Newmarket’s Southlake Hospital today finds itself at the centre of a major Globe and Mail investigation focussed on the head of its Emergency Department, Dr Marko Duic. 

The double-page spread by journalist Wendy Glauser highlights concerns about Dr Duic’s hiring and billing practices. He allegedly failed to hire any female doctors in 16 years.

We learn that within months of Dr Duic taking over as Head of the Emergency Department in 2011, an open letter was signed by 14 doctors alleging bullying, coercion and intimidation of physicians.

The paper says it spoke to 18 physicians who worked under Dr Duic and another eight who were aware of concerns about his leadership:

“Nearly all the doctors said Dr Duic is infamous for only hiring men. Some also raised concerns about his billing practices alleging Dr Duic encouraged his staff to sign forms recommending driver’s licences be taken away from patients, even when the measure wasn’t warranted, as a way to boost billings.”

The Globe and Mail quotes doctors who worked with Dr Duic who say he encouraged the overuse of Ministry of Transportation forms which should be used when a patient is not fit to drive. These often lead to a driver’s licence being suspended or revoked. The signing doctor gets $35 per form.

Boosting billing income

The exposé alleges Dr Duic also encouraged doctors to increase their use of psychiatric forms which are used to commit a patient to hospital involuntarily for up to 72 hours. This is done when doctors believe the patient is at risk to themselves or others because of a psychiatric issue. This nets the signing doctor $105.

The suggestion is that this was done to boost billing income.

The Globe and Mail says:

“Several doctors interviewed think part of the reason Southlake administration hasn’t acted upon complaints is that Dr Duic brings in significant money in performance bonuses, paid by the Ministry of Health. For 2017-18 Southlake Hospital received $2.5 million based on how quickly patients are seen in emergency and how short their stay is.”

Southlake is, of course, no stranger to controversy. In 2015 virtually the entire Southlake Foundation Board resigned in circumstances that remain opaque to this day.

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Who believes anything Doug Ford says about protecting the Greenbelt?  

Doug Ford promising developers a "big chunk" of the Greenbelt

During the election campaign he was caught on camera telling developers he would allow them to build on a “big chunk” of the Greenbelt.

Full of contrition, he dropped his “reckless promise” 24 hours after the incriminating video went viral.

He then promised to

“Increase the supply of affordable housing across the GTA while protecting the Greenbelt in its entirety.

And now we have Bill 66 from the snake oil salesman in chief, Doug Ford.

It doesn't protect the Greenbelt in its entirety.

What are Christine Elliott's views on Bill 66? 

Full of indignation about the duplicity I write to Christine Elliott, who is Ford’s Deputy Leader and who happens to be my own MPP. I don’t know if she will bother to reply. I doubt it. Her track record in replying to constituents is pitiful.  

This is what I said to Ms Elliott:

"You are my MPP and I am writing to express my deep misgivings about Bill 66 which could open up the Greenbelt to development. I am also concerned that our clean water laws – so important after Walkerton - could be subverted.

I hope you will now take the time to address the points I make here on Bill 66.

In the riding of Newmarket-Aurora we are surrounded by the Greenbelt and we sit in the middle of an area policed and protected by the Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority.

Leading members of the Canadian Environmental Law Association tell us Bill 66 

“constitutes the biggest and most significant environmental rollback to occur in a generation in Ontario.”

The authors say the Government

“appears to have undertaken no meaningful pre-consultations with interested stakeholders prior to suddenly releasing Bill 66 on the final day of the fall legislative session.”

Would it be possible for you to let me have details of any consultations to date? 

I have copied the CELA comments at the end of this email for ease of reference.

You have spoken previously on Greenbelt and environmental protection issues at Queen’s Park. On 22 September 2008 during the second reading debate on the Lake Simcoe Protection Act you said you understood the purpose of greenbelt legislation but:

“the fact remains that there are many individual property rights that were not protected as a result of that. Nobody questions the need for the greenbelt, nobody is opposed to the idea of green space, but I think there has to be the science behind it, and there has to be the rationalization of those areas that are chosen for the greenbelt.”

How does Bill 66 propose to rationalise the Greenbelt? Is it still your view that individual property rights are affected by Greenbelt legislation and, if so, in what way?

On the Bill’s third reading on 1 December 2008 you said an important goal of the Lake Simcoe legislation was to protect the water supply for future generations. In the light of the comments made by the CELA can you explain how Bill 66 will maintain all current clean water safeguards?

And what is the purpose of repealing the Toxics Reduction Act?

I hope to receive a timely reply from you on the matters I raise."

