- Written by Gordon Prentice
At a press conference in Oakville on 22 March 2023 Doug Ford singled out Newmarket Mayor John Taylor for criticism.
Ford was talking about the need for more homes when he branded Taylor an “outlier”. This suggests Newmarket’s Mayor is the only voice speaking out against the Province’s controversial More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23).
In fact, criticism of Bill 23 is widespread and shows no signs of disappearing. People are outraged that land is being taken out of the Greenbelt for development.
Taylor tells Newmarket Today he is not trying to be difficult.
I think he should be difficult. The more difficult the better.
"Passing our housing plan"
At Oakville Ford thanked:
“all the municipalities for passing our housing plan.”
That statement is fanciful. Municipalities haven’t “passed Ford’s housing plan”. But municipalities are agreed that more housing is needed. The question at issue is where the housing should go and whether it is affordable.
Consultation cut short
The legislation was pushed through Queen’s park at breakneck speed. Astonishingly, Bill 23 was passed into law before the end of the consultation period. Many organisations that wanted to comment in person, in front of the Bill Committee, were never given the chance. The Association of Municipal Organisations, representing all 444 municipalities in Ontario, was never heard. It was strongly critical of Bill 23. Last November the AMO complained:
“Bill 23 is proceeding quickly through the legislature, which means it is likely to pass before many municipal Councils have been sworn in, and before the AMO Board can prepare a response.”
Clearly, Ford is bending over backwards to help his friends in the development industry. The More Homes Built Faster Act 2022 brazenly transfers the costs of growth from the developers to the taxpayers.
The housing targets Ford has set for municipalities are simply unachieveable. Newmarket is expected to deliver 12,000 new homes by 2031 when the Town’s sewage and wastewater capacity runs out in five years. The Province has ordered sewage to be diverted south across the Lake Simcoe watershed to the treatment plant at Duffin Creek before being discharged into Lake Ontario. This decision pushes back a solution to the sewage crisis by years.
York Regional Council’s Public Works Commissioner, Erin Mahoney, candidly tells Taylor on 10 November 2022:
“We see it as a bit of an oversight… that these higher population projections, now being advocated for by the province, were not included in the definition of the solution.”
“The implications on Duffin Creek you could either say were completely ignored or underplayed in schedule 10.” (of Bill 23: More Homes Built Faster).”
Ford says Federal immigration policy is forcing his hand. It is true that the Federal Government is ramping up immigration. Ford says 450,000 people landed in Ontario last year and are now calling the Province home.
Stats Canada reports that 437,180 immigrants arrived in Canada in 2022. I don’t immediately know how many made their home here in Ontario but the Province has historically taken the lion’s share of all immigrants.
In the period 2016-2021 Canada accepted 1,328,240 immigrants. Of these, 544,050 settled in Ontario, 219,325 in Quebec, 183,765 in BC and 180,690 in Alberta. Clearly, these people have to be housed but there is plenty of land available in urban areas without swallowing up prime agricultural land in the Greenbelt.
I think that’s why Ford singled out Newmarket’s Mayor.
He was needled by Taylor’s spot on criticism of his housing policy.
The housing targets are undeliverable. Infrastructure costs are to be transferred from developers to taxpayers. And the encroachments into the Greenbelt are unacceptable.
This is precisely the time for us all to be difficult.
Update on 27 March 2023: From the Globe and Mail: Greenbelt plans promote sprawl over sustainability, mayor warns
Click "read more" below for Ford's comments at the Oakville Press Conference.
Read more: Why did Doug Ford give John Taylor a public dressing down?
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Tonight Newmarket-Aurora's PC MPP and food fetishist, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, will be hosting a glittering event with a "special guest".
I wonder who that will be?
The tickets are a snip at $1,500 per person.
I don't know what's on the menu. And the location is secret.
But I'm sure there will be a big turnout.
And lots to eat.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
It is not easy or straightforward to get information out of Southlake Regional Health Centre. Everything is shrouded in secrecy. It is a closed institution responsible to itself.
I am talking about how the hospital is run – not about patient confidentiality which is, of course, an absolute.
For months now I have been trying to piece together the chain of events which led to Michael Rice, the developer, offering Greenbelt land to Southlake for a nominal fee.
On 4 November 2022, three days after Rice made his offer to Southlake’s Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, the Government announced it would be opening up specified areas of the Greenbelt for development, including the Rice lands.
Rice Lands removed from the Greenbelt
In December 2022 the Rice lands were taken out of the Greenbelt.
This is not a trivial matter.
It demands complete transparency.
Southlake and the Township of King ask us to believe there are no records of that hugely consequential 90-minute meeting on 1 November 2022 at King Municipal Centre. No minutes. No emails. No jottings. No plans. No maps. No agenda. No follow-ups. No to-do-points. No meeting notes about a commitment to gift 60-80 acres of Greenbelt land to Southlake for a new hospital.
Southlake reminds me of the Freemasons. You get the information but only if you know the handshake.
I wanted to sit in on Thursday's Board meeting (23 March) as an interested member of the public and I asked the hospital how I could do this. I was told:
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board opted to suspend open meetings and meet virtually to help stop the spread of infection.There are no open agenda items for public consumption at the upcoming meeting, however a meeting summary will be available on the website for your consideration once ratified at the next meeting.”
These meeting summaries are not minutes.
The Board meeting on 22 September 2022 agreed to set up a “Land Acquisition Sub Committee”. I’ve filed a Freedom of Information request to see the background reports put to the Board.
