The Greenbelt scandal is currently with the RCMP who are deciding whether to launch an investigation. 

Surely there can be no doubt now that the Police should investigate to determine if there have been breaches of the criminal law. 

Was Ryan Amato – Clark’s former Chief of Staff – a rogue operator or was he doing his master’s bidding? 

Clark insists he did not know what Amato was getting up to behind his back.

Clark, with his resignation as a Minister this morning, belatedly takes responsibility for the actions of his Chief of Staff. It is a bedrock constitutional principle that Ministers take responsibility for what is done in their name and they are answerable to Parliament.  


The Ontario Legislature will consider the Integrity Commissioner’s report when it returns later this month. David Wake is recommending Clark be reprimanded. Clark’s resignation does not render the Integrity Commissioner’s report otiose.

Amato had implied authority. He could issue orders to public service staff only because he was acting on the Minister’s behalf. He had no authority in his own right.

In her special report on changes to the Greenbelt the Auditor General asked the Premier, in turn, to request the Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, to determine if Amato “acted contrary to the requirements of the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 with respect to his liaisons with land developers and their representatives.” 

Wake is currently looking into this.

Breaking Rules

It is as plain as a pikestaff that Amato broke the rules. 

Section 6 of O.Reg.382/07 states: 

6. (1) When performing his or her duties to the Crown, a public servant shall not give preferential treatment to any person or entity, including a person or entity in which the public servant or a member of his or her family or a friend has an interest. 

(2) When performing his or her duties to the Crown a public servant shall endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity that could benefit from it. 

(3) A public servant shall not offer assistance to a person or entity in dealing with the Crown other than assistance given in the ordinary course of the public servant’s employment. 


It is beyond dispute that the developers Michael Rice and Silvio de Gasperis received preferential treatment that will net them billions of dollars from a process that was totally corrupt.

The Auditor General told us that during her audit she came across examples of what appeared to be preferential treatment which 

“included providing information about the ownership and purchasing of lands, setting up investment-opportunity meetings with Minister’s Office staff, and the consideration of draft legislative and regulatory changes… We found situations where lobbyists working for developers emailed political staff to suggest amendments to legislation. In these cases, political staff copied and pasted the wording of the lobbyists’ proposed amendments into a new document, which they then forwarded onto Deputy Ministers for inclusion in legislative packages. Senior non-political public servants, who were directed by political staff to carry the proposal forward, appeared unaware that the proposed amendments had originated from a lobbyist.” 

Ontario’s laws were being written by lobbyists.

Amato says investigation would vindicate him

In Amato’s resignation letter he said he had been “unfairly depicted” and suggested he would be vindicated in any investigation

“I am confident that I have acted appropriately, and that a fair and complete investigation would reach the same conclusion.”

I want to see that investigation conducted by the RCMP.

Michael Rice’s defence is simply that he is a very good businessman with a very sharp eye for development opportunities. He was not tipped off by anyone. He just figured it all out by himself. (Michael Rice photo right)

Rice was prepared to make land available for a new hospital and had been in touch with Southlake about a number of sites before settling on the Greenbelt land at Bathurst. Wake gave weight to this.

What was public knowledge - and what wasn't

The fact that Southlake was looking for a second site was public knowledge in August 2021, perhaps before. The Chief Executive, Arden Krystal,  said the lands – or some of them – could be donated by a benefactor.

But at that stage it was not public knowledge that John Dunlap, a Southlake Board member, would facilitate the sale of the Bathurst lands from the President of the Ontario Home Builders Association, Bob Schickedanz, to the developer Michael Rice – nor that Dunlap owned land immediately adjacent to it. That information emerged later.

Who knew what and when?

And we haven’t heard from Arden Krystal – or from any of the people at Southlake - about what they knew and when they knew it. Light – as I often say - does not escape from Southlake. 

When did Krystal first realise the Bathurst lands were in the protected countryside in the Greenbelt? And what did she do about it? Did she lobby the Ministry of Health to have the lands removed from the Greenbelt? What professional planning advice did she and the Southlake Board receive?

And when did King Township’s Director of Growth Management, Stephen Naylor, tell Mayor Pellegrini that the Bathurst lands were in the protected Greenbelt and the implications of this? 

