The Toronto Star
NEWS, Thursday, April 6, 2000

Clement to party during moraine vote
Fundraiser will include developers, critics charge

Gail Swainson

Municipal Affairs Minister Tony Clement has come under attack for "wining and dining" developers at a fundraiser tonight while Richmond Hill council casts a crucial vote on housing on the Oak Ridges Moraine.

"As Richmond Hill council has a special meeting, where are you going to be?" Liberal municipal affairs critic Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence) asked Clement during Question Period in the Legislature yesterday. "You're not going to be at the public meeting. You are going to be with your friends, the developers . . . these same developers are contributing to your campaign and party."

The fundraiser for Clement, who as municipal affairs minister is one of those responsible for the future of the moraine, is being held at a banquet hall owned by a man with links to a company that is building houses on the moraine in Aurora.

The dinner at the Hollywood Princess Convention and Banquet Centre in Vaughan, costing $150 to $200 a plate, will be attended by about 700 people, many of them prominent developers.

Clement (Brampton West-Mississauga) was unavailable for comment last night.

Earlier, he told the Legislature his government is on record as stating environmental protection of the moraine is "important."

He has refused a request for a face-to-face interview with The Star to explain his position.

While Clement appears as guest of honour at the fundraiser, Richmond Hill council, just down the road, will be voting on whether to approve requests from Lebovic Enterprises and Bond Lake Investors Inc. to build 2,721 homes near Bond Lake on the moraine.

In a surprise move last week, town planner Janet Babcock recommended that the applications be denied. Babcock's report said developers failed to provide enough evidence that their lands are good candidates for development.

Even if council approves Babcock's recommendations, the Ontario Municipal Board could overrule them and approve requests for development.

Lea Ann Mallett, of the environmental group Earthroots, said it was "poor timing" for Clement to be partying with developers at the same time Richmond Hill politicians were wrestling with housing on the moraine.

"The fact that Tony Clement would hobnob with developers at the same time he has to make decisions on the moraine is incredibly inappropriate," Mallett said.

"How can he now claim he is a neutral party when his fundraiser is stacked with developers?"

Mario Cortellucci, who owns the Hollywood Princess and is a member of the York Region police services board, has ties through his brother to Fernbrook Homes, which is building Stonebridge, an exclusive gated community on the moraine in Aurora.

A sales representative described the development as "nicely nestled within the Oak Ridges Moraine and completely enclosed by forest."

Clement, at the time also environment minister, was criticized in the Legislature last fall after a Liberal critic revealed that 28 companies linked to or run by Mario and Nick Cortellucci and Saverio Montemarano made more than 209 contributions to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party between 1995 and 1997, totalling more than $335,000.

Applications from Lebovic and Bond Lake Investors are also before the Ontario Municipal Board.