The Ontario government is reversing course on its controversial decision to open Green Belt lands to development, a move applauded by advocates, political opponents and residents alike.
But there are still many unanswered questions about what will happen next. This is what we know so far.
Is the measure written in stone?
Ford may have promised to return the 2,995 hectares of land to the protected green belt, but that will only be made official with legislation. The Ontario legislature returns to Queen’s Park on Monday.
What about the land that was added to the Green Belt?
When the province removed land from the Green Belt, it also added about 3,804 hectares elsewhere. The auditor general found that around 971 hectares were already protected by existing policies.
Ford confirmed Thursday that the land added to the Green Belt will remain.
Have urbanization works started on any land?
Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, an advocacy organization that has been a leading opponent of the province’s Green Belt land swap, said no development has occurred on the land that was removed.
“We are very fortunate that the level of pushback from councils and the public has meant that none of the land that was taken out of the Green Belt has had any development on it,” Gray said.
“That’s really good news. It puts them in a really good position to be protected again.”
SEE | What led to the reversal of the Green Belt land swap:
Will affected developers sue the province?
It’s unknown if any developers will sue the province, but they definitely have the option to do so.
“Whether that will be supported by court decisions is another question,” said Tim Gilbert, managing partner of Gilbert’s LLP.
Gilbert says each developer’s case can vary depending on the land they own, when they acquired it and under what circumstances, and the value of any lost development opportunities. This valuation could likely reach several million dollars, he said.
That’s why it was a risky move to open the Green Belt and then go back on the decision, he said. But one thing the province can do is block any requests for compensation in the legislation.
“I think they’re going to be very careful about how they respond to something like this and not offer blank checks to any developers.”
Ford said he can’t predict how developers affected by the rollback will react, but hopes to work with them as “part of the solution” to build more housing.
When asked if the government will owe money to those developers, Ford said newly appointed Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister Paul Calandra is “working through those details” and they will be made public once confirmed.
Meanwhile, Breaking: has reached out to affected developers for comment.
Only Flato Developments, which owns land in Markham and Whitchurch-Stouffville and is owned by Shakir Rehmatullah, a self-described friend of Ford, has commented, saying they “respect and agree” with the decision.
“We will continue our work to build housing in accordance with all municipal and provincial requirements and look forward to continuing to address the need for more diverse housing in Ontario,” Rehmatullah said in a company statement.
Is there any pending investigation into how this happened?
Official opposition NDP leader Marit Stiles says her party is considering making another request to the province’s integrity commissioner to investigate former cabinet minister and PC MP Kaleed Rasheed, who resigned after news reports raised doubts about his connections with Rehmatullah and a trip to Las Vegas.
The integrity commissioner’s office previously confirmed it received a request from the premier’s office to determine whether Ryan Amato, former chief of staff to the minister of municipal affairs and housing, acted contrary to the requirements of the Ontario Public Service Act. 2006. Amato resigned at the end of August.
As of last week, the office said the request was still under consideration. Breaking: has reached out for an update.
Meanwhile, the RCMP remained mum on the status of its potential investigation into the land swap. He has been deciding whether or not to investigate the matter since late August.
On Thursday, the force said it would not provide further comment or updates to “preserve the integrity of any ongoing investigation.”
Ford has said he is confident no crime was committed.