Ontario Greenbelt Holland River aerial

A rollercoaster of non-stop news in Ontario

In this week’s newsletter, we bring you a special event to unpack the investigations into Ontario’s appetite for construction

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A photo of the Holland River in Ontario's Greenbelt
Emma McIntosh knew in her gut it was going to be a weird Wednesday. 

“I just feel like something’s going to happen,” she remembers telling fellow Ontario reporter Fatima Syed and bureau chief Denise Balkissoon as she arrived at The Narwhal’s Toronto office. “But we really had no idea how dramatic things were about to get.”

Things unfolded fast and furious: first came Integrity Commissioner David Wake’s announcement that his office would be investigating the Ford government’s moves to open up the Greenbelt protected area for development.

Wake’s investigation was prompted by a request from incoming Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles. She submitted a letter, along with 145 pages of exhibits that included “direct evidence,” detailing concerns about whether Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark broke integrity rules by greenlighting Greenbelt development.

Just when Emma thought that might be it for Wednesday surprises, she heard a clatter in the other room.

“It sounded like someone had dropped two dictionaries on the floor.”

Fatima and Denise were tuning into a press conference where Stiles revealed Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk would be looking into Greenbelt land sales.

News of the two probes followed complaints from the NDP, Liberals and Greens, which cited The Narwhal’s joint investigation with the Toronto Star from November (that investigation found eight of 15 areas opened up for development traded hands since the Progressive Conservatives came to power in 2018).

“The last few months have been an endless rollercoaster of non-stop news,” Fatima told me, referring to all the ways the province is watering down Ontario’s environmental protections. “I’ve been chatting with sources well after work hours. Most of the leaked documents I’ve received for our reporting usually land during conversations between 8 and 9 p.m., when me and my sources have some downtime.”

That legwork has paid off, resulting in scoops like Fatima’s new story on the changes to conservation authorities Ontario snuck in over the December break.

“My source sent me documents this month with the note: ‘I just held off sending you stuff because of your holiday.’ I obviously responded with 🥺”

“ ‘You had to leave the crazy behind. It’ll still always be here,’ they said to me. And they were right.”

Wondering what crazy thing might happen next? Want to hear more about how we get leaked docs? Emma, Fatima and Denise will be diving into all things Greenbelt (or, as we call it, the OG) and beyond at a very special online event next Thursday, Jan. 26. Will you join us?
 
Graphic with roses in the background. Text reads: The Narwhal presents, Appetite for construction: The PCs and the OG. Button below text reads: REGISTER NOW

This event is free to attend but spaces on Zoom are limited, so be sure to RSVP today to guarantee your spot.

Emma and Fatima have been covering the developments in Ontario relentlessly and they’re eager to give our readers across Canada a glimpse of the chaos. Sign up and send in any questions you’d like to get answered!

Take care and remember it’s OK to leave the crazy behind,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience
 
Photo of the sky with leaves and old-growth trees framing it almost entirely.

Securing a special gift


We were recently thrilled to receive a special $5,000 donation of securities from a member named Sherrill in Ottawa. What was her inspiration? “I visited a majestic old-growth forest in B.C. a few years ago and those groves are truly awesome. I want to see them preserved for our four grandchildren in B.C., which is such a special place and an ongoing part of our life. When you cut down these ancient trees, they cannot be replaced.”

Sherrill directed her donation to The Narwhal because she strongly supports independent journalism that doesn’t rely upon advertising dollars. She was also really pleased to learn that the Canadian government created the innovative Registered Journalism Organization designation, which allows eligible non-profit news organizations like The Narwhal to issue tax receipts and accept grants and gifts of securities.

Donating securities that have appreciated in value is one of the most tax-effective ways to give because they are exempt from capital gains tax. “My broker hadn’t heard of Registered Journalism Organization status and had to do some checking, so I think there is a need for some more publicity and education among the securities sector,” Sherrill said.

Thank you, Sherrill, for your tremendous support and for spreading the good word on the many ways to support non-profit news! (Learn more about donating securities.)

 

This week in The Narwhal

Quarry quarrel: turtle lovers decry Ontario’s appetite for construction
By Emma McIntosh
A group of self-described ‘northern hicks’ on Lake Huron is trying to stop a quarry that could harm endangered Blanding’s turtles. It’s one example of a wider provincial dispute over aggregate extraction.

READ MORE
 
Coastal GasLink excavators prepare a worksite at the crossing of Lho Kwa (Clore River) on Wet'suwet'en territory on Jan. 8, 2023.
Coastal GasLink accused of failing to prevent sediment from entering a Wet’suwet’en river
By Matt Simmons
READ MORE
Brown and ashy-white caribou in the forest
‘Death by a thousand clearcuts’: Canada’s deep-snow caribou are vanishing
By Sarah Cox
READ MORE
 
Photo illustration of algal blooms from a Lake Winnipeg beach
Federal government to take action on Manitoba’s Lake Winnipeg, one of Canada’s ‘most endangered lakes’
By Julia-Simone Rutgers
READ MORE
 

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The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau is telling environment stories you won’t find anywhere else. Keep up with the latest scoops by signing up for a weekly dose of our independent journalism.
We’re breaking news in Ontario
The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau is telling environment stories you won’t find anywhere else. Keep up with the latest scoops by signing up for a weekly dose of our independent journalism.