I was surprised to see our MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, tweeting about fire hazards while surrounded by leafy vegetation which could easily harbour black legged ticks, always ready to pounce when they see bare skin. They carry Lyme disease which, in rare instances, can result in death. 

As a Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health I thought Dawn would be alive to the risks of wandering into the woods when dressed for the beach. 

The health experts tell us we can protect ourselves by 

“wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants tucked into your socks, and closed-toed shoes.”

I learn that most symptoms of Lyme disease in humans usually appear between 3 and 30 days after a bite from an infected blacklegged tick. There is a painfully long list of symptoms which includes headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pains, fatigue, spasms, numbness or tingling and, frighteningly, facial paralysis.

Lyme Disease is spreading

Dawn did her piece to camera in the Township of McMurrich and Monteith which lies within the North Bay Parry Sound Health District east of the town of Parry Sound and west of Huntsville.

The Health District up there says twelve human cases of Lyme disease have been reported to them in the last five years.

“As of July 26, 2023, 99 ticks have been sent for identification. Ninety one results received, with 42 as blacklegged and one as ixodes kingi. Thirty-seven have tested negative for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.”

I like the sound of all those negative tests but, unfortunately, in recent years the areas affected by black legged ticks have been relentlessly expanding. 

3,000 cases since 2021

Infected blacklegged ticks can be found across the province. And I read there have been over 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in Ontario since 2021. Oh dear! 

We need Dawn to stay healthy so she can continue to warn us about the perils we face in our daily lives – and to thank, on our behalf, all those who keep us safe.

The last thing I want is for Dawn to wake up with a stiff neck, feeling fatigued.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The Big Audit

The Province announced earlier today that Newmarket’s finances will be audited by the accountancy firm, Ernst & Young LLP,

“as part of its ongoing work to build 1.5 million homes by 2031”.

We are told the findings - which will examine the books of five other municipalities - will support the Province’s work to boost housing supply and affordability.

But what does Doug Ford mean by affordable housing?

Definition of housing affordability

The Province used to define maximum housing affordability (as set out in the Provincial Policy Statement 2020) as 30% of the gross household income for households with incomes in the lowest 60% of income distribution. York Region explains it this way:

“This is the maximum house price that the lowest earning 60% of households can afford to purchase, assuming that 30% of household income is spent on mortgage payments, mortgage insurance and property taxes.”

York Region’s annual household income at the sixth decile was a very substantial $150,426 which translates into a maximum affordable house price of $564,326. The chart shows the selling price of various housing types in 2022 within York Region and not a single category is affordable for a household on an annual income of $150,426!

Alice in Wonderland

We are now in the Alice and Wonderland situation where the Province is proposing a new Provincial Planning statement to replace the 2020 version but the new one doesn’t define what is meant by affordable housing. In fact, it makes no mention of affordable housing.

Instead Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster) introduces a new vague definition of  housing affordability which is to be 80% of the average purchase price of a home. 

In 2022, 80% of the average price of a single detached house in York Region would be $1,381,074; for a semi-detached $958,476; for a townhouse $903,513 and for all housing types $1,112,264.

And this when the average Affordable Housing Threshold is $564,326.

How will the average be calculated?

The Regional Treasurer, Laura Mirabella, told members of the Regional Council in December last year that Bill 23 does not define how the average will be calculated. She expects the definition to come in 2023. Will the average be calculated using sale prices by Region? Or, more narrowly, on a municipality-by-municipality basis? Or even on a Province-wide basis?

“It is completely unclear how “average” will be defined. But, yes, if the purchase price of affordable ownership housing new-builds is deemed to be 80% of whatever that average purchase price is, there would be a full exemption which would be a significant loss in development charge revenue for us.”

Developers building “affordable housing” will now be eligible for a waiver on development charges which are paid to the municipality and are used to build the roads, sewers and so on that are needed to support new developments and make them viable.

Task Force

Ludicrously, the Government relies on the recommendations of the Housing Affordability Task Force which calls on the Province to 

“Develop and legislate a clear, province-wide definition of “affordable housing” to create certainty and predictability.” 

Where is the definition?

It may be staring me in the face but I can’t see it.

Target plucked out of thin air

Newmarket has been given a target of 12,000 new homes by 2031. This figure has been plucked out of thin air. I have no idea where it came from. And, in any event, it is totally unrealistic as the Town has no room to expand outwards. 

If there is an answer it is to increase density along the main corridors, Yonge and Davis, already identified for growth. But even so, 12,000 new units is a staggering number. 

I’ll believe it when I see it.

