I laughed out loud when I read that yesterday Conrad Black, aka Lord Black of Crossharbour, had been expelled from the House of Lords for non-attendance

I’ve been blogging on-and-off for years about the convicted fraudster Conrad Black, well before he threatened to sue me for defamation


Black told the CBC he not aware that his membership of the Lords had been terminated. He said it didn't really matter to him but he was surprised he wasn't notified first.

For years Black hasn't been remotely interested in what was happening in the UK Parliament - nor in keeping up with the evolving rules governing its membership.

Yesterday morning peers were told that Lord Black had ceased to be a member 

"pursuant to Section 2 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014, by virtue of non-attendance in the last Session"

Planning to return

After he was released from prison in Florida he told the BBC in 2019 that he planned to return to the Lords but it didn’t happen.

It may have been something to do with his opaque tax status. I don’t know.

I have long been interested in his tax affairs. After the Ashcroft scandal in early 2010 the UK Parliament passed the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act which obliged all members of the UK Parliament to pay UK tax.

Unlike members of the House of Commons who, as a matter of practical politics, have to live in the UK, peers can live absolutely anywhere. Even, dare I say, in Canada.

Tax status

Years ago I pressed the House of Lords authorities to ask all peers if they paid UK tax. They refused to do so. In the genteel and trusting world of the House of Lords that was a step too far.

But they did say they would remind all peers of their obligation under the 2010 Act to pay UK tax.

Conrad Black wouldn't have liked that.

My Freedom of Information requests to HMRC and the CRA about Lord Black’s tax status predictably ran into the sands of taxpayer confidentiality and got nowhere. I found it impossible to establish if all members of the UK Parliament complied with the requirement to pay UK tax.

"Fully qualified"

In 2021 I asked Black if he satisfied the requirements for membership of the UK Parliament or if he was there under false pretences he told me:

 “Of course I am fully qualified to hold the status I do.”

Black, the convicted fraudster, is inviting us to take that on trust. (I don't.)

Black will, of course, keep his honorific title though I doubt he will use it here in Canada. 

But I suspect he will still be Lord Black when he books a restaurant table in London.

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Tomorrow’s UK General Election (4 July 2024) will see Britain’s ruling Conservative Party obliterated after 14 years in power. 

The Opposition Labour Party will win a huge majority though pollsters disagree on its scale. But we all know the tectonic plates are shifting and the political landscape will be very different on 5 July when the votes are counted.


The election prediction website, Electoral Calculus, gives the Conservatives 61 seats in the new House of Commons trailing the Liberal Democrats who are on 71. So Rishi Sunak – assuming he holds his traditionally ultra-safe seat of Richmond and Northallerton - may not even be the Leader of the Opposition.

How on earth did it come to this?

Today’s New York Times tells its readers 

“The Conservative party has dramatically reshaped Britain since 2010, orchestrating its exit from the European union, slashing spending on public services and cutting welfare spending. Time and again, British voters have returned the party to power. But Britons say their country is worse off now than when the Conservatives took office.”

Very true.

But there's more to it than that. The rot is everywhere.

D Day

We witnessed Rishi Sunak's terrible misjudgement, leaving the D Day Commemorations early - so that he could get back to the UK for a political interview.

And in the middle of the election campaign we learn some very important people in Sunak's immediate circle had bet on the most likely election date.

The police are now involved.

Britain has seen a merry-go-round of five Prime Ministers in less than a decade. One of whom, Boris Johnson, was found to have deliberately lied to MPs. In our Parliamentary system in Canada, as in the UK, this is the ultimate hanging offence

The Canadian Parallel

In Canada’s Federal Election in 1993 the newly installed Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, lost her riding in Vancouver Centre and saw her Progressive Conservative Party wiped out, reduced to two seats. The Bloc Québécois became the Official Opposition.

