Well, it’s been about 10 months since the last look at the waterfront Greenbelt land and future development of 502 Winston Road. Needless to say, quite a bit has transpired since. The conclusion in that December 2022 post was that an Auditor General’s report, IC investigation and/or more formal investigative process (RCMP) was needed over the whole Greenbelt process. That suggestion has now come to bear fruit.
In relation to the lands at 502 Winston, by far the most interesting information came forth in the Provincial Integrity Commissioner’s report on former Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, which can be found at this link here. The IC’s discussion of 502 Winston and the circumstances of how they may have been re-designated under the Greenbelt starts at paragraph 472.
The IC Interviews Jeff Paikin
As identified in our previous posts, Mr. Paikin is a principal of New Horizon Development Group, and 502 Winston Road Inc., which owns that Greenbelt waterfront property. In the initial interview Mr. Paikin told the IC he had “pushed all the buttons at the town and regional level” about the property but when it came to the Province said “I wouldn’t know where to push”.
He also claimed that the removal (re-designation) came as a complete surprise to him and theorized that a “past municipal request”, from the Town in 2015/2016, may have been the reason for the Provincial change to the 502 Winston lands.
The IC Confronts Paikin With A Signed Letter To The Province
With the due diligence of the IC’s staff, a letter dated October 7, 2022 signed by Mr. Paikin was located in comments submitted to the Environmental Registry of Ontario, in regard to the new Niagara Regional Official Plan. In the letter it requested that the lands be re-designated from “Unique Agricultural area” to “Rural” by the Province by amending the new Regional Plan. It also stated:
“Ultimately, we also support the removal of the lands from the Protected
Country Side and Tender Fruit and Grape Lands designation in the Greenbelt Plan.”
Which is “ultimately” what happened in the separate Greenbelt process now under criminal investigation.
As an aside, the Planning Justification Report submitted alongside this letter, included a copy of the “municipal request”, raising further doubt that the Province accidentally stumbled across it in old files.
The full letter to the Province:
Despite Mr. Paikin’s initial claims, the IC and his staff in a subsequent interview advised him of this letter that has his signature on it. Paikin claimed to the IC’s office to have never seen the letter and claimed that an employee of his had written the letter and put his signature on it without his knowledge. The employee allegedly was “frustrated with the barriers to the development on this [502 Winston] site” and that led them to craft a letter signed with Paikin’s name.
The IC was skeptical of this explanation and at paragraph 479 of his report stated:
“I found it odd that an application would be made to Minister Clark requesting a redesignation of this land by a staff member who affixed Mr. Paikin’s signature to the letter without telling him about it. But I suppose I should not be surprised by the lack of formality with this request which is consistent with everything that was wrong about the process followed in the entire matter which is the subject of this inquiry.”
Implications of the “Unauthorized“ Letter
Taking Mr. Paikin’s statements at face value, it is then important to look to the letter itself. Examining the metadata of the PDF provided to the Province via the ERO, the letter was published by, or at least published on the computer of an NHDG employee.
At this juncture, it should be noted that it does not appear that the Integrity Commissioner interviewed the alleged author, so their version of the events are not (yet) known.
Whoever authored the letter and affixed Mr. Paikin’s signature without his knowledge or consent, and then submitted to government officials, has potentially created a very serious issue.
Under Section 366 of the Criminal Code, it is illegal to fabricate a document, with knowledge that it is not true to it’s face and use that document to try and induce someone to do something. Creating a falsified letter, then submitting it to the Provincial government in pursuit of getting the 502 Winston lands rezoned under the Regional Official Plan, is a serious matter that has merit for investigation.
More Tales To Come
With the RCMP now conducting a criminal investigation into the Greenbelt scandal, it is unknown how far and wide it will reach. But given the broad police powers, it certainly will be more invasive than the Auditor General or Integrity Commissioner’s inquiries.
Although it may seem hard to top the Las Vegas “Good Luck Ritual” massage inspired Greenbelt removals, the highly-specialized Mountie unit assigned to investigate this whole scandal is surely to extract more exacting details about what is already known… as well as pull out even a few more salacious and unheard stories.
UPDATED: We received clarification from the developer who states that the employee, whose name appears in the metadata of the letter “never in fact worked on this file”. As such, the post has been edited to reflect this.