On 1 November 2022, three days before the Ford Government announced publicly that certain Greenbelt lands would be opened-up for development, the developer Michael Rice gave a presentation to the Chief Executive of Southlake, Arden Krystal, offering Greenbelt land for a new hospital. The meeting, at King Municipal Centre, also involved the Township’s Mayor, Steve Pellegrini. 

The map above was on display.

The schematic clearly shows the Southlake logo straddling the Greenbelt land purchased by Rice on 15 September 2022 and the adjacent lands to the south owned by John Dunlap, a wealthy landowner who sat on the Southlake Board until September 2022. I take it the logo is meant to show the approximate location of the hospital.

Yet only the Rice lands were removed from the Greenbelt on 21 December 2022. To this day the Dunlap lands remain in the Greenbelt.

That has perplexed me for many months.

In February this year, York Region’s Chief Planner, Paul Freeman, made it perfectly clear that, from a planning perspective, an institutional use such as a hospital could only be built in a settlement area, not on prime agricultural land in the Greenbelt.

Hidden Wiring

The Auditor General told us last week that the decision to remove the Rice lands from the Greenbelt was taken by Ryan Amato, Steve Clark’s Chief of Staff, supported by a small six-member team of civil servants bound by a confidentiality agreement which prevented them sharing information with others outside their group. She did us all a great service by exposing the hidden wiring of Government bureaucracy.

Until I read her report I had mistakenly believed the provincial civil service shared information between Ministries, commonly known as joined-up Government.  

However, we learn that Amato and his team operated in a hermetically sealed silo. The left hand really didn’t know what the right hand was doing. The Ministry of Health appeared to be out of the loop.

The Ministry of Health would have known that Southlake was looking for a site for a second hospital. That information was contained in Southlake’s Master Plan which the hospital’s Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, handed over to the Ministry on 31 January 2020. 

In April 2022 the Government gave Southlake $5M to help with its planning work for a new hospital – and this would have involved searching for a second location.

Did Dunlap offer land for a new hospital?  

If Dunlap offered lands for a new hospital, why were these not removed from the Greenbelt on 21 December 2022? 

Probably because Amato’s entire focus was on the Rice lands to the north.

Earlier this year, Pellegrini told his local newspaper that he has been scouring the municipality for years, looking for a suitable site for a new hospital.

The blowhard boasted:

“I have been moving this idea forward since 2019 – on different lands, with different landowners. At the time of our meeting, I brought the idea of a hospital forward to the Rice Group and they were open to discussion.”

We know for a fact that Pellegrini met Rice. And we assume he met Dunlap.

Months ago I filed a Freedom of Information request with King Municipality (FOI 2023-21) for the following:

“I request sight of all records which give the dates in (a) 2019 (b) 2020 (c) 2021 and (d) 2022 on which Mayor Pellegrini met King landowner, John Dunlap, to discuss (a) the possible location of a new hospital in King and (b) the offer of land for such a purpose.”

The Township tells me there are records relating to my request (a diary entry and an email) which will be released to me on 23 August 2023.

Southlake stonewalls

This may clear up any lingering confusion about whether Dunlap offered some of his land for a new hospital campus. For its part, Southlake is battening down the hatches, stonewalling and hoping I will just go away.

The municipality tells me it has no records of any other meetings the Mayor may have had with landowners. The municipality also says it has no records of any work done to identify suitable land for a hospital in King. We, the credulous public, are asked to believe the Mayor was flying solo – with no records of any discussions with the Township’s Planning Chief, Stephen Naylor, or its Chief Administrative Officer, Daniel Kostopoulos, about locating a new hospital in King. 

I now wait to see what information is released to me on 23 August 2023.

Like everyone else outside Ford's inner circle, I am speculating. 

We don't know what Ryan Amato knows. He is in Italy. 

Arden Krystal's lips are sealed and former Southlake Board member John Dunlap is following her example, saying nothing. Mayor Pellegrini cannot be relied upon to tell the truth.

We are told records don't exist until they do. 

And Michael Rice refuses to talk to the Auditor General, saying what he does or doesn't do with his own money is none of her business.

We shall see.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Below: email from Michael Rice to King's Chief Administrative Officer, Daniel Kostopoulos, on the afternoon of the 7 November 2022 Committee of the Whole meeting when Mayor Pellegrini moved a resolution welcoming the offer of lands in King for a new hospital. Pellegrini met Rice on 17 October 2022 to prep for the 1 November 2022 meeting.