In his 2005 book “The Secret Mulroney Tapes” Peter Newman says the election was a plebiscite on Brian Mulroney whose 3,202 days as Canada’s Prime Minister ended on 24 June 1993, roiled by scandal and disaffection.

“The historic Party, which in its various guises had founded the country and fielded twelve Prime Ministers who had governed Canada for more than half a century, was eliminated from contention.”

Throwing in the towel

In Britain, the Conservatives make no pretence that they can win tomorrow’s election. It is all about limiting the damage that a Labour “super majority” would inflict on the country. They say a bad result could cement Labour in power for a generation. People simply don’t believe that sort of nonsense

For long enough the Conservatives had no other parties competing against them for votes on the right.

The so-called progressive vote was too often split between Labour and the Lib Dems allowing the Conservatives to slip through the middle – like Doug Ford’s Ontario PCs - often with well under 50% of the vote.

Reform UK

Tomorrow’s election signals the arrival of Nigel Farage’s insurgent Reform UK Party which will take a huge bite out of the Conservative vote although it is uncertain how this will translate into seats because of the vagaries of first-past-the-post.

Farage has been bearding the lion in its den, taking his populist message to the readers of the Daily Mail, telling them it’s time to ditch the Conservatives. (see below)

His message seems to be resonating in true blue Skipton and Ripon – Conservative for as long as I can remember and only a few miles from where I used to live. Unbelieveably, there is a 66% chance of Reform UK winning there.

The kaleidescope is turning. We wait to see where the pieces fall.

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 Background: On 1 November 2022 the developer Michael Rice offered some of his newly purchased land in the Protected Greenbelt at Miller’s Sideroad and Bathurst in King Township to Southlake as the site of a new acute hospital. Rice bought the 2.78 sq km tract for $80M on 15 September 2022 from Bob Schickedanz, the former President of the Ontario Home Builders Association, gambling that he would be permitted – at some stage - to open it up for development

Michael Rice’s offer was made three days before the Government announced the removal of land from the Protected Greenbelt.

His presentation to the meeting on 1 November 2022 included the graphic (right) showing the Rice lands coloured yellow.

The Southlake logo straddles his land and the land immediately to the south owned by John Dunlap. He was the land agent who facilitated the Rice purchase.

Dunlap, then a member of Southlake’s Board, was a wealthy landowner in his own right with properties in Canada and the United States. 

Through his numbered company 2201506 Ontario - Dunlap owned 108 acres of land to the south, abutting the Rice lands. 

Conflict of Interest

Dunlap declared a conflict of interest at the Southlake Board meeting on 22 September 2022 and resigned from the Board.

The closed session minutes of the Board meeting say the conflict:

related to the future site selection of the new build of a new hospital”.

The Board Meeting summary - which is available to the public on Southlake’s website - makes no mention of Dunlap’s conflict of interest or resignation from the Board. 

On 7 June 2024, Southlake stated it had no records of Dunlap offering to donate land so, if we take that at face value, the conflict of interest must relate to the Rice lands where Dunlap acted as the land agent and facilitator of the sale.

Dunlap was by trade a land agent but he wouldn’t have declared a conflict of interest to the Southlake Board for any old land sale he was involved in. This one was different.

Dunlap declared an interest because he knew by 22 September 2022 - seven days after Rice had purchased the Bathurst lands - that Rice was minded to offer land for a new hospital. If he didn’t know of Rice’s intentions then why declare a conflict of interest?

One Known Opportunity 

The first meeting of the Land Acquisition Sub Committee (LASC) on 5 December 2022 was told by its Chair, Southlake’s Vice President of Capital, Facilities and Business Development, John Marshman, that there was only "one known opportunity” - the Rice lands.  (see graphic right: 8 Known Opportunities)

Southlake’s then Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, attended Board meetings and would have been aware of Dunlap’s declaration of a conflict of interest on 22 September 2022 and that it related to the Rice lands. She must have told Marshman. How could she not? 