Environmental lawyers are outraged

The Canadian Environmental Law Association has now made its views crystal clear.

Theresa McClenaghan and Richard D. Lindgren, Executive Director and Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association posted this on the CELA website on December 7, 2018. 

Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority Area

The latest – and highly alarming – rollbacks proposed by the Ontario government are set out in Bill 66, which was introduced for First Reading yesterday. In our view, Bill 66 – together with the above-noted Bills – constitutes the biggest and most significant environmental rollback to occur in a generation in Ontario.

To our knowledge, the Ontario government appears to have undertaken no meaningful pre-consultations with interested stakeholders prior to suddenly releasing Bill 66 on the final day of the fall legislative session.

We further note that Bill 66 has been rationalized by the provincial government on the basis that it contains “30 actions” that will eliminate “red tape and burdensome regulations,” and will enable businesses to create “good jobs.”

Among other things, these proposed legislative actions include:

·       Repealing the Toxics Reduction Act and its implementing regulations, which presently require large industries to develop plans to reduce the use or generation of toxic substances within their production processes; and

·       Amending the Planning Act to enable municipalities to pass “open-for-business” zoning by-laws that do not have to comply with prescribed provisions in the Clean Water ActGreenbelt Act, 2005, Great Lakes Protection Act, Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001, Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 and other provincial statutes.

In our view, the attempt in Bill 66 to oust the application of section 39 of the Clean Water Act to “open-for-business” zoning by-laws is particularly objectionable and risk-laden. This section is not an obscure procedural provision buried in the Act; instead, it is the key operative provision that requires land use planning decisions to protect drinking water safety and the health of the people of Ontario.

As a matter of law, section 39 of the Clean Water Act currently requires all Planning Act decisions to conform to policies in approved source protection plans that address significant drinking water threats prescribed by the Clean Water Act(e.g. landfills, sewage systems, and the storage or handling of fuel, fertilizers, manure, pesticides, road salt, organic solvents and other substances on lands near wells or surface water intake pipes used by municipal drinking water systems). In our view, this important provision must remain applicable to all municipal planning and zoning decisions in order to protect public health and safety.

More generally, CELA finds that the unjustifiable content of Bill 66, and the erroneous “red tape” language used by the government to describe the Bill’s legislative intent, is highly reminiscent of the dangerous deregulation agenda that was carried out by the Ontario government prior to the Walkerton drinking water tragedy in 2000.

On this point, we note that Mr. Justice O’Connor’s report on the Walkerton Inquiry identified overzealous provincial deregulation, budget cuts and staffing reductions as major contributing factors that resulted in the deaths of seven persons (and serious illnesses in thousands of other residents) after drinking contaminated municipal tap water.

Significantly, the Clean Water Act was one of the statutes passed by the Ontario Legislature in response to Mr. Justice O’Connor’s recommendations, and the Act is intended to prevent the recurrence of the Walkerton Tragedy elsewhere in the province. Accordingly, we conclude that Bill 66’s attempt to constrain the application of the Clean Water Act does not represent sound public policy, and must be immediately withdrawn by the Ontario government.

CELA is extremely disappointed to see that the lessons from the Walkerton Tragedy are being discounted or ignored by the current Ontario government. We therefore anticipate working closely with our environmental, public health and social justice colleagues to vigorously oppose Bill 66 when the Legislature resumes sitting in February 2019.

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Over the summer the car park and play area of the Canadian Martyr’s Catholic Elementary School in London Road, Newmarket was dug up and reconstructed. 

The work began the first work day after the school closed in June and ended just a day before school reopened in September. 

The School car park (on the right) is only yards from neighbouring properties. 

In August the contractor, Joe Peluso, brought in heavy equipment to pound down the aggregates sending vibration shock waves through adjacent properties in Harrison Drive – where I live. Our homes are only a few yards from the property line.

One resident spoke of pots and pans dancing about on the stove top. In my house, china rattled and tinkled. One neighbour called the police. Cracks appeared in garage walls that weren’t there before. A 35,000 gallon swimming pool a few yards from the property line we are told started losing water.

We took our concerns about vibration and damage to the York Catholic District School Board.

Damage caused by vibration

We wanted the Board to commission jointly with the residents a structural engineer to inspect our properties for damage caused by the vibration. The school Board would pay the lion’s share and the residents – as wholly innocent third parties - would pay a nominal sum.

The School Board wasn’t having any of that nonsense. They told the residents they should claim for any damage through their own insurance policies (always assuming they had appropriate cover). It was their problem. Not the Board’s.

