It was the story that engulfed Ontario.

The mess started when Premier Doug Ford decided in 2022 to cut into Ontario’s protected Greenbelt — home to protected forests, farmland, wetlands and endangered species habitat — to allow housing development. And after The Narwhal dug into it in partnership with our friends at the Toronto Star, the story soon spiraled into a massive political scandal.

Before long, the story of the Greenbelt wasn’t just about tackling the housing crisis and the climate crisis. It also became a tale of allegations of corruption, Las Vegas massages — and an RCMP investigation.

Now, The Narwhal has teamed with our pals at The Big Story podcast (again) to go behind the scenes of the whole affair with Paydirt, a miniseries hosted by Ontario reporter Emma McIntosh. The Big Story breaks down complex stories every day, but this one needed a bit more than a single episode. So we made three — tune in on your podcast app of choice or listen to then all below.

Episode 1: It’s not easy being green

In 2022, the Doug Ford government opened parts of Ontario’s protected Greenbelt for housing development, touching off a massive political scandal. But long before that, tensions over the green space outside of Toronto had been quietly simmering for nearly two decades.

What is the Greenbelt? How did it end up becoming such a flashpoint for fights over the housing crisis and the climate crisis? And who stood to benefit when the Ford government tore it up after 20 years?

Episode 2: Bees, stags, does and Vegas

In the months after the Ford government cut into Ontario’s protected Greenbelt to allow housing development, the premier’s ties with developers were suddenly under a microscope.

Rumours were flying. Journalists and independent watchdogs were digging. And the day Doug Ford swallowed a bee turned out to be very consequential for another reason.

Episode 3: Margaritaville

Two watchdog reports into Ontario’s Greenbelt scandal in summer 2023 triggered sudden resignations and sent the Ford government spiraling into disarray. Public anger started to boil over. Questions swirled about massages in Las Vegas.

Right when the crisis reached a fever pitch, Premier Doug Ford faces the people to make an enormous mea culpa. But is that enough to satisfy the RCMP — or to settle questions about whether the government is really working for the people?

We’ve got big plans for 2024
Seeking out climate solutions, big and small. Investigating the influence of oil and gas lobbyists. Holding leaders accountable for protecting the natural world.

The Narwhal’s reporting team is busy unearthing important environmental stories you won’t read about anywhere else in Canada. And we’ll publish it all without corporate backers, ads or a paywall.

How? Because of the support of a tiny fraction of readers like you who make our independent, investigative journalism free for all to read.

Will you join more than 6,000 members helping us pull off critical reporting this year?
We’ve got big plans for 2024
Seeking out climate solutions, big and small. Investigating the influence of oil and gas lobbyists. Holding leaders accountable for protecting the natural world.

The Narwhal’s reporting team is busy unearthing important environmental stories you won’t read about anywhere else in Canada. And we’ll publish it all without corporate backers, ads or a paywall.

How? Because of the support of a tiny fraction of readers like you who make our independent, investigative journalism free for all to read.

Will you join more than 6,000 members helping us pull off critical reporting this year?

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