Michael Rice bought the King lands from Bob Schickedanz on 15 September 2022. John Dunlap, the land agent intermediary who facilitated the sale, left the Southlake Board in September 2022.
I’ve also asked to see the minutes of the Southlake Board, redacted as they see fit, for the Board meetings on 22 September 2022, 24 November 2022 and 26 January 2023.
Personally, I think it would be easier for everyone if we had full disclosure now rather than later.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The big news from Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, is that he is prepared to summon “numerous witnesses” to find out if anyone had inside information about the removal of land from the Greenbelt and profited as a result.
Here in Newmarket all eyes are on Southlake’s Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, who was given a commitment by developer Michael Rice at a meeting on 1 November 2022 that he would gift Greenbelt land in King to Southlake for a new hospital.
Southlake tells me they have no records of that 1 November 2022 meeting on “Hospital expansion” other than the invitation from Daniel Kostopoulos, the Chief Administrative Officer of King who set the meeting up.
Southlake tells me with a straight face they have no idea when the invitation was sent nor to whom it was addressed.
This absurdity persuades me to appeal to the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner. It is in now in the works and and I wait to see what unfolds.
Quite separately I have asked Southlake for sight of any declarations of conflict of interest disclosed by Board members in the period from 1 June 2018 until 30 September 2022.
We know the Township of King facilitated the meeting on 1 November 2022 but, like Southlake, they say they have no record of what happened.
In the light of this, on 8 March 2023 I asked the Town Clerk, Denny Timm, to conduct a more focussed search, examining the files of Mr Kostopolous who was responsible for bringing everyone together.
Stephen Naylor, the Township’s Director of Growth Management, was also present at the meeting and I have asked for his files to be searched.
Mr Timm tells me he is reviewing my request and “will respond accordingly”.
Why no records?
If there are no paper or electronic records of such a consequential meeting it rather begs the question: why not?
Was it a deliberate decision not to take notes of the meeting?
I don’t know. But the former IPC Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, expressed great concern in 2016 about the “culture of avoiding the creation of written and electronic records” in the Dalton McGuinty Government when it was struggling to contain the gas plant cancellation controversy.
Commissioner Wake can, of course, still ask the participants what they remember of that momentous 90-minute-long meeting.
I am sure they can all recall being there.
If so, that’s a good place to start.
Selling the Greenbelt: Southlake Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, should be questioned under oath about gift of Greenbelt land for new hospital
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, should summon Southlake CEO, Arden Krystal, to explain what happened on 1 November 2022 when she was offered Greenbelt land for a new hospital in King for a “nominal fee”.
Commissioner Wake said today he is prepared to summon "numerous witnesses".
On 1 November 2022 the developer Michael Rice offered Greenbelt land in the Municipality of King to Southlake for a new hospital “for a nominal fee”. This was three days before the Government announced that certain Greenbelt lands – including his own – would be opened up for development. Rice bought the lands on 15 September 2022 from Bob Schikendanz, the then president of the Ontario Home Builders Association, for $80M.
As I tap this out on Thursday evening (16 March 2023) the Municipality of King and Southlake continue to insist they have no records of that consequential meeting on 1 November 2022.
I do not believe either of them.
To my mind, it is inconceivable that the details of a gift of a huge tract of Greenbelt land should not be recorded anywhere by Southlake or King. Do they take us all for fools?
Southlake has charted the process to get its new hospital. (right)
But, mysteriously, the offer of land for the new hospital, essentially gifted, is not recorded anywhere.
The Toronto Star reported this evening (16 March 2023) that
"Ontario’s integrity commissioner has asked “government and non-government sources” to hand over documents related to a complaint about the province opening up portions of the Greenbelt, and plans to summon “numerous witnesses,” says an interim report issued Thursday.
In the report, J. David Wake says he is also putting on hold a second complaint by NDP Leader Marit Stiles as he investigates her first one.
In January, Stiles asked the integrity commissioner to investigate whether there was any conflict of interest or sharing of confidential information by Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark regarding the government’s decision to swap land out of the Greenbelt for housing. The complaint came after what she called the “curious timing of recent purchases of Greenbelt land by powerful landowners with donor and political ties to the Ontario PC Party.”
“I have required the production of documents from government and non-government sources. My staff and I are reviewing the extensive material gathered so far and have done independent research on the matter. We are preparing summonses for numerous witnesses to be interviewed. In the end I will prepare and deliver a public report on our inquiry as I am required to do.”
Record keeping is required by law
Hospitals are required to keep records under the Archives and Recordkeeping Act 2006.
On its own admission Southlake doesn’t.
If we are to get to the bottom of what happened the Integrity Commissioner David Wake must summon all those who participated in the key meeting at King Municipal Centre on 1 November 2022 which resulted in the commitment by Michael Rice to give Greenbelt land to Southlake for a new hospital. Those called before Commissioner Wake will, I trust, give evidence under oath.
If I were Ontario's Integrity Commissioner I'd call the following to appear before me:
Arden Krystal, Chief Executive, Southlake Regional Health Centre
Steve Pellegrini, Mayor of the Township of King
Stephen Naylor, King’s Director of Growth Management
John Marshman, Southlake’s Vice President Capital Facilities and Business Development
Michael Rice, the Rice Group
I have a million questions for each of them.
But Commissioner Wake need only concern himself with one.
What happened at the 90 minute meeting on 1 November 2022 which resulted in Southlake being promised land in the Greenbelt for a nominal fee?
Who said what?
Update on 17 March 2023: I am told there is no record of the 1 November 2022 meeting. Not even in files relating to hospital administration and governance.
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