Rationale for removal of the Bathurst lands from the Greenbelt

Commissioner Wake tells us that on 27 or 28 September 2022 Michael Rice gave Ryan Amato 

“a map outlining the area proposed to be removed from the Greenbelt, a rationale supporting the removal, a summary confirming consultants had been retained to do environmental and servicing assessments and an explanation of various servicing options for the site.”

Was Naylor presented with this information at the meeting with Michael Rice on 17 October 2022?

If not why not?

Did he ask Michael Rice when the lands would be removed from the Greenbelt because planning law, as it stood on that date, would not have permitted the development Rice had in mind.

If I had stripes on my sleeve I would interview Arden Krystal, John Dunlap, Stephen Naylor and Steve Pellegrini (amongst others) under oath to find out exactly what they knew and when they knew it.

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Click "read more" for Auditor General's recommendations to the Premier. The Auditor General's report is here. The Integrity Commissioner's report is here. And my Timeline of Southlake and the Greenbelt land at Bathurst is here.

Update on 4 September 2023. From the Toronto Star's Martin Reg Cohn: Steve Clark's departure: too little too late

I expected Steve Clark's resignation at some stage. It has just come sooner than I thought. (I am tapping this out at 10.30am on Monday)

The resignation does not draw a line under the Greenbelt scandal. There is still more to come out. 

Doug Ford - the man on a mission - mentions the 1.5 million homes yet again. Deflecting from the real issue of corruption in the heart of Government.

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Update at 5.20pm on 4 September 2023: Paul Calandra appointed as new Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs - but he keeps his current job as House Leader. What a joke. 

Here is how the news broke on Twitter:

Ontario's beleaguered Premier, Doug Ford, maintains the pretence that he needs Greenbelt land to tackle the Province’s housing crisis. Yet the task force which he himself appointed makes it clear Greenbelt land is not needed. 

Figures from York Region's own Housing Affordability Task Force showed total housing supply of 1,126,960 units across the Province - that's housing approved and proposed. The figure excludes over 225,000 units under construction. 

Ford and his discredited Housing Minister, the pitiful Steve Clark, told York Region it must deliver 150,000 units by 2031. A tall order you may think but the Region has a total housing supply of almost 200,000 units. But they may not all get built for the simple reason that municipalities grant approvals and developers build - or choose not to.  

Hitting the target

York Region’s highly regarded Chief Planner, Paul Freeman, will tell the Region’s Housing Affordability Task Force next Thursday (7 September 2023) in a housing supply update that 

“the total number of units under construction, registered, draft approved, and proposed exceed the forecast number of units required to achieve the Provincial housing target.”

“Draft Approved” units are lots in a plan of subdivision or plan of condominium which have draft but not final approval and registration. “Registered units” have been registered through a plan of subdivision, but have not yet been built. 

The update gives figures for eight (out of nine) constituent municipalities. King has not been given a target. But there is no common baseline with some municipalities showing approvals from 2016 onwards and others going back to the early 2000s. 

Housing and Servicing Allocations 

Water and sewage capacity is critical and for as long as I can remember these so-called “servicing allocations” have been rationed. The Province dragged its feet for years, delaying approval for additional wastewater capacity. It's still up in the air following the cancellation by the Province of the North York Sewage Solutions project. Wastewater will be going down to Lake Ontario but we don't yet have all the details.

Here in Newmarket, if a developer chooses not to build then the allocation is withdrawn. That’s what happened with 22 George/39 Davis Drive where zoning was approved years ago for a total of 395 apartments and the landowner sat on his hands. 

Freeman says municipalities will get the details of their capacity servicing assignments in November. But without a big increase in servicing allocations in Newmarket I don't know how the Town will be able to deliver Ford's target of 12,000 units.


The Chief Planner’s report sits alongside an update on housing needs.

The number of renter households in York Region doubled from 2001-2021 and rents have skyrocketed. The supply of rental housing has not kept pace with demand at a time when homeownership has been priced out of the reach of many people.

The Housing Needs Analysis for York Region makes bleak reading.

Renters are relying increasingly on the so-called secondary rental market (where owners rent out their property or part of it). The analysis gives eyewatering figures for rents.

