Frank Klees is a consultant lobbyist and a former Progressive Conservative Cabinet Minister.
The Lobbyist Register shows that he has been involved in projects concerning the Greenbelt and in attempts to redraw its boundaries.
Fifteen years ago he told readers of the Auroran newspaper that he was proud to champion the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act and that the passage of this landmark legislation had taken the guesswork out of development applications in the moraine.
“Although we could not stop development that had been approved prior to the implementation of this act, more than 470,000 acres of land – much of it in York Region – are now permanently protected from development.”
One of his past clients – the Rice Group – is now embroiled in a huge controversy over its recent $80M purchase of “permanently protected” Greenbelt land in the municipality of King, west of Bathurst and immediately adjacent to Newmarket. (Right: the Greenbelt land purchased by Rice, south of Miller's sideroad between Dufferin on the west and Bathurst on the east. The Oak Ridges Moraine is shown blue).
Klees lobbied for Michael Rice’s development group from October 2019 to September 2020 but we don’t know the details.
The land purchased by Rice is largely agricultural but with core area natural heritage features. The south-western portion lies within the Oak Ridges Moraine (see map).
Klees didn’t get back to the Toronto Star when they asked what he did for his client. But why not? The whole point of the Lobbyist’s Register is to make lobbying transparent.
What are you attempting to influence or accomplish?
Klees was asked to describe his lobbying goal(s) in detail.
“What are you attempting to influence or accomplish as a result of your communications with Ontario public office holders?”
He replied opaquely:
“The objective of the communications is to brief certain Ontario public office holders on the economic development opportunities represented by a number of the client's emerging projects.”
Is that kind of waffle from Klees even remotely acceptable?
The register tells lobbyists they should give specific information about their lobbying goals and the intended outcome of the lobbying.
Whatever happened to the specifics and the intended outcome?
Why doesn’t the Integrity Commissioner just ask him?
Click "Read More" for Frank Klees' letter to the Auroran 4 September 2007
People living in bungalows across Newmarket should know that the Town will not object to a new building going up next door which towers over their home, perhaps overlooking their property and casting shadows over it.
The building under construction at 116 Eden Court is 9.7 metres high and looms over its neighbours. There is no dispute about the height of the building – only how the height is measured.
The Town’s Zoning By-law allows 8.5 metres. The applicant says the building is 8.29 metres high. How is it possible to have a disagreement over the height of a building?
9.71 metres vs 8.29 metres. Surely that is a matter of fact?
It’s not so simple.
In an Orwellian twist, the Town says height in this case should not be measured from the finished grade, where the building meets the ground at the front of the building, to the top of the roof. Instead, we are told 116 Eden Court has a pitched roof (though it looks very flat to me) which is measured from the ground to a “ridge” invisible to the eye.
Using this formula, the official top of the roof at 116 Eden Court is 1.42 metres (or 4' 8") below the actual top of the roof that we can all see with our own eyes. My photo shows a man standing on the top of the roof.
The new house looks way too big and too bulky for its immediate surroundings.
The Town’s compatibility policies say:
“Where a new building is being constructed within an established neighbourhood it must be designed, massed and located to respect the predominant context.”
The Town’s planners say:
“The applicant is proposing a two-storey building in a pie shaped lot with a moderate size which respects the general characteristics of the neighbourhood and maintains its compatibity.”
And that the application complies with:
“all applicable zoning standards except for lot coverage.”
Developers now have the green light to buy bungalows across Town and knock them down in the certain knowledge that an application for a new much bigger building, 9.7 metres high, based on the drawings submitted by the applicant at 116 Eden Court, will be approved.
For its part, the Committee of Adjustment is told by the Town it can only rule on the issue of lot coverage, not height.
And as the new building covers only a fraction more of the lot than it should – 31.5% instead of 30% - they allow construction to proceed.
Way to go!
Frank Klees represented Newmarket-Aurora in the Provincial Parliament for 19 years from 1995 – 2014. I’ve blogged about him over the years, most recently over his involvement with Pace Credit Union where he made a mountain of money sourcing and facilitating real estate development projects.
Three years ago Klees told the Globe and Mail:
“As a consultant, my role was to source and facilitate real estate development projects between Pace, land owners and developers/builders… For those services, the parties with whom I had agreements were invoiced by my company for fees commensurate with the services delivered.”
At the time I wrote:
I am left wondering how many real estate development projects Klees facilitated here in Newmarket, if any. I’d love to know.”
I see from this morning’s Globe and Mail that Frank Klees was hired by the Rice Group in 2019-20 to lobby the Ford Government:
“on the economic development opportunities represented by a number of the client’s emerging projects”
What were these “emerging projects”?
The Globe and Mail says
“The contract predated Mr. Rice’s purchase of the land in King Township. Mr. Klees did not return an e-mail seeking comment.
