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A developer who says he got favourable treatment when Ontario was drawing up conservation boundaries is provoking trouble because so much of his land was placed inside the so-called greenbelt, Premier Dalton McGuinty suggested Tuesday.

The allegation by developer Silvio De Gasperis that he had land excluded from the conservation plan after pleading his case with Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen threw the province's Opposition into a ferment Monday.

Their attacks forced Mr. Gerretsen to backpedal on earlier statements that he had avoided any talks with landowners about the proposed boundaries.

But Mr. McGuinty sought Tuesday to deflect attention by noting that lots of other land owned by Mr. De Gasperis does fall inside the greenbelt boundaries, putting it at the mercy of strict development rules and reducing its value.

"Mr. De Gasperis is unhappy and will remain very, very unhappy because we have included many, many, many acres owned by him," Mr. McGuinty told reporters Tuesday before leading a caucus meeting.

"And I've made it clear to Mr. De Gasperis on many occasions that that land will remain protected."

The government announced last week that it has set aside 720,000 hectares of land stretching in a 325-kilometre arc from Niagara Falls to Peterborough, and declaring them off limits to development.

Mr. De Gasparis wrote to the minister Monday thanking him for a meeting and asking him to also remove adjoining lands in the area, part of Block 41, from the greenbelt.

"Thank you for the meeting we had during the greenbelt consultation period," he wrote. ". . . We were told that all of Block 41 was to be removed from the Greenbelt, not only the lands belonging to us and a small portion of the adjoining lands and we thank you for that."

It was the second letter from Mr. De Gasperis to a senior Liberal to bring grief to the party. The developer wrote to Premier Dalton McGuinty sparking the questions over the fundraising event as crucial decisions were being made on the greenbelt plan to protect land from development.

The opposition has been pounding away at how the government drew up the greenbelt boundaries since last week when details of an exclusive fundraiser were leaked to the media. Mr. De Gasperis was one of about 20 business executives who paid $10,000 each last May to attend the Liberal Party fundraiser at the home of the brother of Finance Minister Greg Sorbara.

With a report from The Globe and Mail's Karen Howlett at Queen's Park

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