Catherine Fife MPP, Waterloo

Government of Ontario

Ontario NDP cracks Greenbelt code

Published on March 7, 2024

FOI documents suggest intent to conceal 

QUEEN’S PARK — The Official Opposition NDP has obtained documents through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request showing the use of code words across thousands of pages of government records referring to the Greenbelt grab.  

Terms like “G*,” “Special Project” and “SP” were found in several records, including correspondence between the ministry and the Premier’s office. 

In some emails, a reference to the Greenbelt had been replaced with “G*” before being forwarded to Ryan Amato, the former chief of staff of former Municipal Affairs and Housing minister Steve Clark.  

The change was discovered by comparing the original email with what was forwarded to Mr. Amato’s account. 

"What this looks like is intent to conceal—a creative use of code words to evade public scrutiny for what they clearly knew was wrong,” said Marit Stiles. “For months, the Ford Conservatives claimed that there was nothing wrong with their Greenbelt grab. Clearly, they knew they had something to hide.” 

The FOI records also show that throughout October 2022, ministry officials regularly used the term “Special Project” (or “SP”) to refer to the Greenbelt grab. This includes two emails exchanged between Amato and Patrick Sackville, the premier’s current chief of staff.

The emails are dated Oct. 17, 2022 — 10 days before the date Sackville claimed under oath that he was first briefed on the Greenbelt project. 

“We’ve cracked the code, and it’s time for the Premier to come clean about his office’s involvement in this mess,” Stiles said. 

Quick Facts 

  • The NDP’s FOI yielded 3,776 pages of documents from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. 
  • The term “special project” appeared 36 times. 
  • The term “SP” appeared 44 times. 
  • In an index of records provided by the ministry to the NDP in  response to its FOI, there are five instances of the term “special project” and 21 instances of the term “SP.” 
  • A criminal investigation into the Ford government over the Greenbelt scheme is currently underway.