The mystery man known as “Mr. X” in a scathing integrity commissioner report on how parcels of land came to be removed from Ontario’s protected Greenbelt is a former Clarington mayor who has boasted about his ability to get development done through provincial orders, sources say.
John Mutton was hired to help a landowner build on 86 acres of woodland and wetland in Clarington — and did so by wooing senior staffers in Ontario’s housing ministry with offers of Raptors tickets and golf games, even though he wasn’t a registered lobbyist, according to the provincial registry.
Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake’s report said that “Mr. X” stood to gain a $1 million payday if the land was removed from the greenbelt and turned cheap farmland into a lucrative building opportunity — something that could violate lobbyist rules that prohibit getting paid on the results of lobbying.
The whole incident is a sign that lobbying needs to be restrained, said current Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster in an interview, proposing a new municipal lobbyist registry on top of the provincial one.
“According to the Integrity Commissioner’s report, it doesn’t appear as if rules were followed. Municipalities typically don’t keep track of this. This makes it apparent we need one,” he said.
Mutton didn’t respond to emails and calls, and stayed inside his Bowmanville home Friday when CTV News Toronto visited.
His Oshawa-based company, Municipal Solutions, also didn’t respond to requests for comment. The company’s website says it employs an all-purpose “fixer” and has a division that grows new strains of cannabis and psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.
Pictures posted to Mutton’s social media accounts show him taking selfies with prominent conservative figures including Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Ford distanced himself from Mutton when asked about him by CTV News Toronto at a news conference Tuesday morning.
“I take pictures with thousands of people,” Ford said. “Anyone who does advocacy work for anyone should know if you don’t follow the rules you’re going to be accountable.”
The pictures of Mutton and Ford suggest there could be much more to the story, said Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles.
“I think it’s deeply concerning the premier would have those connections,” she said.
Interim Ontario Liberal leader John Fraser said he’s concerned that the report outlines another former staffer of the premier’s office also working to remove that same parcel of land.
“Mr. X’s connections to the premier are too close for comfort,” he said.
In one social media post, Mutton says, “We are proud to be the leading firm in turning out [Ministerial] Zoning Orders,” or MZOs, which are ways the provincial government can override local governments’ decisions on land use.
In the Integrity Commissioner’s report released last week, Wake called the process to develop the greenbelt “rushed and flawed” and found Steve Clark, the housing minister at the time, had broken ethics rules as a top staffer got candidate properties from well-connected developers.
That staffer, Ryan Amato, resigned last month, and Clark resigned Monday, prompting a cabinet shuffle by Ford Tuesday. At that press conference, Ford also announced a larger review of every property in the Greenbelt.
Records show Peter Tanenbaum purchased the 86 acres in Clarington for about $2.7 million approximately 20 years ago. Its value would rise with the legal ability to develop it.
According to the report, Mr. X and Tanenbaum negotiated a contract on August 9, 2022, where Mr. X would be paid a $6,000 per month fee and a “Greenbelt Fee” of $225,000 earned when final approval has been obtained to remove the lands from the Greenbelt and a “Rezoning fee” of $775,000 when authorization to develop the land was granted.
Mutton is not a registered lobbyist, according to a search Tuesday of the lobbyist registry.
Wake said he would investigate “Mr. X” for possible violations of lobbyist rules.
Mutton told the Toronto Star that he was not working as a lobbyist, simply representing a property owner as a developer.