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Dirty Doug’s Den of Deplorable Developer Deals

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On 10/16/2023 at 8:06 PM, PIK said:

Mcguinty resigned because of the teachers. The ornge heli scandal?

No it was due to continuing fallout from the gas plants scandal. There was going to be a contempt of parliament finding for not turning over all related documents. On top of that had only been able to form a minority government a year prior and then lost a subsequent by-election…largely due to this same scandal that would not go away. 

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There have been so many revelations in the still-unfolding Doug Ford developer scandal it’s tough to keep up, I may have missed some. But here’s the newest one:  And don’t give me BS about housing because as the article makes clear there were special MZO deals to reward CONSERVATIVE PARTY CRONIES and deals for commercial properties including an Amazon warehouse and a Chinese-owned glass factory 



Developer guests at Doug Ford family wedding got fast-track zoning approvals from government

Housing minister reviewing more than 100 MZOs, but says ‘vast majority’ not of concern

Mike Crawley · CBC News · Posted: Oct 30, 2023 4:00 AM EDT | Last Updated: 5 hours ago
Paul Calandra stands next to a seated Doug Ford in the Legislature.
Premier Doug Ford's government has issued more than 100 minister's zoning orders (MZOs) to fast-track development on properties around Ontario. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra is now reviewing them but has said he's not concerned about the vast majority. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

There's fresh scrutiny of how Premier Doug Ford's government issued dozens of fast-track approvals to rezone select properties, some of them owned by developers who also stood to benefit from Greenbelt land swaps. 

Minister's zoning orders (MZOs) are a powerful tool the province can use to expedite development on a specific parcel of land. At the stroke of a pen, a cabinet minister overrides local planning rules, avoids public consultation and changes what can be built on the property. 

The Ford government has handed out MZOs at an unprecedented pace: at least 110 of them since 2019. By contrast, previous Liberal governments issued just 18 between 2003 and 2018.

A tally by the Ontario NDP finds that just four guests at a Ford family wedding reception benefited from as many MZOs as previous Liberal governments issued in total over the course of their 15 years in power. 

For years, the Ford government has defended its use of MZOs as a way to spur housing construction or to clear away red tape from urgent provincial projects such as long-term care facilities. 

But now, after investigations by Ontario's integrity commissioner and auditor general found the government improperly furthered the private interests of certain developers by approving their Greenbelt properties for housing, there are questions about whether the government's use of MZOs bears any similarities.

A sign with a map informing the public about a proposed development on farmland.
By granting an MZO, the provincial government instantly changes the zoning rules for a specific property, increasing the potential value of the land at the stroke of a pen. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News)

Ford's new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra says he has almost finished a review of all MZOs granted by his predecessor, Steve Clark. 

But unlike the government's recent moves to put land back into the Greenbelt and reverse the urban sprawl it forced on various cities, Calandra is signalling he's unlikely to scrap more than a handful of MZOs. 

"By and large, the vast majority of them frankly, I'm not concerned," he told reporters last Monday. 

The opposition parties think Calandra needs to be more concerned. 

"We see lots of evidence that the government should be very, very worried about the process for handing out MZOs, what they're being used for, and who's benefiting from them," said Jeff Burch, the NDP's critic for municipal affairs. 

"There are Conservative insiders who are benefiting from MZOs just as they have benefited from insider information around the Greenbelt grab," Burch said in an interview. 

A man in a suit speaks to the camera in a board room.
Shakir Rehmatullah, founder and president of Markham, Ont.-based Flato Developments, has described himself as a friend of Premier Doug Ford. Rehmatullah's company has received nine MZOs, more than any other developer in Ontario. (Flato Developments/YouTube)

NDP leader Marit Stiles has scheduled a news conference for Monday morning on the topic of what the party calls "Ford's corrupt pattern of gifting MZOs to well-connected insiders."

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner is calling for a careful review "to make sure that the same corrupt process that led to [the government] removing land from the Greenbelt hasn't been involved in any of these MZOs."

"I think the people of Ontario deserve an honest answer around that question," Schreiner said in an interview.

'Pattern' of issuing MZOs to same developers

Ontario's auditor general has already called the government's process for issuing MZOs "not transparent." 

A 2021 report by then-auditor general Bonnie Lysyk found that nearly 40 per cent of the MZOs the government issued over a two-year stretch benefited just seven development companies.

"Such a pattern opens the MZO process to criticisms of conflict of interest and unfairness," Lysyk wrote in her report. 

WATCH | How Doug Ford backed down on building in Greenbelt


'I'm very, very sorry': the story of Doug Ford's Greenbelt disaster

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced he is reversing a contentious land swap for the province's protected Greenbelt. Andrew Chang breaks down the messy course of events that led to this decision.

