Is this Mr. X?
Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner left something out of the bombshell report on Housing Minister Steve Clark this week: the identity of an unregistered lobbyist who allegedly helped get a piece of land in Clarington out of the Greenbelt.
Commissioner J. David Wake referred to the lobbyist as “Mr. X” in his report — not to raise the level of intrigue — because he’s prohibited by law from stating whether an investigation is being conducted or not into a lobbyist.
Wake’s report alleges that Mr. X had a contract that would see him paid $1 million if the property on Nash Road in Clarington was successfully removed from the Greenbelt and rezoned. Such lobbying success fees are illegal in Ontario. It's lobbyists' own responsibility to ensure they comply with the Lobbyists' Registration Act, the sectorial law.
The report contained some other tidbits about Mr. X: he is said to have boasted about having a “friendly” contact in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and allegedly told his client he was entertaining two key figures in the report, Ryan Amato, Clark’s chief of staff who oversaw the Greenbelt project, and deputy chief of staff Kirstin Jensen.
In mid-September, as the project to remove land from the Greenbelt was underway, the report says he wrote this to his client: “I have a lunch meeting next week with Kirstin and the Chief of Staff Ryan D’Amato (sic) is coming as well. Ours is the only file that I am discussing. I also have them coming to golf at Goodwood in 2 weeks with me and to. Raptors game (sic).”
Amato told the commissioner he could have got information about the Nash Road property from Mr. X, but denied going to the lunch, golfing and the Raptors game. Jensen said she only attended a lunch on Sept. 27 and at it accepted something from Mr. X that she passed on to Amato.
The Nash Road property details were included in the first package Amato gave to ministry officials on or around Oct. 3, Wake wrote.
Mr. X was not interviewed during the integrity commissioner's inquiry and has not had a chance to respond to any of the evidence gathered and offer his evidence as to what occurred
Wake withheld details about this lobbyist’s identity for a few reasons, including because Mr. X wasn’t his investigation’s subject, and because evidence that he could provide wasn’t absolutely necessary for it.
On Friday, The Trillium spoke to numerous sources about who Mr. X could be. Just one name came up from both those close to the events described in Wake’s report and those who relied on the evidence the integrity commissioner provided: John Mutton, Clarington’s former mayor.
Mutton did not answer a call made to him around noon on Friday, nor did he return a voice mail. Just before then, Mutton changed his Instagram account, which has almost 40,000 followers, to being private.
However, Mutton told the Toronto Star that he has worked for Peter Tanenbaum, owner of the company holding the land on Nash Road that was removed from the Greenbelt, but not as a lobbyist.
“I'm not a lobbyist. I have a development services company where we provide planning, engineering, and everything,” he told the Star.
“I've never been contracted to do any type of lobbying to get any lands out of the Greenbelt.”
Mutton also told the Star he did not know the identity of the Mr. X described in the integrity commissioner’s report.
Tanenbaum did not return messages requesting comment Friday.
Ford’s and Clark’s offices also hadn’t responded to emails from The Trillium seeking to confirm Mutton as Mr. X.
Mutton was identified as being Mr. X by one Conservative source close to the events last fall, plus another who is well-connected with the PC Party.
Among the few clues Wake gives about Mr. X’s identity are the fact that he is a former municipal politician and that he wasn’t among the 61 witnesses who were interviewed in the Clark investigation.
“There’s very few people who fit that description,” another well-connected Conservative source said.
A fourth Conservative source deduced the same. “There’s only one guy who does GR (government relations) in Clarington who’s a former municipal official,” they said.
A fifth Conservative source recalled that Mutton had worked to help Tanenbaum arrange meetings with MPPs in the Durham region during the Ford government’s first mandate.
Mutton is from Bowmanville and was elected Clarington mayor in 2000, serving two three-year terms before losing the 2006 mayoral election to Jim Abernathy.
In 2018, Mutton ran for Durham Regional Chair, placing a distant third place. During that campaign, his ex-wife accused him in a Facebook post of having assaulted her and their daughter. His spokesperson said they were “false claims,” reporting from 2018 shows. Mutton was acquitted of the assault charge related to this incident in 2007.
Mutton started Municipal Solutions in 2006, corporate records show. The company’s website says it’s “a multi-faceted firm specializing in development services and has also launched some new developments of their own in industrial, commercial and residential sectors.”
Around a year ago, Mutton posted a photo on LinkedIn of him, Clark, and Scott McFadden, then-Cavan Monaghan’s mayor, with the caption, “We are proud to be the leading firm in turning out Ministers (sic) Zoning Orders. #mzosrus.”
Ontario’s housing minister can issue minister’s zoning orders (MZOs) to override local planning decisions and fast-track developments. The Ford government, with Clark as housing minister since its election in 2018, has issued MZOs at an unprecedented rate.
Neither Mutton nor anyone else associated with Municipal Solutions has ever registered to lobby in Ontario, the provincial registry shows. Nor are they listed in the 10 municipal lobbying registries in the province either.
Another reason Wake didn’t disclose Mr. X’s identity is that Mr. X isn’t a registered lobbyist.
Mutton is an avid social media user, regularly posting photos of himself with various ministers in the Progressive Conservative government, including on several occasions over the last few years with Premier Doug Ford and Environment Minister David Piccini. Piccini represents Northumberland—Peterborough South, a riding near Durham region, for the Progressive Conservatives.
Piccini's office didn't respond before this story was published to an email The Trillium sent seeking to confirm Mutton as Mr. X.
Mutton wrote in the caption of another Instagram post of him and Tanenbaum at a Leafs game that he was there “with one of my best friends, Peter Tanenbaum,” on Nov. 2, 2022.
The Trillium asked the integrity commissioner’s office if Mutton was Mr. X, or if it was aware of Mutton potentially violating lobbying law. A spokesperson would not directly answer either question, instead explaining the tight rules the office must follow in terms of what information it can disclose under the laws that guide its work.
“The Office (of the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario) is bound by strict confidentiality regarding its undertakings under the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998. As such, I am unable to provide you with any information,” a spokesperson of Wake’s said in an email.
Mutton is also a savant of martial arts. He’s an accomplished jiu-jitsu athlete, having competed at the sport’s world championships, and — as his Instagram photos with fighters including Nate Diaz show — a fan of mixed martial arts. Mutton is a bodybuilder as well.
Another of his business ventures is Truffalo, a company he says on LinkedIn will “soon to be providing medicinal microdosed psylocybin (sic) to the World.”
Multiple sources The Trillium spoke to called Mutton a “character,” a description his social media presence reinforces.