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Premier-designate Dalton McGuinty yesterday told developers planning to construct 6,600 homes on the environmentally sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine to stop work now or face government action when the Liberals take office in a week.

"We're going to do what we've committed to doing. We're going to protect that space," Mr. McGuinty said after a speech to about 1,000 members of Toronto's business community.

The moraine is considered a valuable environmental feature of the Greater Toronto Area because it provides a wilderness corridor for wildlife north of Toronto and because it contains the headwaters for about five dozen rivers and streams that run down to Lake Ontario.

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It provides the source for more than a third of the area's drinking water.

The premier-designate's warning follows a report in The Globe and Mail last week that developers were pushing the destruction of forest and the clearing of land for the homes in the last days of the Progressive Conservative government.

Mr. McGuinty did not state what his government could do to take on the developers. But, traditionally, real-estate developers seek to work amicably with governments. Some spend large sums of money to support governments that set the terms and conditions for all future developments.

Governments also can require remedial action on past construction projects that might have fallen short of specifications.

Mr. McGuinty's hands are tied until Oct. 23, when he and his cabinet will be sworn in and he will take control of the levers of power that go beyond the ability to enact legislation.

The Liberals won a sweeping victory in the election two weeks ago on a platform that included a promise to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine and to establish a contiguous greenbelt of more than 240,000 hectares of forests and farmland around the Golden Horseshoe.

Despite the Liberals' promise and the widespread expectation that they would form the government, developers have stripped away forests and farmland in northern Richmond Hill, north of Toronto, The Globe reported.

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"The land has been stripped from Bathurst [Street]right over to Yonge Street to Bayview [Avenue]" Brenda Hogg, a Richmond Hill councillor, told The Globe.

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