As we all know Ford makes it up as he goes along.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Update on 27 July 2023: From Newmarket Today: Province names auditor to examine Newmarket finances and from the Toronto Star: Poll finds a majority of Ontarians believe Ford takes decisions which benefit friends

Update on 28 July 2023: From the Toronto Star: Auditing City's books doesn't add up

My friend Kevin passed on this email exchange he had with Dawn Gallagher Murphy’s Office yesterday. He thinks it deserves wider publicity and I agree.

People can't sit on the fence on this issue. Nurses' pay is being deliberately held down. And the Ford Government is turning to agency nursing where costs are going through the roof. 

As Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health, our local MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, has done absolutely nothing to ensure nurses get a fair deal.

24 July 2023: 7.54am:

Good morning Dawn. 

I wonder if you have read The Globe and Mail article on the use of agency nurses in Ontario hospitals?  Do you have any thoughts on the cost of agency nursing?


Kevin Shackleton 

24 July 2023: 10.32am

MPP Gallagher Murphy noted your email this morning (24 July 2023) and asked that I provide some background on what our government is doing to address this situation.

Indeed, the proportion of agency nurses has decreased from 3.8 % in 2017 and remains under 2% of total hours worked in hospitals. As a result, we have launched the largest healthcare recruiting and training initiative in the province’s history. We also launched the “Learn and Stay” grant for nursing graduates to receive full tuition reimbursement in exchange for committing to practice in an underserved community.

Between 2018 and March 2023, over 60,000 new nurses have registered to work in Ontario. This includes over 12,000 new nurses registered and ready to work on 2022 , a record year for Ontario.

Ontario is also investing a total of $80 million over 3 years, starting in 2023-24, to further expand nursing education in universities and colleges by increasing enrolment by 1,000 registered nurses, 500 practical nurses and 150 nurse practitioner seats.

This also includes new initiatives to make it easier for foreign credentialed health workers to work in Ontario hospitals and other healthcare settings in need of staffing report.

Our government will continue to work with the healthcare sector to ensure Ontarians can continue to count on the care the need and deserve.

With all these initiatives in place we are confident that the nursing situation will continue to improve in Ontario.

I trust this helps you to better understand what our government is doing to address this important issue.

Best regards, 

Dennis C. Flaherty

24 July 2023: 11.11am

Good morning Dennis.

Thank you for your rapid response to my email.  Your comments seem to come straight from the communications person in the Deputy Premier's office, who also happens to be Minister of Health.  The article indicated that 78 hospitals are using agency nurses up from 31 in 2020-21.  It also indicated that the cost of agency nurses had ballooned 341 percent from 2020-21.  The average nurse in a hospital setting is paid $49.02 an hour while agency nurses can cost as much as $250.00 an hour.  

It seems to me that a conservative government would look at this situation and realize it is not getting value for money and pay nurses under contract a better wage.  Your comments do not address the issues raised in the article and the Ontario Nursing Association disagrees with the government's figures.

Yours truly,

Kevin Shackleton

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Arbitration Panel's Report quotes figures from Ontario’s participating hospitals:

"In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the Participating Hospitals reported spending $38,350,956 on agency nurses, in 2021-2022, $70,978,158 and in 2022-2023, $173,669,808 (with the numbers for 2022-2023 probably an undercount for reasons explained in the Ontario Nursing Association brief, reply brief and at the hearing). 

Agency hours grew from 449,608 in 2020-2021, to 1,183,358 in 2022-2023 (or, according to the Oontario Hospitals Association, 1,259,183).”

In the video below we can see thousands of nurses protesting in Toronto on Thursday 2 March 2023: 

Click below for Globe and Mail article:

Our local MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, is a Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health.

For this she gets a top-up to her MPP’s salary of over 14%.

Before being appointed by Ford as the PC candidate for Newmarket-Aurora Dawn Gallagher Murphy was invisible. Now she is absolutely everywhere. She is on Twitter and Facebook and every week she is smiling at us from our local on-line newspapers, posting happy ads, wishing us all well. When she is not opening things she is congratulating people. She is omnipresent.


So I am waiting to see if she will say anything about the arbitration award that gives nurses, on average, a pay rise of 11% over two years.

When she was elected last year she said Southlake would be her number one priority but, since then, she's had nothing to say about nurses' pay and the fact that it has been capped at a 1% increase for the past three years.

Today we learned an Arbitration Panel had found in the nurses’ favour.

The Toronto Star reminds us that an Ontario court found Bill 124 unconstitutional late last year, but the government appealed.

