- Written by Gordon Prentice
The report from the Integrity Commissioner on the conduct of the former Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, will likely be tabled at the Ontario Legislature on Monday 25 September 2023 – the first day back after the summer recess.
The Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, is asking the Legislature to reprimand Clark for breaching sections 2 and 3(2) of the Members’ Integrity Act 1994 and specifically for his failure:
“to oversee an important initiative in his ministry which led to some developers being alerted to a potential change in the government’s position on the Greenbelt with the result that their private interests were furthered improperly.”
Wake went on:
“It may seem incredible that Minister Clark would have chosen to stick his head in the sand on such an important initiative being undertaken by his ministry but I believe that was exactly what he did.”
Procedural fancy dancing
MPPs have 30 days to consider and respond to the report. But there is a good chance the Government will try to get it out of the way ASAP with some procedural fancy dancing. We should be on guard for Ford shenanigans.
I want to hear from the evasive Clark himself. I expect him to be contrite, not sullen and resentful at being found out.
A million questions are still crying out for answers.
How often was he briefed on matters by his Chief of Staff, the untrained and unsupervised Ryan Amato? How often did they talk to each other? Every day? Once a week? And what did they talk about? The weather? The hapless fall guy, Ryan Amato, insists he would be vindicated in a fair investigation. In his resignation letter he says:
“I am confident that I have acted appropriately, and that a fair and complete investigation would reach the same conclusion.”
Is that Clark’s view?
What will Clark’s Progressive Conservative colleagues do with the Commissioner’s recommendation? There is a huge PC majority in the Assembly. They can approve it or they can reject it and, either way, that would be the end of the matter. There is no appeal. But people are watching to see which way Ford jumps.
Last report considered 14 years ago
There have been 16 previous reports from the Integrity Commissioner which found contraventions of the Members’ Integrity Act or parliamentary convention.
The full list of all Integrity Commissioner reports is here.
Some, such as the 2018 report on former PC leader, Patrick Brown (who was recommended to be reprimanded) did not proceed as he had left the legislature. Despite the serious nature of his violations of the Act the Teflon coated Brown bounced back to become Mayor of Brampton.
Of the 16 reports only four of these were considered by the Legislative Assembly.
The Four Reports
On 3 July 1997 there was a debate and a motion to refer the report on Allan Leach to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly. The Committee went on to recommend the Legislature adopt the report of the Integrity Commissioner. (Open the page and type “Integrity” into the search box to take you to the debate)
On 2 March 2006, again after a debate, the Assembly carried a motion to approve the Integrity Commissioner’s recommendation on Harinder Takhar. This was the first reprimand ever issued to a Cabinet Minister.
More to come
The twin reports from the Integrity Commissioner and the Auditor General provide the backdrop to the debate I hope to see in the Legislature. But, astonishingly, there is still much more to come out. We wait for a report on Ryan Amato which is currently with the Integrity Commissioner. And Southlake hospital in Newmarket still insists it has no records of the developer, Michael Rice, gifting to it prime agricultural land in the Greenbelt for a new hospital campus. Do they take us all for fools? (We wait the result of appeals to the Information and Privacy Commission.)
Steve Clark’s reprimand (if we get one) will be cold comfort to the tenant farmers on the former Greenbelt lands at Bathurst who are now being evicted to make way for asphalt and concrete and yet more urban sprawl.
Update on 21 September 2023: From the Globe and Mail: Second Cabinet Minister resigns in Greenbelt Scandal. And from the Toronto Star: Doug Ford to face reporters Thursday after second Cabinet Minister resigns. And again from the Star: Khaleed Rasheed, Cabinet Minister in Ford Government, resigns after Greenbelt probe. And from CTV
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The absurd and perverse decision by Doug Ford and the detached former Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, to allow development on ex-Greenbelt land at Bathurst in King (and elsewhere) should be challenged in the Courts. (Photo right: Clown-in-Chief Steve Clark)
I’d like to see York Regional Council do this.
Prime Agricultural Lands
The prime agricultural lands at Bathurst, bought by Michael Rice on 15 September 2022, were never earmarked for development in King’s Official Plan nor York Region’s Official Plan.