Marshman in the dark

Yet Southlake insists that John Marshman:

“learned about the Rice Group land during a meeting between Southlake, King Township and Rice Group on November 1, 2022.”

We are asked to believe that Marshman walked into the consequential meeting at King Municipal Centre on 1 November 2022 unaware that an offer of land was about to be made by Michael Rice and that he, Marshman, had no knowledge of Dunlap’s declaration of a conflict of interest on 22 September 2022 regarding the Rice lands. 

This is not credible. The resignation of a Board member – and their reasons - would have been a talking point among Southlake’s top-tier management.

Pellegrini and Dunlap’s offer of land

On 20 July 2020 Dunlap told King Mayor, Steve Pellegrini, that he was prepared to donate land to Southlake for a new hospital. He attached location maps. (Right)

“If you feel the idea has merit I will continue to work with Southlake on a donation process.”

In a handwritten postscript to his letter, Dunlap wrote:

“I thought this may be helpful for your meeting with Arden Krystal from Southlake.”

Pellegrini enthusiastically welcomed the prospect of a new hospital on the lands owned by Dunlap at Bathurst and Davis Drive West – most recently at the King Council meeting on 13 May 2024

Did Dunlap offer land to Southlake?

Despite this, Southlake insists it has no records of Dunlap ever offering to donate land for a new hospital.

I find it impossible to believe the top people at Southlake were unaware that Dunlap – a Board member – was minded to gift land for a new hospital. 

Even if Dunlap had made the offer to the Southlake Foundation – the hospital’s charitable arm – it is inconceivable this information would not have been passed to Southlake’s then Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, who sat on the Foundation Board. She had been the public face of Southlake’s search for a second site. She is on record saying she hoped for a benefactor.

When Arden Krystal met possible donors she didn’t take notes or jot things down. That wasn’t her way of doing things. Instead of an aide-memoire she committed everything to memory.

Memory Man

She shared this remarkable trait with Southlake’s Vice President of Capital, Facilities and Business Development, John Marshman, who had been in contact with the Rice Group about a possible new hospital site since January 2022.

Southlake has no records of the meeting on 1 November 2022 other than the invitations. However we know that the developer Michael Rice delivered a presentation which included a schematic showing, with the Southlake logo, the rough location of the proposed new hospital.

The Southlake logo straddled the Rice lands (shaded yellow) and those to the south owned by Dunlap. Before the meeting, Erin Lindsay, the Rice Group’s Vice President of Administration, sent the presentation to King’s Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Kostopolous asking if he was OK with it. He was. 

Hospital Location encroaches onto Dunlap lands

None of the meeting’s participants - including Arden Krystal and John Marshman – objected to the schematic as being inaccurate.

It clearly showed the Rice lands shaded in yellow and with the proposed hospital location significantly encroaching onto the neighbouring lands owned by Dunlap. 

Marshman committed everything from the one and a half hour meeting to memory. He states unequivocally: 

"I did not use any records from a meeting between Southlake, King Township, the Rice Group on November 1, 2022 in the December 5, 2022 presentation provided to Southlake’s Land Acquisition Sub Committee. To be clear, I unequivocally attest that I did not use any records provided during the 1 November 2022 meeting in the December 5, 2022 presentation to Southlake’s Land Acquisition Sub Committee.”

On 7 November 2022 Michael Rice wrote to John Marshman saying:

“We are ready to review concepts.”

And on 16 November 2022 Marshman met Michael Rice and Erin Lindsay (the Rice Group’s Vice President of Administration) at the Rice HQ in Markham.

Marshman’s schematic

Almost three weeks later, on 5 December 2022, Marshman’s presentation to the first meeting of Southlake’s newly formed Land Acquisition Sub Committee (LASC) also included a schematic showing the rough location of the proposed hospital. It mimicked the Rice presentation slide but in his version the Rice lands were not colour coded or identified in any way. And, again, the proposed site clearly straddled the Rice/Dunlap lands.