"Our audit found that the application and decision-making process for issuing MZOs, as well as public communications about them, is not transparent," Lysyk added.

Calandra said his review of MZOs is designed "to ensure that the decisions we made were done in a manner that maintains and reinforces public trust." 

He has praised the use of MZOs to get shovels in the ground quickly on long-term care and health care projects. He said his review is primarily looking at properties that were granted MZOs where work has not yet substantially begun. 

9 MZOs to 1 company 

The New Democrats want Calandra to focus more on whether the government played favourites in handing out the fast-track zoning approvals. Publicly available records compiled by the NDP show: 

  • Flato Developments, owned by Shakir Rehmatullah, has received nine MZOs, more than anyone else in Ontario. The orders speed the way for the company to develop more than 8,000 new homes on properties that include farmland and rural locations. Rehmatullah has described himself as a friend of Ford.  

  • Companies owned by Mario Cortellucci or his family benefited from six MZOs for properties in Vaughan, Innisfil and Caledon. The fast-tracked projects include a warehouse and distribution centre and mixed-use (residential and commercial) developments. Members of the Cortellucci family donated more than $12,000 to Ford's PC leadership campaign, according to Elections Ontario records.

  • Two companies (the Rice Group and Lakeview Community Partners) that have been represented by lobbyist Nico Fidani-Diker were granted MZOs for projects in Caledon and Mississauga. Fidani-Diker worked for more than two years in the premier's office, including a stint as Ford's executive assistant. 

  • Craft Development, whose president is Carmine Nigro, received an MZOfor a project in Kawartha Lakes. Ford appointed Nigro to be chairman of the LCBO in 2019 and a board member of Invest Ontario in 2022. Ford also appointed Nigro to be chairman of Ontario Place, and he is currently the sole member of its board of directors. When the MZO was issued, Nigro was vice president of the PC Ontario Fund, the fundraising arm of Ford's party. 

Aerial view of Lower Duffins Creek wetland,
The government granted an MZO in October 2020 to allow a giant distribution warehouse on this protected wetland in Pickering. After CBC News revealed that the potential tenant was Amazon Canada, the company pulled out of the project. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

The integrity commissioner's investigation reported that Rehmatullah "had his hand in" three separate requests that led to the Ford government approving Greenbelt land parcels for housing.

Rehmatullah and Fidani-Diker both confirmed to the integrity commissioner they attended Ford's daughter's wedding in August 2022. Meanwhile, publicly posted photos from the event showed that Cortellucci and Nigro were guests at the wedding reception, seated at Ford's table. 

The Greenbelt investigations released this summer by the auditor general and integrity commissioner found a small number of developers used their access to a senior political staffer to get their land approved for housing development, a process that boosted the collective value of their properties by $8.3 billion.

Ford had promised not to touch the Greenbelt back in the 2018 election campaign. Then in 2022 his government approved housing construction on 15 parcels of land in the protected area.

For nearly a year, Ford repeatedly defended the move as a way to get housing built. In September, he called it a mistake, apologized for breaking his promise and announced he's reversing all the Greenbelt removals. 

Then last week, Calandra announced the government is reversing another of its controversial moves to open more land for housing: boundary expansions and zoning changes it forced on 12 municipalities, including Ottawa, Hamilton and Waterloo Region. 

Bonnie Lysyk sitting at a desk in the media studio at Queen's Park.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk raised concerns in 2021 about what she called a pattern of the government giving MZOs to benefit the same few developers.(Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)

Whether Calandra will continue the trend by reversing many of the MZOs remains to be seen. 

"There are a couple of MZOs where they were issued and no work has been done to advance the goal of building homes or building long-term care or building hospitals," Calandra said in question period last Tuesday. "If we're not seeing the action to do what the MZO was issued for, I'll revoke them."

A list of all ministerial zoning orders can be found by clicking on the tab labelled "Regulations under this Act" on this provincial webpage

The government has previously revoked two of the 100-plus MZOs it has issued, but only after the companies involved abandoned the projects amid controversy:

  • The government granted an MZO in October 2020 to allow development on a protected wetland in Pickering. Just days before the developer was poised to begin bulldozing the wetland to build a giant distribution warehouse, CBC News revealed that Amazon Canada was the potential tenant. Amazon soon pulled out of the project and the government scrapped its approval to build on the wetland.
  • The government gave a fast-track MZO to allow Xinyi Canada to build a $400 million glass factory on the southern edge of Stratford. Local residents got up in arms over the proposal, which was originally backed by the local council. The company announced in February 2021 it was suspending its plans. Then five months later, the government revoked the MZO. 




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