In 2014 the Town resurfaced Harrison Drive and to its credit told residents what was happening where and when. There was a phone number with an engineer on the other end of the line. Residents could have their properties photographed to facilitate any claims for property damage arising from the construction work. 

At no stage did the School Board inform or consult Harrison Drive residents about the planned work and what they could expect. 

Vibration by-law needed

Tomorrow, the Town’s Committee of the Whole will be reviewing its forward work programme and I see councillors will be considering this very issue: property damage from vibration arising from construction.

I hope Harrison Drive will be used as a case study. 

Cracks are everywhere. 

The York Catholic District School Board is washing its hands of the problem. They say residents should claim against their own insurance policies, forfeiting their no claims record and paying deductibles. And, remember, the residents are wholly innocent third parties.

I want to see a new by-law compelling the York Catholic District School Board and anyone else involved in construction to adopt protocols informing residents of planned construction work and what they can expect. And to pick up the tab for any damage.

It is not just the residents of Harrison Drive who are being put through the wringer. Earlier this year a Newmarket resident, Stuart Hoffman, took a deputation to Council complaining about vibration damage caused by construction. He forced the issue on to the Council’s agenda. 

Good for him.

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The Town’s forward work program says this report is scheduled to be considering in the first quarter of 2019:

  1. That Council approve the following motion in principle: 
  2. That staff be directed to prepare an information document that can be provided to residents in the vicinity of new construction sites, the purpose of which is to advise and to communicate to the residents, the various activities, potential impacts and expected timelines associated with each phase of construction, from site clearing through to house construction; and, 
  3. That developers, through their consulting engineers, be required to ensure that residents, and the relevant Ward Councillor, in adjacent areas receive advance written notice of construction events to take place, so that they can be better informed and prepared for any disruption that may occur as a result; and, 
  4. That the aforementioned motions be referred to staff for a report back including options and resource requirements. 

This afternoon a jury in the Superior Court of Justice in Newmarket found, as a fact, that Magna’s Steve Hinder punched Anthony Pullano in the chest at Jane Twinney’s acclamation meeting in Aurora on the evening of 20 March 2014. 

Hinder punched Pullano and lied through his teeth about it but is now laughing all the way to the bank.

Hinder said throughout there was no physical contact with Pullano other than a handshake. Under oath he swore this to be true.

Hinder consistently lied.

The jury also found as a fact that the blow to Pullano’s chest did not cause any injury. The infection of Pullano’s ICD which had to be removed was not caused by the punch but by other factors. For this reason the jury did not award Pullano damages.

Reputational damage

Hinder’s counterclaim for defamation succeeded and he was awarded general damages of $50,000 for loss of reputation. It was Pullano's firestorm of tweets that did it.

Pullano will also have to pay costs.

Those who have heard Hinder refer to people of Italian heritage as WOPs are entitled to be astonished that his counterclaim for defamation succeeded. 

Fred Rankel - a witness called by Pullano - said he was present when he heard Hinder tell former Aurora Mayor Tim Jones that they’d have to roll up the tents and leave town if the WOPs got elected. The Judge ruled that Fred Rankel’s evidence was inadmissible as it would be severely prejudicial to the defence. It was never put to the jury.

What happens next?

Pullano has established that Hinder punched him, ergo Hinder lied. The witnesses called by Hinder were mistaken.

It seems to me that Pullano should probably put a line under this and get on with the rest of his life. But who knows? 

Hinder’s punch and all the humiliations Pullano endured have consumed him for four years. 

He also has to find a mountain of cash to pay Hinder’s defamation damages and his legal costs which will be submitted to the Court by 31 January 2019.

An appeal may be possible on the basis of a “perverse verdict” – Hinder punches Pullano but it costs him nothing. Not even a token dollar.

Is this justice?

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This morning the Judge in Pullano v Hinder told the jury he should not have allowed counsel for both parties to give a range for the sums to be awarded in damages. 

This is true for Pullano (who is claiming damages for pain and suffering etc) and Hinder (who is claiming damages for defamation).

Mr Justice McCarthy tells the jury:

“Your trial judge made a mistake. (Counsel are) entitled to give ranges for general damages but are not entitled to give ranges for aggravated, punitive, exemplary and defamation damages. It was entirely my fault.”

Pullano’s lawyer, William Reid, again raises the issue of battery.

The Judge has not instructed the jury on the law of battery which is the charge they have to consider.

Personally, I think this is a very big issue.

Jurors need to know what constitutes the tort of battery.

And they've not been told.

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