Auditor general should review controversial land move in Ottawa, councillor says

Coun. Shawn Menard wants Ontario's auditor general to investigate a decision to expand Ottawa's urban boundary, which was made by the former minister who resigned in the GTA's Greenbelt controversy.

Shawn Menard sees parallels between Greenbelt land swap in GTA and a 2022 urban boundary expansion in Ottawa

A 37-hectare farm, which is zoned as an agricultural resource just beyond the suburb of Orléans, has been allowed inside the City of Ottawa's urban boundary by Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Barely a week after Ontario's housing minister resigned in the fallout of a report into the Greenbelt land swap in the GTA, a city councillor wants the province's auditor general to look into another controversial land decision the same minister made in Ottawa.

Former municipal affairs and housing minister Steve Clark left his post after Ontario's auditor general found he failed to oversee a "rushed and flawed process" that led to Greenbelt lands in the Toronto and Hamilton area being selected for housing development.

The auditor general's report found the land swaps benefited certain developers. Capital Ward Coun. Shawn Menard sees parallels with Clark's 2022 decision to expand Ottawa's urban boundary by 654 hectares, overriding a previous city decision and concerns development there would be costly for taxpayers.

"They need to investigate in the City of Ottawa," Menard told reporters after a city council meeting Wednesday. "Not just Hamilton, not just Toronto, but the City of Ottawa as well, given the expense to our residents."

He's planning to move a motion at the next council meeting asking the province's auditor general and integrity commissioner to "consider reviewing the provincial government's decision to add urban boundary expansion lands to Ottawa and for the province to reverse this costly decision."

A man speaks behind a podium at a press conference.
Former minister of housing Steve Clark speaks during a press conference at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Aug. 31, 2023. On Sept. 4, Clark resigned from cabinet over his handling of the process that led to protected Greenbelt lands in the GTA being selected for housing development. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

Farm bought shortly before boundary expansion

His motion references "local media reporting" that, in his words, revealed that "developer-connected donors to the Progressive Conservative Party" bought some of those lands shortly before Clark's decision.

CBC reporting last year found that a company tied to five Progressive Conservative Party donors bought an east-end farm on those lands shortly before Clark's decision.

"There's concerns there in light of what the integrity commissioner and the auditor general have found in Ontario, which is that they inappropriately added lands, that there was influence that shouldn't have been there by these developer-connected donors as well as lobbyists," said Menard.

"Ottawa was affected by that as well, in my view, given the expansion."

Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's council meeting, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe didn't show much enthusiasm for Menard's motion. In his view, the provincial auditor general's office can make its own decision without any input from council.

"I'm not interested in revisiting past decisions. I'm interested in building more homes for the residents of Ottawa and for future residents of Ottawa. If the Ontario auditor general sees a reason to look into that then they'll do so. They can do that at their own accord," Sutcliffe said.

"That's how the Ontario auditor general functions, not at the direction of Ottawa City Council."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the new Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra called the urban expansion "necessary action" in light of Ottawa's population growth and the desperate need for housing.


Arthur White-Crummey is a reporter at CBC Ottawa. He has previously worked as a reporter in Saskatchewan covering the courts, city hall and the provincial legislature. You can reach him at