It seems to me, M’Lud, that Mr Ford acted unreasonably by allowing Minister Steve Clark’s Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, to decide which Greenbelt lands should be opened-up for development.
Both Ford and the clown, Steve Clark, say they were kept completely in the dark and didn’t know what Amato was doing in their name.
A Judicial Review would allow the Courts to test the reasonableness of the Government’s decision to press ahead with the development of lands removed from the Greenbelt in December 2022.
The Courts will decide whether the actions of the decision makers (in this case the Provincial Government) were, in all the circumstances, “reasonable”. Ontario's guide to Judicial Review says this:
A reasonable decision is “based on internally coherent reasoning” and is justified in light of the facts and law that constrain the decision-maker. Where a decision-maker has provided reasons, those will guide the Court’s review. The reasonableness standard recognizes that there may be more than one reasonable interpretation or more than one reasonable possible result. On this standard, courts will not interfere with decision they consider reasonable, even if the judges themselves might have come to a different decision
When a court applies the reasonableness standard, the person applying for judicial review has to persuade the court that the decision was unreasonable. A court will find that a decision is unreasonable if there are any fatal flaws in its overall logic or if it does not respect the factual and legal constraints on the decision. Those constraints include the evidence, the relevant law, the issues before the court as framed by the parties, the parties’ arguments, past practices, and the effect of the decision.
The Courts will also look at procedural fairness, the nature of the decision being made and the process followed in making it.
The Auditor General tells us that public comments on the proposed removals from the Greenbelt were not considered. That doesn’t sound reasonable to me. The Courts have held that the public should be meaningfully consulted and have input to the policy and legislative process. In this case the public consultation was a complete sham.
And is it reasonable to approve the development of ex-Greenbelt land when no-one knows how the lands are to be serviced and whether any costs will fall on residents of King or Newmarket?
Sidelined. Abandoned. Flawed.
When she released her withering special report on the changes to the Greenbelt on 9 August 2022 the Auditor General said:
“Our review of the procedures used to amend the Greenbelt boundary in 2022 raises serious concerns about the exercise used, the way in which standard information gathering and decision-making protocols were sidelined or abandoned and how changes to the Greenbelt boundaries were unnecessarily rushed through…
We found that the reasoning for the Greenbelt changes was just as flawed as the selection process itself….And, finally, given that both the premier and the housing minister communicated to us that they were unaware that the 2022 pre-selection of Greenbelt lands for removal was biased and flawed, we recommended that the government revisit the particular lands site selections that were made to adjust the Greenbelt boundaries now that it has the benefit of the information contained in this report.”
So the whole exercise was flawed right from the beginning.
And yet Newmarket-Aurora’s MPP, the metronomic Dawn Gallagher Murphy, mindlessly repeats the Ford line:
“The government... requires that new home construction begin on these lands no later than 2025, with significant progress on approvals and implementation achieved by the end of 2023.”
Seems to me that “significant progress” is increasingly unlikely.
There is a whole stack of reasons why York Region should go for a Judicial Review. And without delay.
There's a Council meeting coming up on 28 September 2023.
Go for it.
Elsewhere… On 13 September 2023 the new Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Paul Calandra, asked the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Heritage and Cultural Affairs to take on the work of assessing regional government structures in Durham, Halton, Niagara, Simcoe, Waterloo & York. I'm told that as of today:
At this time the Committee has not determined whether or how to proceed with the Minister’s request.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The latest “Dialogue with Dawn” in Newmarket Today proclaims:
MPP Gallagher Murphy 2nd Annual Community Barbecue
Please mark your calendar and plan to attend my annual community barbecue. Join me for food, music and fun for the whole family at the Riverwalk Commons, 200 Duncan Dr., Newmarket on Sunday, Oct. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m.
Inadvisedly, I posted this comment on the Newmarket Today website late last night:
“Last year’s “free” BBQ and Corn Roast was billed to the taxpayers and cost over $11,000. Our Progressive Conservative MPP has a warped sense of priorities if she believes this blatant self-promotion is an appropriate use of public funds.”
So far, it has generated two “thumbs-ups” from Newmarket Today readers.
Have I seriously misjudged the public mood?
