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What’s really behind the Ford government’s push to pave protected wetland in Pickering

What’s really behind the Ford government’s push to pave protected wetland in Pickering

Rival developers competing to host Canada’s biggest retail warehouse, which sources say is for Amazon

Roughly half of this property in Pickering, owned by Triple Group, is classed as a protected wetland. If approved for development, commercial real estate analysts say it would skyrocket in value, potentially to more than $100 million. This view looks northwest from the corner of Bayly Street and Squires Beach Road. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Moves by Premier Doug Ford’s government to grant special permission to pave over a protected wetland in Pickering have generated headlines, but behind the controversy, there’s an untold story.

That story involves a battle between rival developers and rival municipalities to get the chance to build what would become the largest retail warehouse in Canada, a project worth hundreds of millions of dollars that multiple sources say is for Amazon.

The battle is playing out just east of Toronto near Highway 401, on two pieces of property less than one kilometre apart: one in the city of Pickering on a provincially designated wetland, the other in the town of Ajax on a golf course.

Whichever site clears all of its legal and zoning hurdles first will be in the driver’s seat. The landowner’s property value will skyrocket and the project will bring at least $50 million in new tax and development revenue to one of the municipalities.

While the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has vigorously objected to plans to build on the wetland in Pickering, it is not opposed to the plan for the golf course in Ajax.

However the Ford government has gone to great lengths to smooth the way for the warehouse to go on the Pickering wetland. That property belongs to the Triple Group of Companies, owned by the Apostolopoulos family, backers of the nearby Durham Live casino complex.

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