In addition, provincial records also show that a person with the name Michael Rice has donated more than $10,500 to the PC Party since 2018. This individual also donated money to the Liberals in 2018. As well, three donors with the same names as Rice Group executives have given the PC Party thousands of dollars since 2018.”
FordNation posted this encomium about Klees on 14 February 2018:
Longtime MPP and former provincial cabinet minister Frank Klees has announced his support for Doug Ford as the next leader of the Ontario PC Party. “We need a responsible leader that will take a stand on issues that matter to all Ontarians including lowering taxes. Doug is building a coalition of the full spectrum of conservatives strong enough to beat the Wynne Liberals, and principled enough to earn the trust of Ontario voters. He has the experience in both politics and business to put Ontario back on the road to prosperity” says Klees.
Doug is humbled to have his support. “Frank Klees is one of the great architects of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party. His track record as serving our Party for 19 years speaks for itself, and he is someone who worked closely alongside my father during his time at Queen’s Park. He’s someone our members have always looked up to and I am honored to have him in my corner, advising my campaign.”
What precisely did the lobbyist Frank Klees do for Michael Rice?
And for the "principled" Doug Ford?
Update on 29 November 2022: Details of Frank Klees' lobbying activities can be found here. Klees has lobbied on behalf of clients seeking changes to the boundaries of the Greenbelt. He was a consultant lobbyist with Block 21 Developers Group from November 2018 to December 2019, describing his lobbying objectives in this way:
"The client owns lands within the City of Vaughan, adjacent to the planned Kirby GO Station and is seeking an adjustment to the Greenbelt boundary to allow for the said lands to be included in the future growth plans of the Town."
The house under construction at 116 Eden Court in Newmarket which looms over its neighbours does not comply with the Town’s own Zoning By-laws which are supposed to regulate matters such as height and lot coverage.
The issue goes before the Town’s Committee of Adjustment next week (30 November 2022). The Committee has authority to approve developments which do not strictly comply with the Town’s Zoning By-laws so long as these are considered minor and do not offend the Zoning By-law’s general principles.
The Town’s Planning Director, Jason Unger, told Newmarket Today that the house meets the height requirements of the municipal by-law. But does it?
The building is 9.7 metres high when the by-law stipulates a maximum height of 8.5 metres. The applicant says the building is 8.29 metres high. (Photo right)
Roof type is key
The building appears to have a mansard roof. The by-law makes it crystal clear that, for buildings with mansard roofs, height means the vertical distance between the established or finished grade (in shorthand, where the front of the building meets the ground) and
“the highest point of the roof surface or the parapet, whichever is the greater.”
If this is not a mansard roof then what is it?
The by-law puts mansard and flat roofs into the same category and draws a distinction between them and other types of roof where height is measured in a different way.
“With a gabled, hip, gambrel or any other type of pitched roof (height is measured from the established or finished grade to) the mean distance between the eaves and ridge of a roof.”
"The zoning by-law has long included rules that measured height differently depending on whether the roof was flat or pitched.
However, the by-law did not include definitions of how to determine what a flat, pitched, or mansard roof was. This allowed for greater height for new houses that were built with roofs that appeared like flat roofs but included cosmetic sloping elements."
Astonishingly, there is still no definition of a mansard roof in the Town's by-laws.
That said, the report helpfully shows a photo of a house with a mansard roof on page 69 (photo right). It is one of a series of illustrative examples of buildings which either meet or fail to meet the Town’s proposed new standards. It goes on:
“The building height exceeds the maximum permission of 8.5m. The assessment of building height is impacted due to the fact that this development features a mansard roof, as this increases the perception of height and massing. It is treated as a flat roof rather than a pitched roof...” (My underlining for emphasis)
Buildings with these roofs look bigger and bulkier.
"Giant freaking eyesore"
This explains why people in Eden Court feel overwhelmed by their new next-door neighbour. One resident told Newmarket Today:
“I don’t care if it’s to code, it’s a giant, freaking, eyesore.”
The new house also exceeds the maximum lot coverage though only marginally. This was indicated up-front by the applicants when their drawings were submitted to the Town for approval earlier this year. It was waved through by the Town’s Building Control people.
The Director of Planning, Jason Ungar, told Newmarket Today:
“The new by-law did reduce the lot coverage from 35 per cent to 30 per cent, which this new home is violating by covering 31.5 per cent of the lot."
The paper added:
"Unger said a minor variance application is required and will be reviewed by the committee of adjustment."
Height and mass
It seems to me the lot coverage issue is secondary.
It is the height and mass of the new building dominating Eden Court that concerns people.
Clearly, we need the Town's definition of a mansard roof.
Or are we expected to know one when we see one?
The Town spent a huge amount of time and money developing its policies on compatibility to ensure new buildings fit in to established residential neighbourhoods.
We need to know if the Town seriously believes No 116 fits in with its neighbours.
And if it doesn't, what is the remedy?
The Ford Government believes winning 40.8% of the vote on 2 June 2022 - in the lowest turnout ever in an Ontario Provincial election (43.5%) - gives him the mandate to do whatever he wants. But does it?
