Paul Calandra, the new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, endlessly repeats the line:

"We made a public policy decision that was not supported by the people of the Province of Ontario."

What weasel words these are.

The people were never consulted.

In the provincial election on 2 June 2022, the people were never asked if they wanted the Greenbelt to be opened-up for development.

It should have been the centrepiece of the Progressive Conservative platform but it wasn't there. 

Ford never had a mandate to remove lands from the Greenbelt.

The fact that he has a majority of seats in the Legislature doesn't change that fact.

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Backstory: King’s Mayor Steve Pellegrini says he has been searching for a suitable site for a second Southlake for years. 

“I have been moving this idea forward since 2019—on different lands, with different landowners.”

Two simple questions. Where are these different lands? Who are these different landowners? I was hoping to get the answers from the Township Clerk, Denny Timm, by 6 November 2023. He says the Mayor has discovered two records that appear to be "responsive".

He tells me these will now be released to me after 6 December 2023 – so long as the third party (who has to be consulted first) doesn't object. If so, it goes to appeal.

Why don't they just ask him?

My Freedom of Information request was filed with King Township back at the dawn of time, on 2 February 2023. At first I was told there were no responsive records. I appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner and now there are records. Magic.

Throughout this long drawn-out saga - with so much press commentary and so much at stake - I find it astonishing that no-one on King Council has apparently asked Pellegrini who the mystery landowner is. Why don’t they just ask him?

John Dunlap

I’ve long believed the mystery man is King landowner and land agent John Dunlap who served on the Southlake Board for four years until September 2022. He facilitated the sale of the Schickedanz lands at Bathurst to Michael Rice. (The Rice Group's portfolio is here.)

No hospital

We now know from his evidence to the Integrity Commissioner that, on 27 or 28 September 2022, Michael Rice handed over a bundle of material to Steve Clark’s former Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, giving reasons why his Bathurst lands should be removed from the Greenbelt’s protected countryside. Rice proposed new housing but there was no mention of a second Southlake

Just three weeks later, on 17 October 2022, Rice had a pre-meeting “on hospital expansion” with Pellegrini and King’s Director of Growth Management, the tight-lipped Stephen Naylor. This was to get their ducks in a row before the consequential meeting on 1 November 2022 with Southlake’s Arden Krystal when Rice offered land for a new hospital for a peppercorn. 

What happened at that pre-meeting on hospital expansion? What on earth did they get to talk about?


Did Rice tell them he now had reason to believe his Bathurst lands would be removed from the Greenbelt? And that his preference would be 100% housing with no hospital. But did he then reassure them he wasn’t going to let them down? He was going to stick with his commitment to provide land for a second Southlake.

The Integrity Commissioner wrote in paragraph 290 of his report:

Mr. Rice explained that if he had known in the summer of 2022 that the King Township property would be removed from the Greenbelt, he would not have entered into the discussions about using part of this particular site for the hospital. However, he told me that given his earlier discussions, he is “committed” and “sticking to it” with respect to making land available for the hospital. 

Did Rice let Pellegrini and Naylor into his thinking? 

Slanderous allegation

Pellegrini insists he had no prior knowledge of the Province’s plans to open up the Greenbelt for development. On 1 February 2023 he demanded an apology from the Official Opposition at Queen's Park for their “slanderous” allegation.

Elsewhere... We have had some movement from Southlake but there is more to come out.

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Andrew Rawnsley, the Chief Political Commentator of the UK's Observer newspaper, wrote this weekend:

"If a government looks bad from the outside, it will be twice as rotten on the inside. I've found this a reliable rule of thumb over the years."

He was writing about the damagingly incompetent and chaotic premiership of Boris Johnson.

But his words could equally apply to Doug Ford, a master of sophistry, who has thrown all the rules of good governance overboard. 

Ford says with a straight face that he has been cleared by the Auditor General and the Integrity Commissioner.

He conveniently forgets what he said at important meetings.

Scandalously, he refuses to put to the vote in the Legislature the Integrity Commissioner's recommendation to reprimand the disgraced ex Minister Steve Clark.

When did that ever become OK?

Here is the Toronto Star editorial of 3 November 2023 commenting on Ford's press conference on 31 October 2023.

It is Ford at his most shameless.

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Premier Doug Ford claims ignorance in land use debacle. Documents seem to tell a different story

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has put himself in a disgraceful position.

His only apparent defence against allegations of corruption on recent land use decisions is to claim profound ignorance of key decisions on his government’s number one priority, decisions that attracted publicity, debate and significant opposition.

Documents released this week under freedom of information legislation suggest that, as with his government’s actions on an aborted Greenbelt reopening, political staff ignored standard processes in order to override official plans and impose boundary changes on Ontario municipalities, a move also since reversed.

But with numerous comments in the emails and other internal communications to the wishes and orders of the “PO,” a reference to the premier’s office, the documents appear to take the scandal for the first time into Ford’s office.

