land and nobody in Ontario, other than developers want to develop that land. People are saying put it back and we have petitions to back that up.”

London-North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan calls the resignation a “small step for the government to take real accountability.”

“We're also calling upon this government to make sure that they're holding all of the records, all of the documents related to this scandal,” says Kernaghan.

“People have spoken and Marit Stiles, leader of the Ontario NDP has been very clear, recall the legislature immediately put those lands back in the Green Belt and stop this terrible scheme of giving billions to people who are already wealthy.”

Both reports have put much of the blame on Clark’s chief of staff Ryan Amato — who has also since resigned from his position, who allegedly proposed 14 of the 15 Greenbelt sites. However, they note the housing minister should have been more involved in such an important initiative.

Throughout the last month, Premier Doug Ford has staunchly defended his housing minister, arguing he has confidence in his team to reach the government’s housing goal of building 1.5 million homes in 10 years. This claim has been used by the Progressive Conservatives repeatedly as a defence for why they needed to carve up the Greenbelt.

In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), Ford thanked Clark for his years of service in Cabinet, noting that his housing goals have not changed.

“I have no doubt Steve Clark will continue to serve his community well as an important part of our team at Queen’s Park,” he said.

Sattler believes the there is still many questions to be answered.

“We need the premier to be upfront and let Ontarians know what really happened with this Greenbelt scandal,” says Sattler.

-- With files from CTV’s Katherine DeClerq Top Stories

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