The mysterious development consultant whom Ontario’s integrity commissioner identified only as “Mr. X” in a scathing report on Greenbelt land removal has been identified by Breaking: as former Clarington, Ontario mayor John Mutton.
In a report released Wednesday, Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake said Mr X was one of two consultants hired by landowner Peter Tanenbaum to work on securing some 34 hectares of land on Nash Road in that community, approximately 83 kilometers east of Toronto. removed from the Green Belt and rezoned to allow development.
Wake discovered that Mr. X may have engaged in unrecorded lobbying and other potential lobbying violations while doing that job.
Nico Fidani-Diker, director of lobbying firm OnPoint Strategy Group, confirmed to Breaking: that he worked with Mutton as a consultant on the Nash Road project.
“I had no interaction with Mr. Mutton other than this file,” said Fidani-Diker, who previously worked as an executive aide to Prime Minister Doug Ford.
“I do not know the details of Mr. Mutton’s contract with Mr. Tanenbaum.”
Two other sources, close to the province’s Progressive Conservative government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified Mutton as Mr X on Friday.
Breaking: was unable to reach Mutton for comment Friday.
However, The Toronto Star, which first identified Mutton as Mr. X, reported that Mutton said he had worked for Tanenbaum for “more than 17 years” but stressed that it was not as a lobbyist.
“I’m not a lobbyist. I have a development services company where we provide planning, engineering and everything,” the Star was quoted as saying.
“I’ve never been hired to do any kind of lobbying to get land out of the Green Belt.”
The revelation is the latest twist in a controversy that erupted after successive reports by two independent legislative watchdogs revealed major flaws in the province’s decision to build homes on the Green Belt, a vast area of 810,000 hectares of farmland, protected forests and wetlands stretching from Niagara Falls. to Peterborough meant being permanently out of the reach of development.
Wake found that Mr. X interacted with senior political officials in the office of Housing Minister Steve Clark, arranged golf with them that apparently didn’t happen and a paid lunch that did, and offered them tickets to a Toronto basketball game. raptors.
They also promised him a million-dollar payment if he could influence governments to allow housing to be built on his client’s land.
Wake, who also serves as Ontario’s Lobbyist Registrar, said Mr. X did not register with the Ontario Lobbyist Registry with respect to the Greenbelt, raising questions about potential breaches of the Lobbyist Registration Act.
“I will deal with the potential breach separately, in my capacity as Ontario’s registrar of lobbyists, outside of this report and investigation.”
Mutton served as the mayor of Clarington, a municipality with a population of about 101,000 in 2021, from 1997 to 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile. The profile says that he has been president and CEO of development firm Municipal Solutions since 2006.
The opposition criticizes the exchange of lands for the Green Belt
Ontario’s opposition parties responded quickly to the news.
“Each new revelation in the Tories’ escalating scandal makes it ever clearer that their dirty dealings at Greenbelt Grab were corrupt,” NDP leader Marit Stiles said in a statement referencing the Star story.
“Ontario’s land use policy should not be run by Mr. X. or unregistered lobbyists; policy changes should not be written by developers who stand to make billions and given to government officials on USB sticks or in envelopes at private parties.”
Acting Liberal leader John Fraser called the whole situation “murky”.
“There is this person who is an unregistered lobbyist who has this contract that gives you bonuses if you get the piece carved on the Green Belt who is working with the person who was at one point an executive assistant to the prime minister,” he said. “He’s getting too close and it’s starting to look like all roads lead back to the prime minister in this Greenbelt file.”
Mike Schreiner, leader of the Ontario Green Party, told Breaking: that the Greenbelt scandal has nothing to do with solving the housing crisis on Friday night.
“It’s clear the Prime Minister is more focused on helping well-connected Ford employees collect millions and billions than helping ordinary Ontarians find a home they can afford,” Schreiner said.
Breaking: reached out to Prime Minister Ford’s office for comment Friday night, but did not immediately do so.
Raptors tickets, golf and a $225,000 ‘Greenbelt fee’
Tanenbaum bought the land for $2.75 million in 2003, property records show, two years before the Green Belt was created.
The integrity commissioner said Tanenbaum signed a $6,000-per-month contract with Mr. X’s consulting firm on August 9, 2022. The contract promised Mr. X a $225,000 “Green Belt fee” if he helped withdraw with successful Green Belt land and another $775,000. “rezoning fee” if the municipality agreed to allow residential development.
This contract appears to run counter to lobbying law, according to Wake, which “prohibits lobbying where payment depends on the degree of success of the lobbying.”
On September 18, Mr. X told Tanenbaum in an email that he had a meeting scheduled for the next week with Kirstin Jensen, Clark’s deputy chief of staff, and that Clark’s chief of staff, Ryan, was expected to attend. I love.
“Ours is the only record I’m talking about. I also have them in two weeks coming to play golf at Goodwood with me and a Raptors game,” the email said, according to the report.
On October 7, Mr. X wrote in another email to Tanenbaum that Amato had requested a “legal description” of the Clarington lands and a “GIS shapefile,” which is a data file containing detailed information about the shapes of geographic features.
Amato was evasive when questioned by the commissioner about the extent of his interactions with Mr. X.
He said that he did not attend the meeting with Mr. X and that he did not remember that he had been invited to lunch. Wake discovered that lunch time, however, was blocked on Amato’s calendar for an event labeled “private”.
Amato said he never went to golf or a Raptors game with Mr. X.
Jensen attended the lunch with Amato, according to the integrity commissioner. She confirmed that it took place at the Toronto Eaton Center’s Joey’s restaurant on September 27 and that Mr X “probably paid”.
She said that they did not discuss anything related to Greenbelt, but that Mr. X gave her a brochure that she asked to give to Amato.
Jensen also denied going golfing or attending a Raptors game and denied receiving any such invitations.
Wake discovered that the information about the Nash Road property in Clarington was ultimately included in the first package of properties that Amato delivered on October 3 to the so-called Greenbelt Project Team: the small team of ministry officials that Amato oversaw and ultimately selected. the 15 Green Belt retirement properties.
The Clarington site was among the properties that were removed.