It’s possibly the most lavish gift in Ontario history.
Three weeks ago, Ontario’s auditor general revealed that a few developers stand to gain $8.28 billion from the provincial government’s decision to rezone certain lands in the Greenbelt. That number has since been repeated in thousands of news stories.
It sounds like a lot of money, but how much is it really?
Well, first of all, it’s not $8.28 billion—it’s more. The auditor general used an estimate from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation that was based on property values in January 2016. According to Statistics Canada, the value of land under new homes in Ontario has gone up by 25 per cent since then. So the value of the Greenbelt giveaway in today’s dollars is easily more than $10 billion.
Imagining billions of dollars is hard: it’s like trying to understand how far away the stars are. That’s why comparisons are helpful. It’s worth asking: What is the value of the gift developers are receiving? What can you buy for $10 billion?
Well, with $10 billion, the developers could buy roughly 60,000 luxury SUVs (think Cadillac Escalades), depending on features.
They could buy 100 private jets, like the Bombardier Global 7500, known as “the Ferrari of the skies.”
With $10 billion, they could buy a gold mine, or several: Kinross Gold Corporation, with offices in Toronto and profitable mines around the world, is currently valued at $8.3 billion. The CEO of Kinross raked in $8.8 million in compensation in 2021, which is pretty good money, but even a thousand CEOs like him would make less in a year than the Greenbelt developers stand to gain in one fell swoop.
But this story is about housing, so maybe the best comparison is this: With $10 billion, the Greenbelt developers could pick up 11,769 homes in Ontario at the July 2023 average price of $856,259. That’s a real estate empire. Before they build a single home.
Reporters have wondered out loud whether these developers are friends of the premier. Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t. Either way, the scale of the Greenbelt giveaway is just too enormous.