“PO wants this done,” said one. “po has asked me for a picture to make sure (a certain property is) captured,” said another. Last-minute changes to Peel Region’s official plan came “from someone at PO,” said another.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said the documents released by the advocacy groups Ecojustice and Environmental Defence suggest Ford was clearly “looped in” on the decision-making.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said it’s “abundantly clear that all roads lead to the premier’s office.”

“The Ford government has given developers the inside track to decision making,” he said. “There are deals taking place behind closed doors designed to benefit a handful of wealthy, well-connected insiders.”

Just as the Greenbelt changes stood to hand some developers billions of dollars in profits, the municipal changes last November favoured some developers and made their land more valuable because housing could be built on it.

Ford continues to maintain that he had no knowledge of what was going on. “I don’t even know which lands you’re talking about,” he told reporters this week.

That despite the fact this is the most critical issue facing his government and the document release had received wide coverage.

He insisted he couldn’t recall the “thousands of changes” made to cities’ official plans to free up more land for housing. “There’s no one person that can review every single change.”

To date, the botched initiative has been written off as staffers running amok under an inattentive minister.

 Ford’s office appears to hope that reversing the egregious decisions and the departure of a few ministers and political staff involved will be enough to let them ride out the controversy.

But this issue will not be going away any time soon.

Fraser properly said that the premier needs to waive cabinet privilege — which saw great portions of the documents released Tuesday blacked out — and that the RCMP Greenbelt investigation must be expanded to cover the changes to municipal boundaries.

At a rambling news conference Tuesday in Etobicoke, the premier indulged in a carnival of deflection, distraction, evasion, offering up a veritable caricature of political stone-walling.

He talked about the double-double and egg sandwich he had at Tim’s. He announced an extended gas tax cuts. He denounced the federal carbon tax. He demanded the end of bike lanes on Bloor Street West. Some of his comments would have been laughable if they weren’t so palpably hypocritical.

“Every dollar counts,” Ford said with a straight face, even as his land-use chaos promises to end up costing plenty.

For instance, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra has already said municipalities would be compensated for any costs incurred as a result of the previous amendments to their official plans.

Ford needs to understand that while the serious matter of land use abuses remains unresolved, the folksy everyman act won’t cut it.

Until this reeking matter is explained, nothing he says on anything will have much credibility.


The developer Michael Rice commissioned GEI Consultants Ltd. to provide an environmental and servicing feasibility assessment for the Greenbelt lands at Bathurst in King which he purchased on 15 September 2022. 

Rice passed the information on to Ryan Amato, the then Chief of Staff to Steve Clark, at a meeting in Rice’s office in Markham on either 27 or 28 September 2022.

The consultants say they have outlined a high-level overview strategy… 

“for assessing properties currently within the Greenbelt Plan Area, to identify those properties where opportunities to refine and/or remove the existing Greenbelt Planning Area designations.”

They talk about having access to full municipal water and wastewater services “in the 1 to 3 year time horizon” which sounds rather optimistic to me. I am sure the Town of Newmarket will have something to say about that.

Newmarket has been wrestling with servicing and capacity issues for as long as I can remember. These issues are not of the Town’s own making.

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Click “read more” below to read the Feasibility assessment.

Update on 31 October from the Toronto Star: Doug Ford insists he had nothing to do with the Greenbelt changes. And from the Globe and Mail: Doug Ford's Office was involved in municipal lands decision

See also: Township of King Official Plan September 2019

The latest tranche of Freedom of Information files from EcoJustice exposes the internal wiring of Government as never before. 

Astonishing as it may seem, as late as 15 November 2022, senior officials in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing were completely unaware that parts of the Bathurst lands in King, owned by the developer Michael Rice, were to be gifted to Southlake for a new acute hospital. (Photo: Ford blusters in Legislature this morning)

A package of materials relating to the proposed development of the Bathurst lands was given to Ryan Amato by Michael Rice on 27 or 28 September 2022. It made no mention of the hospital. Why not? Was Rice planning to gift land to Southlake elsewhere? If so, where was this other site?

First anniversary

Tomorrow (1 November 2023) is the first anniversary of the meeting at King Municipal Centre when developer Michael Rice offered land to Southlake Chief Executive Arden Krystal for a new hospital in the protected countryside of the Greenbelt in King at Bathurst.

King’s Mayor Steve Pellegrini - who cannot be relied upon to tell the truth - says he has been searching for a suitable site for a new Southlake for years. 

“ I have been moving this idea forward since 2019—on different lands, with different landowners.”

Two simple questions. Where are these different lands? Who are these different landowners? I am hoping to get the answers from the Township Clerk, Denny Timm, by 6 November 2023.

Knock on the door

The Toronto Star tells us the RCMP are now starting to interview people in connection with their criminal investigation into the Greenbelt Scandal. 

Those involved in this drama should tell us what they know now rather than wait for the inevitable knock on the door.

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Click "read more" for email exchanges between senior officials concerning the second Southlake in King, released yesterday by Environmental Defence and EcoJustice. Access the EcoJustice FoI material here.

From TVO: Zoning Orders given to guests at Ford family wedding

Update on 31 October 2023: From Newmarket Today "Released documents reveal more secrets on Greenbelt boundary scandal"