Unless they had been told otherwise, members of the LASC would have assumed the proposed hospital site was on Rice lands. If Dunlap had never offered his own land to Southlake then why include his lands in the schematic?

If Marshman made a mistake about the proposed location of the hospital he should simply say so. He made a giant error and got it wrong. 

No records

Southlake maintains it has no records for a number of important meetings where the location of the proposed hospital was being considered. They either don’t exist or, if they do, they are saved from disclosure (a) to protect the economic interests of Ontario or (b) to protect the interests of third parties (that is, entities separate from Southlake but who contract with it.)

We are are told, for example, there are no records of the meeting on 24 January 2023 involving Mayor Pellegrini, Krystal and Marshman which was a “follow-up” to the critically important one on 1 November 2022. We have the invitation list but nothing more. 

In the same way, we are told there are no records of the 16 January 2023 meeting (other than the invitation list) which was specifically convened to discuss the “Bathurst Davis Drive Opportunity”. The meeting involving architects, planners and facilities experts was chaired by John Marshman and considered the location of the proposed acute hospital; how and where a new Long Term Care facility would fit in and if a Ministerial Zoning Order would be required. 

John Marshman would know that public bodies – including hospitals – have a legal obligation to keep records

But if, for whatever reason, they choose not to keep records they should tell us what they know.

Having no records is not the same as having no knowledge.

For a start we should be told if the Land Acquisition Sub Committee was given inaccurate information on where the new Southlake was planned to be located together with an explanation on how and why that happened.

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Doug Ford’s decision to appoint Steve Clark as Government House Leader is truly jaw-dropping

Last week’s reshuffle which massively expanded the Cabinet also brought Steve Clark, the developers' friend, back into the inner circle.

Clark - the disgraced former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing – is currently outside the Cabinet but that won’t last for long. 

As the Government House Leader, Clark will be responsible for planning and managing the Government’s legislative program as well as facilitating motions and debate in the Chamber at Queen’s Park.

In his report on 30 August 2023, the Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, recommended that Clark be formally reprimanded for his role in the Greenbelt scandal. 

Contravened the Members' Integrity Act

The Integrity Commissioner found that Clark 

“contravened the Members' Integrity Act, 1994. Minister Clark contravened sections 2 and 3(2) by failing to oversee the process by which lands in the Greenbelt were selected for development, leading to the private interests of certain developers being furthered improperly.

The inquiry established that Minister Clark’s former Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, was the driving force for the process by which lands in the Greenbelt were selected for development. Mr. Amato was involved in the selection of 14 of the 15 properties that were removed from the Greenbelt or redesignated and received information provided to him by certain developers.”

Ford's Progressive Conservatives were reluctantly prepared to put the Integrity Commissioner's recomendation to MPPs but they set their face against a debate where Clark's behaviour could be forensically examined and dissected.

The Opposition parties, naturally enough, insisted on a debate on Clark's role in the scandal.

The motion, tabled on 25 September 2023, has never been brought forward for debate by the Ford Government. Fancy procedural footwork at Queen’s Park has meant there has been no vote on the Integrity Commissioner’s recommendation – that the legislature formally reprimands Clark. To this day, the Motion lies on the Order Paper.

And now the person responsible for bringing forward such Motions for debate and a vote is none other than Steve Clark himself, the Government’s new Business Manager in the Legislative Assembly.

You couldn't make it up.

Ryan Amato

The Integrity Commissioner has also been investigating Clark’s former Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, on the key role he played in opening up the protected Greenbelt for development. But once the RCMP announced it would be investigating the Greenbelt Scandal the Integrity Commissioner was obliged to put his investigation into Amato on hold.

It beggars belief that Ford’s consigliere, Steve Clark, will now be deciding what gets debated at Queen’s Park and what doesn't.

Whatever happened to ethics in the Ford Government?