This humbling response tells me either (a) no-one reads Dialogue with Dawn or (b) people rather like the idea of taxpayers’ money being used to pay for “Free” BBQs and Corn Roasts for “hard-working” Ontario families or (c) people can’t be bothered to post comments on stuff like this.
I got a rather better response when I tweeted about the Greenbelt Scandal and how Susan McGovern – a Ford appointee - sat on the Greenbelt Foundation when her brother and husband were actively manoeuvring to remove lands from the said Greenbelt.
My Tweet was viewed an astonishing 25,500 times.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Alan Ho was elected last year as one of four regional councillors representing Markham on York Regional Council.
Personally, I think he is a disgrace.
He is ignorant and talks drivel. He has no self-awareness and, regardless of the subject under consideration, spouts incoherent babble.
Yesterday he offered his scattered thoughts to the Region’s Committee of the Whole on an important report on York Region’s Ongoing Progress on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
I could sense the embarrassment felt by other elected members.
But John Taylor stepped up to the plate and spoke for the overwhelming majority, slapping down Ho's ignorant comments.
"The position that you represented is in an extreme minority."
Click "Read More" below to read the exchange.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Frank Klees, the former Progressive Conservative MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, is a friend of the developer Michael Rice who purchased 687 acres of Greenbelt land at Bathurst in King for $80M on 15 September 2022. The lands are now open for development. (Photo right)
Klees, an ex-Cabinet Minister turned consultant lobbyist, worked under contract for the Rice Group from 8 October 2019 – 11 September 2020. He had previously lobbied for changes to the boundaries of the Greenbelt.
What are you attempting to influence?
The Lobbyist Register required Klees to describe his lobbying goal(s) in detail in respect of the Rice Group. It asked:
“What are you attempting to influence or accomplish as a result of your communications with Ontario public office holders?”
Klees replied in his Delphic way:
“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.”
Clear as mud.
What were these emerging projects? Klees refuses to say.
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? In the Klees case, the “emerging projects” should have been clearly itemised.
Klees’ answer as it stands is entirely meaningless. And if the object of the Register is to promote transparency then it is clearly failing.
Frank Klees is family friend of Michael Rice. (Photo right)
On 2 June 2009 Klees spoke in the Legislature welcoming the family to Queen’s Park:
“I am honoured to introduce family members of James Albert Rice, who are in the House with me today. I will have the honour of paying tribute to Jim Rice later on in the proceedings.
Present with us are Mary Rice, his widow, Doris MacDonald, Douglas MacDonald, Bobby MacDonald, Barb Collins, Aaron Collins, Patty Rice, Joe Pfaff, Jimmy Rice, Susan McGovern, John McGovern, Euston McGovern, Conrad McGovern, Parker McGovern, Michael Rice, Martha Rice, Theresa Davis and Matthew Rice. I would ask that we welcome them warmly to the Legislature.”
Klees then delivered an encomium to Jim Rice who founded his construction company in York Region. Klees closed saying this:
I am honoured, as a member of this Legislature and as a friend of James Albert Rice and his family, to invoke the recognition of all members of the Legislature of this great Canadian for his spirit of giving to his family, to his employees and to his community. May that spirit inspire us all.”
Clearly, Frank Klees is close to the Rice family. Then and now.
Lobbying Register inadequate
The Auditor General’s special report on changes to the Greenbelt described lobbying as
“a practice available to those who have the means to fund it and who know how to contact politicians or their political public service staff. The private interests that lobbyists are paid to advance can be at odds with the public’s interest. Thus, lobbying has the potential to influence government to make decisions that do not represent the interests of the majority.
Although it is a driver of political change and has always been part of Canadian politics, lobbying is closely related to patronage (the exchange of personal gifts or favours) and carries with it the potential for conflict of interest. Therefore, it is usually closely scrutinized and regulated.”
Klees' entry in the Lobbyist Register tells us absolutely nothing about what he got up to on behalf of the Rice Group. We are given vague generalities and nothing more - just the way the insidious network of developers and PC politicians like it.
The Lobbyist Register, as it currently stands, is woefully inadequate and not fit for purpose.
more on Frank Klees.
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