On 16 November 2022 a former Toronto Mayor, John Sewell, was removed from a Committee meeting at Queen’s Park by uniformed police officers because he complained he and others such as the Association of Municipal Organisations were denied an opportunity to speak on Bill 23: More Homes Built Faster.
NDP MPP Catherine Fife tweeted:
“I’ve never seen anything like this at Queen’s Park.”
Who needs a majority?
The Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy which is considering Bill 23 is also limbering up to examine Bill 39: Better Municipal Governance Act. This controversial Bill will allow the Mayor of Toronto to propose a by-law “which could potentially advance a prescribed Provincial priority” and get it passed “if more than one third of the members of city council vote in favour of the by-law”.
Ford needs a simple majority of the votes at Queen’s Park to legislate. But now the largest City in the Province will be able to pass by-laws opposed by a clear majority of City councillors. The Committee webpage tells me today:
“This committee is not currently holding public hearings related to this matter.”
But, of course, that could change. (See update below)
Highly consequential legislation is being introduced that never appeared in the PC Platform at the election only six months ago. Expect big changes to the Greenbelt.
There used to be a convention that major legislative proposals should be flagged up in Party Platforms. Ford has thrown that one overboard.
Whatever happened to constitutional conventions?
The Ontario Legislative Assembly is responsible for its own procedures and rules but there are conventions which supposedly regulate their use. Because Queen’s Park has the power to legislate for anything and everything within its competence it does not follow that it should. The recent use of the notwithstanding clause is a case in point.
In the UK the convention is for two weekends to elapse between the First Reading of a Bill (ie when it is introduced and ordered to be printed) and when it comes up for debate at Second Reading. This delay is to allow MPs, the press and media and members of the public to familiarise themselves with what is in the Bill and to consult experts and others on the implications. Here everthing is done at breakneck speed.
The Ford Government routinely has second reading debates within a day or two of First Reading. When Bills are sent by the House into Committee for “line by line examination” the result very often is a farce. People are not given adequate notice to allow them to get in a request to speak to MPPs at Committee. Bill 23 provides a classic case study.
More time needed to consult the public
On 10 November 2022 at the end of the evidence session on Bill 23 the NDP MPP Jessica Bell asks the Committee to meet for an extra day to hear from the public.
“We’ve had an unprecedented number of people sign up to speak to us for next week in Toronto, and because the hearings in Toronto are virtual, it means that—it doesn’t just cover Toronto; it covers the entirety of Ontario…
When I look at the list of stakeholders who have signed up to speak, they are people who would be impacted by this sweeping bill; they are people who are experts on the subject matter that this bill impacts. We have AMO. We have provincial stakeholders. We have financial experts. We have a CMHC rep who is looking at speaking. We have a mayor who has signed up to speak as well. We have a responsibility, as MPPs, to make sure that the bills that we introduce and pass are as good as they can be, and that can only happen if we have expert public consultation and we take the time to listen to them and make amendments so that this bill can be improved. It’s just one extra day, and it will allow some additional experts to speak.”
MPP Vijay Thanigasalam explains in his own strangulated and convoluted way why the Progressive Conservatives are going to quash that nonsense:
“We are having adequate time to listen to stakeholders across the region, especially—I want to note that we’re just concluding our second day of these public hearings, and yesterday we had public hearings, on November 9, in the morning from 10 a.m. to 12, and also from 1 p.m. to—we heard stakeholders all the way to how many stakeholders who want to show up. Today is the second day we are going to have—and today is November 10—from morning to the entire day be allocated for public hearings.
However, since we have these adequate times allocated, which are November 9, November 10, November 16, as well as November 17—November 16 and November 17, as I said, moving forward, is going to be a hybrid model. So I feel like this is comprehensive time, adequate time for the public hearings. Therefore, we will not vote in favour of this motion.”
There speaks the ventriloquist's dummy.
Maybe this time Ford has bitten off more than he can chew.
Gordon Prentice 24 November 2022
The Ontario Legislative Assembly helpfully publishes a booklet on-line explaining how an Ontario Bill becomes law. See graphic right. It was written in the pre-Ford era – in August 2011 - and needs to be updated.
Update at 4.35pm on 24 November 2022: on Bill 39: Better Municipal Governance Act 2022: The Committee webpage says this:
The Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy will meet to consider Bill 39, An Act to amend the City of Toronto Act, 2006 and the Municipal Act, 2001 and to enact the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Repeal Act, 2022.
The Committee intends to hold public hearings in Toronto, Ontario on Wednesday, November 30, 2022 and Thursday, December 1, 2022.
Interested people who wish to be considered to make an oral presentation on Bill 39 are required to register by 12:00 p.m. (EST) on Monday, November 28, 2022.
Those who do not wish to make an oral presentation but wish to comment on the bill may send a written submission by 7:00 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, December 1, 2022.