“The average price for a leased condo in 2022 ranged from $1,700 (bachelor) to $3,200/month (3+ bedroom), and the average price for a leased single or semi- detached unit ranged from $3,100 (3-bedroom) to $4,700 (5+ bedroom), both of which are well above regional affordable rental thresholds which range from $1,300 (bachelor) to $2,350 (3+ bedroom).” 

13% of all households in York Region in "housing need"

I learn that 50,000 households – about 13% of all households in York Region - are in core housing need which means they are spending more than 30% of their gross income on housing or their home is too small. Owners in core housing need spent a crippling 56.3% of their income just to keep a roof over their heads. Renter households spent 49.4% of their income on housing. (Though these are 2016 figures.)

It is time for Ford to tell his friends, the developers, to get building the homes that people need and to stop blaming municipalities for causing the crisis. 

And he must return the land at Bathurst (and elsewhere) to the Greenbelt.


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Newmarket Aurora MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, charged taxpayers $4,518 for her widely publicised event in Aurora where constituents could view the Coronation of King Charles III on a big screen. 

Gallagher Murphy offered “light refreshments” to those attending the early morning viewing at the Royal Canadian Legion on 6 May.

In her “Dialogue with Dawn” column in Newmarket Today she trilled:

“We will have an assortment of scones, tea and coffee and a breakfast will also be served.

Don’t forget to wear your favourite fascinator.”

Bread and Circuses

Gallagher Murphy likes her bread and circuses, preferring spectacle to debates on policy. She boycotted all the candidate debates at last year's Provincial election and parrots the FordNation line on all matters of policy.

The MPP will be planning for her upcoming “Free Corn Roast and BBQ” which she vowed would be an annual event. 


Last year’s Free BBQ on 16 October was billed to the taxpayers, costing us over $11,000. 

After the event Newmarket Today asked her for an interview. She declined.

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Below: Extract from Gallagher Murphy's expenses submitted to the Ontario Legislative Assembly for payment.



The report from the Auditor General and yesterday’s report from the Integrity Commissioner together paint a picture of a chaotic and dysfunctional Government where Doug Ford and Steve Clark don’t talk to each other about the big policy issues of the day. 

In his pathetic mea culpa earlier today Steve Clark said he was sorry but he wouldn’t be resigning. Brazenly, he believes he can tough it out. He has the confidence of the only person who matters, the Premier.

The Auditor General and the Integrity Commissioner deserve a round of applause for getting us this far. But we still don’t know the whole story nor do we have the complete unvarnished truth.

It is obvious from reading his report that the Integrity Commissioner bends over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to people who know more than they are letting on. I have no quarrel with that. Being even-handed is in David Wake’s job description - and in his DNA.

The former President of the Ontario Home Builders Association (OHBA), Bob Schickedanz, who sold the Bathurst land to Rice told Wake:

“they (the Schickedanz company) had absolutely no idea the government was considering removals from the Greenbelt.”

I laughed out loud at that one! Luca Bucci, former Chief of Staff to Steve Clark, was Schickedanz’s right hand man at the OHBA. (Bob Schickedanz photo right)

Forgetful congenital Liar

Ryan Amato comes across as a forgetful congenital liar, inventing meetings with the Premier to get staff to do his bidding. They believed his orders came from on high – from Clark or the Premier’s Office. (Click "read more" for the G&M Editorial) 

The Auditor General relied on Amato’s evidence to tell us that at the BILD dinner on 14 September 2022 two prominent developers (Gasperis and Rice) approached him and gave him packages containing information to remove the Duffins Rouge and Bathurst lands from the Greenbelt. Yet David Wake gives an alternative version where no package was passed over by Rice at the dinner. Instead, the package was collected in person by Amato at Rice’s offices on 27 or 28 September 2022. I am surprised Wake didn’t call Amato back to clarify which version was true. 

For the rest of us looking on, the events described by Wake require the willing suspension of disbelief.

Evidence Under Oath

Both the Auditor General and the Integrity Commissioner have powers to summons witnesses to give evidence under oath. 

Members of the public like me don’t have that power. So when we file Freedom of Information requests and the institution stonewalls or says records don’t exist, we are stymied. The only option is to appeal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner whose analysts, though incredibly helpful, have a huge backlog of cases to work through. There is also a limit to the number of appeals anyone can file at any given time. The appeals will simply wait in the queue until an analyst is ready to deal with them. I have six appeals in the pipeline, the first filed on 17 March 2023.

