MPP Steve Clark has resigned from his position as Ontario’s Housing Minister.
In a letter posted to social media, Clark says the housing crisis “demands someone who is not a distraction from the important work that needs to be done.”
“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 ad that I need to take accountability for what has transpired,” he wrote.
Clark remains a member of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party and the representative for his riding of Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
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 Member’s Integrity Act, which pertain to conflicts of interest and the use of insider information.
According to Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, Clark misinterpreted a mandate letter regarding removal of land from the Greenbelt resulting in a rushed timeline, made the decision to withdraw from supervision over the decision-making process, and took the proposal to cabinet without properly questioning his staff’s choices.
“It may seem incredible that Minister Clark would have chosen to stick his head in the sand on such an important initiative being undertaken by his ministry but I believe that was exactly what he did,” Wake wrote in the report released last week.
Ultimately, the 166-page report found that a lack of leadership led to “the private interests of certain developers being furthered improperly.”
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.
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.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford (left), and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark (right), speak to the media during a press conference following the release of the Auditor General’s Special Report on Changes to the Greenbelt, at Queens Park, in Toronto, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey
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.
Opposition parties have long been calling for Clark’s resignation since the auditor general first released her bombshell report.
In a statement released Monday, NDP Leader Marit Stiles said that while it’s positive that Clark has taken responsibility for his role in the “scandal,” two reports and an RCMP probe indicate “this corruption reaches far beyond Clark’s office.”
Stiles is continuing to ask for a recall of the legislature and the return of Greenbelt land.
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