Ontario's Integrity Commissioner has ruled Housing Minister Steve Clark violated two sections of the province's Integrity Act by failing to oversee the process of removing Greenbelt lands for development.
In his report, David Wake says the lack of oversight led to Clark's Chief of Staff to embark on a rushed and flawed process.
"I believed Minister Clark when he told me that he was unaware of that process. That belief is consistent with the totality of the evidence gathered in this inquiry. However, rather than being exclusively a mitigating factor when it comes to penalty, I find that his lack of awareness was also an aggravating element since he should have provided greater supervision and control over this significant undertaking entrusted to his ministry. The lack of that oversight led to the unfortunate results set out in this report," writes Wake in the report.
The report backs the findings of an Auditor General's report that identified Clark's Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, as being mainly responsible for many of the recommendations that Cabinet accepted for removal last November.
A complaint from NDP leader Marit Stiles in December led to the Integrity Commissioner to investigate and present a 166-page report.
Sixty-one witnesses, including the Minister, were interviewed to help Wake draw his conclusions.
"The evidence paints a picture of a process marked by misinterpretation, unnecessary hastiness and deception. It shows that Mr. Amato advised Minister Clark to “leave it with me” as he embarked on a chaotic and almost reckless process that I find led to an uninformed and opaque decision which resulted in the creation of an opportunity to further the private interests of some developers improperly," states Wake.
The Integrity Commissioner recommends Clark be reprimanded.
Stiles is not surprised by the findings and stands by her call for Clark to step down or be replaced.
"It's been clear to us that Mr. Clark needs to resign. We've been calling for that for three weeks since the Auditor General's report was released. Now it's time that the premier needs to do his job and kick him out of Cabinet. Enough is enough," says Stiles.
Stiles also believes the issue still warrants an investigation by the RCMP.
"What we see here is gross incompetence and that the minister was clearly unable to do his job, which, by the way, this was all coming directly from the premier and the premier's office in terms of the mandate letter. But at worst, it's corruption and it's colluding with developers," alleges Stiles.
"It was always and continues to always be about ensuring that a very small number of developers profited immensely from these decisions. So I think there's still a question of what the government is not releasing, what information they're not sharing with Ontarians. I think there's a lot more here and to come."