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11 Ottawa councillors call for investigation into extra lands province added to urban boundary expansion

Eleven Ottawa city councillors have signed an open letter to Ontario Auditor General Nick Stavropoulos and Integrity Commissioner David Wake, calling on them to investigate how and why the province added more land to Ottawa's urban boundary.

The previous term of council passed a 1,281-hectare expansion of the urban boundary by 2046, but when the provincial government approved it, it had added an additional 654 hectares to the list of expanded lands upon which development is permitted, despite the city not including it.

"Most of these lands scored poorly in respect to the criteria that included proximity to transit, sewage and water infrastructure, and the protection of farmland," the letter says. "While increasing housing supply was the primary objective of the city-led urban boundary expansion in 2020, Ottawa planners demonstrated through their analysis that the 654 hectares added by the province to Ottawa’s urban boundary were not needed to meet the target of homes to be built in Ottawa."

The letter was prompted by the recent Greenbelt scandal in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area that led to the resignation of two provincial ministers.

"The resultant findings have led us to question whether similar dynamics were at play in the provincially directed urban boundary expansion in Ottawa in November of 2022," it says.

Coun. Shawn Menard moved a motion at city council Wednesday, seconded by Coun, Catherine Kitts, calling on all of council to ask that the mayor write to the Paul Calandra, the new minister of housing and municipal affairs, to ask that the added lands be reviewed.

"I'm looking forward to the review by the province on those extra lands that were added without consultation about a year ago," Menard said.

The motion was carried unanimously.

It was a change from a motion given notice at the previous council that asked for an investigation from the integrity commissioner and auditor general.

Menard told reporters after the meeting that council is giving Calandra benefit of the doubt as the new minister, in hopes that he will review the file.

Speaking to reporters, Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said there have been concerns about some parcels of land in the urban boundary.

"I'm not a fan of petitioning other levels of government and expressing our opinion, but this is about our Official Plan. We need to work collaboratively with the provincial government. I have a strong working relationship with the provincial government, so it's simply a request to ask them to have another look and if there's anything that needs to be reviewed, they can do so," he said.

The letter cites local media reporting that claims some of the land the province added to the urban boundary, notably a farm on Watters Road, had been purchased beforehand by a group directed by individuals who have donated to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

The motion prepared in advance for council also mentioned this, but the one that was brought to the table and passed Wednesday did not include any reference to party donors.

Orléans Liberal MPP Stephen Blais wrote a similar letter earlier this month.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has faced intense scrutiny over his government's decision to open up the GTHA Greenbelt to development and has since said he is reversing the plan.

The Ottawa councillors say the province did not consult them when adding the additional lands to the city's urban boundary.

"We are requesting that your respective offices also investigate the decision-making that led to the provincial decision to unilaterally add land sites to Ottawa’s urban boundary. This decision was made without consultation or explanation and was at odds with the recommendations of local land-use planning officials. The people of Ottawa deserve transparency and accountability," the letter says.

The following councillors signed the open letter:

  • Shawn Menard, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 17
  • Glen Gower, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 6
  • Ariel Troster, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 14
  • Sean Devine, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 9
  • Jessica Bradley, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 10
  • Theresa Kavanagh, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 7
  • Marty Carr, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 18
  • Rawlson King, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 13
  • Clarke Kelly, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 5
  • Laine Johnson, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 8
  • Riley Brockington, Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 16

Troster, Kavanagh, Kelly, Johnson and Brockington sit on the current planning and housing committee. Gower is vice-chair.

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