Neither the Auditor General (so far as I can gather) nor the Integrity Commissioner interviewed the Chief Executive of Southlake, Arden Krystal, or her Vice President of Capital Facilities, John Marshman. And, to this day, Southlake says it has no records of the 1 November 2022 meeting at King Municipal Centre when Michael Rice offered land for a new Southlake for a nominal fee. Yet hospitals are public institutions and are required by law to keep records.

Was there a tip-off?

Commissioner Wake looked at Rice’s offer of land for a new hospital and whether it signalled that he had been tipped-off that the Bathurst lands were to be removed from the Greenbelt. Wake concludes it was all above board. 

Wake says Rice provided documentary evidence that he had contacted Southlake earlier about other sites that could be suitable (see schematic for adjacent Rice lands). And we are told it was the Mayor of King, Steve Pellegrini, who first raised the issue of using some of the Bathurst lands for a new hospital.

All this is very familiar. Pellegrini says he had been searching for a site for a new hospital since 2019 but the Township has no records of how the search was conducted or, indeed, if it was done at all. Pellegrini has long insisted a hospital can be built anywhere if that is what the Province decides. But there are no records to show if Pellegrini asked his own Director of Growth Management, Stephen Naylor, if it would be possible to site a new hospital on prime agricultural land in the Greenbelt and Naylor won’t say. There’s nothing in King’s Official Plan about a new hospital in the Township. I’ve filed an appeal on Stephen Naylor and what he knew. 

I also don’t know when Pellegrini told his fellow councillors that he had been scouring the municipality since 2019 for a site for a new hospital. Presumably four years ago.

Rice tells Wake he knew the Greenbelt would be opened-up

Wake tells us that Rice asked his staff to identify potential land acquisitions in the Greenbelt that met specified criteria. We are not told what these were. But “pursuant to this plan” Rice entered into an agreement to purchase the Bathurst lands on 3 May 2022. 

Rice mentioned this agreement to purchase the Bathurst lands when he met King’s Chief Administrative Officer, Daniel Kostopoulos, at the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority dinner on 22 June 2022. At this stage and subsequently, it seems clear Rice was talking about the Bathurst lands not his other land holdings in the area.

According to Commissioner Wake, on 27 or 28 September 2022 Rice gave Amato 

“a map outlining the area proposed to be removed from the Greenbelt, a rationale supporting the removal, a summary confirming consultants had been retained to do environmental and servicing assessments and an explanation of various servicing options for the site.”

We do not know if this information was made available to Pellegrini or Naylor on 17 October 2022 when they had a briefing meeting with Rice. Pellegrini is on record saying servicing was a huge issue.

Servicing Challenges

Amongst other things, the Auditor General wanted to talk to Rice to find out more about his approaches to servicing housing developments and whether land recently removed from the Greenbelt would be expected to create additional servicing challenges. Rice’s lawyers told the AG that their client would not be able to contribute anything that would be relevant to the audit. So he refused to appear.

In Wake’s narrative we are invited to believe that it was, in effect, an open secret in the development community that parts of the Greenbelt were to be opened up for development. Paragraph 282 sets out Rice’s thinking. We learn that Rice had his staff track every municipal meeting in addition to provincial developments. This was Rice’s day job and if other developers didn’t realise what was happening “they were asleep”.

Despite all the horizon scanning Rice did not believe the Greenbelt changes would come as early as November 2022. Which rather begs the old question: when did he first know that his Bathurst lands were to be removed from the Greenbelt and opened-up for development?

Up for grabs

In one sense it doesn’t matter. Rice had worked out that, with Ford at the helm, the Greenbelt was going to be up for grabs. 

So he made his offer to Southlake on 1 November 2022, betting on a hunch that, at some point, the Bathurst lands would become developable.

And Commissioner Wake believed him.

There will be a debate on the Commissioner's report at Queen’s Park within 30 days. 

More will come out.

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Update on 1 September 2023: a blistering editorial from the Toronto Star: From bad to worse on the Greenbelt

Update on 2 September 2023: From the Toronto Star's Martin Reg Cohn: Doug Ford made it his job to know as little as possible about the Greenbelt deals but his fingerprints are all over them.