The Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, is currently investigating the conduct of Ryan Amato, the former Chief of Staff to Steve Clark, to ascertain if he acted contrary to the requirements of the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 with respect to his liaisons with land developers and their representatives.  

This was one of the recommendations made by the Auditor General in her scathing special report on the changes to the Greenbelt. It was accepted by Ford – as were they all – and passed on to the Integrity Commissioner. Which is where it lies.

Did Amato know about the new Southlake?

Despite months of investigations and two coruscating reports from Parliamentary watchdogs, we still do not know if Amato knew about the hospital that was planned for the Bathurst lands. And if he did know, what did he do about it? 

Why is this important? 

If Amato knew Rice (photo right) was proposing a hospital on his Greenbelt land at Bathurst (with the development spilling over onto adjacent lands owned by John Dunlap), surely he, Amato, had a duty to alert the Ministry of Health that a potential benefactor was prepared to gift land to Southlake for a new hospital?

The Integrity Commissioner interviewed the Mayor of King, Steve Pellegrini. 

In paragraph 288 of his report Wake wrote: 

“… the Mayor (of King Township) explained that other lands in the vicinity (of the Bathurst site) had already been discussed as a possible hospital site and that if Mr Rice contributed land from his recently purchased property, he (Mayor Pellegrini) believed it would potentially be a viable option for the hospital and a significant benefit for King Township.”

Pellegrini's "Other lands"

There is little doubt the “other lands” are contiguous with Rice’s Bathurst lands and are owned by former Southlake Board member, John Dunlap, the land agent who facilitated the sale of the Bathurst lands from Bob Schickedanz to Michael Rice. 

The Township of King has no records of having carried out a search for lands that might be suitable for a new hospital and it has no records of any meetings about this by elected officials other than those involving the Mayor. 

The Township’s Official Plan (2019) - which was adopted by Council on 23 September 2019 and approved by York Region on 24 September 2020 - looks ahead to 2031.  The Township explains:

The primary purpose of the Official Plan is to provide direction and to set the planning policy framework for managing growth, land use and infrastructure decisions within the Township to the 2031 planning horizon.

The Official Plan makes no mention of any possible development of the Bathurst lands. 


We know from the evidence presented to the Integrity Commissioner that: 

[276] Mr. Rice provided Mr. Amato with a document dated September 27, 2022, with a map outlining the area proposed to be removed from the Greenbelt, a rationale supporting the removal, a summary confirming consultants had been retained to do environmental and servicing assessments and an explanation of various servicing options for the site. 

Rice told the Integrity Commissioner he was sticking with his commitment to make land available for a new hospital and it follows that the bundle of materials he handed over to Amato on 27 or 28 September 2022 would have included a reference to the proposed hospital. A huge project like this would have to be factored into the servicing options for the site.

However, while Rice’s lands were removed from the Greenbelt in December 2022, the adjacent lands owned by John Dunlap retained their designation as prime agricultural land in the Greenbelt’s Protected Countryside. That has always been a mystery to me.  (Land Registry map, right, shows Dunlap's land - Block 3 - and Rice's lands immediately to the north)

It seems Amato was negligent in not mentioning the hospital proposal to his team of civil servants who would have pointed out that the proposed hospital straddled the lands owned by Michael Rice and John Dunlap and that the latter’s lands too should have been removed from the Greenbelt.  

Building on Protected Countryside

Rice, of course, maintains the position that a new hospital and (possibly) ancillary medical facilities and a long-term care home could be built on the Greenbelt’s protected countryside.

I have not seen the material handed over by Rice to Amato on 27/28 September 2022 but we know (from his evidence to the Integrity Commissioner) it included a map outlining the area proposed to be removed from the Greenbelt, the rationale supporting the removal as well as various servicing options to be explored by consultants. 

The rationale must have included references to new housing and to the proposed new hospital. 

The fact that Dunlap’s land was not removed from the Greenbelt in December 2022 at the same time as the Rice lands suggests that Amato

(a) Did not consult the Ministry of Health (who were aware of Southlake’s two-site proposal after the hospital submitted its redevelopment Master Plan on 31 January 2020) or

(b) Believed, like Rice, that a hospital could be built on prime agricultural land in the Greenbelt’s protected countryside.


Either way, it appears that Amato was negligent in failing to flag up the hospital proposal which – according to all professional planning opinion -  would have required the removal of Dunlap’s land from the Greenbelt to allow a development to go ahead.

In Amato’s resignation letter he said he had been “unfairly depicted” and suggested he would be vindicated in any investigation

“I am confident that I have acted appropriately, and that a fair and complete investigation would reach the same conclusion.”

The Integrity Commissioner should ask Ryan Amato if he knew about the proposed new hospital on the Bathurst lands and, if so, what he did with this information.

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