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Progressive Conservative MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, spent $408,735 in 2023-24 serving her Newmarket-Aurora constituents. 

Out of this sum, she spent $11,495 on her second taxpayer-funded BBQ at Riverwalk Commons on 22 October 2023. 

Her first "Annual BBQ" on 16 October 2022 cost $11,160. 

Late filing

I had previously relied on her expense filings for the last quarter of 2023 and calculated there had been a 19% drop in her BBQ costs between 16 October 2022 and 22 October 2023. This was serious belt-tightening! 

But the inventive Gallagher Murphy went on to file a further $2,118 BBQ related expense claim in the first quarter of this year.

We now know the second “Annual BBQ” in 2023 was more expensive than the first. Up by a modest 3%.

These BBQ costs come out of Gallagher Murphy's "Office Operations" budget.

Waste of public money

Forget the figures. Personally, I think these BBQs are a disgraceful waste of public money – designed to butter up the voters. But, astonishingly, they are within the rules set by the Legislative Assembly.

If Gallagher Murphy had the brass neck, there’s no reason why she couldn’t spend $50,000 – or more - on her third annual BBQ in October 2024.

Last week, the full list of MPP expenses for 2023-2024 was posted on the Queen’s Park website by the Speaker, Ted Arnott. They cover the fiscal year to 31 March, an entire 12-month period. For MPPs elected for the first time at the last election - such as our own Dawn Gallagher Murphy - the expenses for 2022-2023 cover a shorter period from the election on 2 June 2022 – 31 March 2023.


Gallagher Murphy is allocated a pot of taxpayer money for the fiscal year. In her first ten months as an MPP she spent $235,496 on her global budget. Like all MPPs, she decides how the money is spent across the global budget’s four constituent categories. These are: 

(1) Support Staff. The explanatory notes to the Individual Members’ Expenses tell me this includes: Salaries paid to Queen's Park and Constituency office staff, includes funding for Members' staff who were away for extended sick leaves. In this category Gallagher Murphy spent $217,154 in the full year 2023-24 compared with $118,743 in the ten-month period in 2022-23.

2) Constituency Office Rent. This includes expenses such as rent, utilities and janitorial services. Gallagher Murphy spent $47,507 in 2023-24 in this category compared with $27,718 for the 10-month period in 2022-23.

(3) Office Operations. This includes expenditures for urban travel and Northern (N) Members travel, office supplies, advertising, staff travel, professional services, etc. In this category Gallagher Murphy spent $91,678 in 2023-24 compared with $46,921 in the 10-month period in 2022-23. Her BBQ costs come out of this budget.

(4) Communications. This includes postage, mail preparation and distribution, and printing, typesetting, artwork and photography for newsletters, flyers, and target mailings. In this category Gallagher Murphy spent $52,395 in 2023-24 compared with $42,115 in the billable 10-month period in 2022-23.

No breakdown

All this information is published annually in June, just before the Legislative Assembly rises for the summer break. There is no breakdown of costs within each of the above categories. The Federal Parliament has different rules and it is possible to easily find out how much our MP (currently Tony Van Bynen) spends on, say, advertising. The Queen’s Park regime does not have this level of granularity. We don’t know what Gallagher Murphy spends on advertising – but we see her everywhere, all the time. She is impossible to escape.

Most of her advertising is shameless self-promotion: congratulating people, opening things, handing out certificates. Gently reminding us we live in a wonderful Province under the beneficent guidance of Ford@Nation. 

But, when so instructed, she can be overtly political, recycling material straight out of Head Office. (See attack ad right)

Some expenses published quarterly

Information on travel expenses, hotel accommodation, meals and hospitality expenses is published four times a year, each covering a three month period. The releases are posted on the OLA website on 1 September, 1 December, 1 March and 1 June. 

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Below: Additional expense claims for the 22 October 2023 BBQ submitted by Dawn Gallagher Murphy for the January-March 2024 reporting period