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Investigation into controversial decision to open green belt

Two provincial watchdog agencies are investigating the Ford government's controversial decision to open parts of the greenbelt for housing development amid concerns that developers were secretly briefed in advance.

"Something smells fishy here and the people of Ontario deserve answers," incoming New Democrat leader Marit Stiles said Wednesday after the offices of the integrity commissioner and auditor general separately confirmed they will take a closer look.

The decisions to investigate follow complaints from opposition parties to both agencies in recent weeks, and reports from the Toronto Star and Narwhal, which found that eight of the 15 Greenbelt areas where development will soon be allowed have been bought up since Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives were elected in 2018.

Stiles said she was concerned about the "curious timing of recent Greenbelt land purchases by powerful landowners with political and donor ties to the Ontario PC Party" despite Ford's previous assurances that no more Greenbelt land would be opened up.

The office of integrity commissioner J. David Wake said Wednesday that there are "reasonable and probable grounds" for an investigation based on information provided by Stiles and the NDP, including media reports.

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