“Even though that ruling is under appeal, the nurses were able to go back to the arbitrator to secure additional wages for 2020-2022 under the previous contract, since the contracts were subject to reopening if Bill 124 was repealed or declared invalid.”

Righting Past Wrongs. 

The President of the Ontario Nurses Association, Erin Ariss, RN, says:

“This decision is a first step to righting past wrongs, and bringing hospitals nurses’ compensation up to where it should be. In his decision, Arbitrator Kaplan explicitly recognizes that improving wages is among the best ways to recruit and retain desperately needed nurses and begin to fix the nursing shortage. ONA members have been organizing across the province to push for better wages to improve staffing and patient care. This time, we were heard.”

Dawn says Nurses keep us safe 

In May, during National Nursing Week, an excited Gallagher Murphy posted this gushing video on Twitter thanking the nurses for what they do for us:

DGM: Dawn Gallagher Murphy here, your MPP for Newmarket Aurora. And happy National Nursing Week!

Nursing week is May 8th until May 14th and this year’s theme is:

“Our nurses. Our future”

and I'm so excited to be sitting here with my dear friend and constituent, Ruth. And Ruth is a nurse. Nurses come in all kinds of forms. They work in our hospitals. In long term care. In our community. They work to take care of us and they help us in our health care to ensure that we are safe.

And I just wanted to ask Ruth what made you want to become a nurse?

Ruth: Really I just like helping people.

DGM: That to me says it all. So everybody thank you nurse. Because I'm thanking Ruth for everything she does to take care of us.

Ruth deserves her pay rise

Personally, I think Dawn should thank Ruth by telling her she welcomes the decision of the arbitration panel. Ruth deserves a pay rise.

Dawn could even tweet about it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See also: Dawn Gallagher Murphy's "free BBQ and Corn Roast" cost the taxpayers $11,000

Update on 24 July 2023: from the Globe and Mail: Ontario spending on private nurses soars since COVID 19.

See also my blog (from September 2021): Southlake and Agency Nurses


Luca Bucci, the former Chief of Staff to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, and now Chief Executive of the Ontario Home Builders Association (OMBA), told "industry leaders" in a state of the union address on 24 April this year that they were now shaping Government policy.

At the home builders' dinner Bucci boasted:

“We helped the government create and implement Bill 23. We employed a province-wide advocacy campaign that we pulled together in five days.

We completed 29 consultations and submissions on Bill 23 in a little over a month.

We have achieved changes in the interest rate treatments for deposits under the Condominium Act.

We have helped expand urban boundaries in Hamilton, Ottawa, in Waterloo region and other areas of the province in the face of incredible opposition. (Applause) Thank you. (Prolonged applause)

We achieved comprehensive changes to development charge regimes.

We ended site plan requirements for sites at ten units or less which is a big win for our small to medium sized members. 

We froze parkland rates on the date that zoning bylaw our site plan application is filed. 

We eliminated public meetings that were unnecessary on issues of draft plan and subdivision and we worked with the government to allow for three residential units as of right on most land zoned for residential development without even a municipal by-law amendment.”

Click “read more” below” for the text of the speech. 

Before joining the OHBA in April 2022, Bucci served as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing from January 2021 until April 2022.  He joined the OBHA when Bob Schickedanz was its President. Schickedanz sold the Greenbelt lands in King to developer Michael Rice for $80M on 15 September 2022. The lands were removed from the Greenbelt on 21 December 2022.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See also: Timeline: Southlake and the Sale of the Greenbelt lands in King and The new Southlake was planned to be built on Greenbelt land owned by developer Michael Rice and former hospital Board member John Dunlap

Who’s Who

Bob Schickedanz: Former President of the Ontario Home Builders Association and Principal of Schickedanz Bros who sold the Greenbelt land in King on 15 September 2022. 

John Dunlap: the real estate broker acting for Schickedanz and a member of the Southlake Board until September 2022.

Michael Rice: A developer and President of Green Lane Bathurst GP Inc which bought the land.

Luca Bucci: the former Chief of Staff to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing who served from January 2021 until April 2022 when he joined the Ontario Home Builders Association as its Chief Executive.

Steve Clark: The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing who announced on 4 November 2022 that certain specified parcels of Greenbelt land – including the lands in King owned by Rice - would be opened up for development.

Steve Pellegrini: Four term Mayor of King Township who was given a commitment by Michael Rice at an in-person meeting on 1 November 2022 that portions of the Greenbelt land in King would be offered to Southlake Regional Heath Centre for a “nominal fee”. Southlake’s CEO, Arden Krystal, and Vice President, John Marshman, were present.