The site lies in the Greenbelt’s protected countryside in King Municipality.
Confirmation came from King Township last week following my appeal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
In a letter to King Mayor Steve Pellegrini on 20 July 2020 Dunlap wrote:
“Further to our discussion, my family would be interested in donating land to create a new site for Southlake Regional Hospital. Our family has supported Southlake for three generations and we want to see it continue to grow and meet the needs of King Township and the regions beyond.
Our corner property is at the northwest corner of Davis Drive west and Bathurst Street. Our property is approximately 108 acres which could meet the needs for Southlake and related medical services. The site is 4 kilometres west of Southlake Regional Hospital and the property is 7km east of Highway 400 and 7kms west of Highway 404.”
Why is this significant?
It means that John Dunlap and Michael Rice both offered land to Southlake for a new hospital. Dunlap’s 108 acres was more than enough for a new hospital and its location ticked all the boxes.
Dunlap had a close professional relationship with Rice. Dunlap acted as the land agent who facilitated the sale of 2.78 sq kms of protected countryside from Bob Schickedanz, the former President of the Ontario Home Builders Association, to Rice on 15 September 2022. Dunlap came off the Southlake Board on 22 September 2022 after a four-year stint.
It is inconceivable that Dunlap was unaware of Rice's overtures to Southlake. Or are we expected to believe that each acted independently of the other?
If that seems fanciful - and they instead acted in concert - then the question arises: what was the nature of the understanding they had?
There is no evidence that I have seen which indicates that Dunlap withdrew his offer of land for a second Southlake. But Michael Rice's schematic shown to the meeting on 1 November 2022 clearly shows the Southlake logo straddling the lands owned by Dunlap and Rice. (see graphic right)
King Mayor, Steve Pellegrini, was the go-between, teeing things up and bringing Michael Rice to the table. Since at least July 2020 Pellegrini had been aware of Dunlap's offer of land.
In February this year Pellegrini told the King Sentinel:
“I have been moving this idea forward since 2019 – on different lands, with different landowners.”
On 1 November 2022, at the now famous meeting at King Municipal Centre, Rice offered some of his newly purchased land to Southlake for a new hospital. The land was to be gifted for a peppercorn.
But, scandalously, there is no note of what was discussed nor what was decided other than the offer of land.
Everyone present at the meeting – Mayor Steve Pellegrini, Southlake Chief Executive Arden Krystal, Southlake’s VP for Capital Facilities John Marshman, Michael Rice and his policy chief John McGovern – would have known about Dunlap’s offer.
The Integrity Commissioner noted in his report of 30 August 2023 at paragraph 288:
“… the Mayor 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 believed it would potentially be a viable option for the hospital and a significant benefit for King Township.”
Pellegrini and Arden Krystal would get a new hospital. Rice believed he would be able to develop – at least in part – his newly acquired lands at Bathurst for a long-term care home and ancillary medical facilities. And, presumably, Rice and Dunlap would get a donation receipt from Southlake which would allow them to offset against tax the value of their gifted land. And the rest of us would lose precious, irreplaceable protected countryside.
On 7 November 2022, Pellegrini moved a Council motion celebrating Rice’s offer of land for a new hospital. Earlier that day, Krystal emailed Pellegrini saying the offer of land was “truly exciting”. She suggested changes to the text of Pellegrini’s motion “to make it less controversial” and when he agreed she told him that was “awesome”.
It has always perplexed me that Southlake’s Chief Executive never made a file note or generated any emails about that hugely consequential gift of land on 1 November 2022.
On 27 November 2023 she explained it this way:
“During the November 1, 2022 meeting, discussions remained hypothetical and high-level with no commitment to action. It was merely a discussion of potential opportunities since the land in question was in the Greenbelt and, therefore, unavailable in its current state. Even if the land had been available, we were not in a position to provide meaningful commitment as Southlake had not even convened its formal strategic process for redevelopment.
After that meeting, I had an informal discussion about the potential opportunity with our VP of Capital and Facilities, John Marshman. Notes were not generated from this discussion, given its casual nature. I reserved the opportunity for formal discussion and accurate note-taking to the more appropriate forum, which would be the formal evaluations required for any upcoming Land Acquisition selection process.”
She went on to say she had diligently shared all records related to the November 1, 2022 meeting and provided context. She said:
“I have exhausted all disclosure and have no further details.”
Despite this ringing declaration, and after almost a year of probing, on 21 December 2023 I learned from a bundle of newly released answers to Freedom of Information requests - filed with Southlake many months ago - that a “Follow-up” to the 1 November 2022 meeting was held on 19 December 2022 involving Mayor Steve Pellegrini and Southlake people. This was news to me. I have now asked for all records of that meeting.
And what exactly were they following up? Is there an agenda? Minutes? Or is this another phantom meeting where no notes were taken?
We know that less than four weeks later - on 16 January 2023 - there was a Southlake meeting to discuss “site selection” – specifically looking at the “Bathurst-Davis Drive Opportunity”. The agenda included reference to “LTC fit” which I take to mean “long term care” and an MZO (Minister’s Zoning Order). These agenda items most likely came from the discussions on 1 November 2022.
So, where does this leave us?
We still don’t have a site plan or sketch showing the location of the hospital complex and any ancillary medical facilities. We still don’t know where the long-term care facility – if there is one – was to be located. This information from Southlake’s Capital Projects records has been withheld by the hospital chiefs. (Click "read more" below)
But, most importantly, we do not know the nature of the understanding between John Dunlap and Michael Rice that allowed them both to offer land for a second Southlake in the protected Greenbelt.
Update on 24 December 2023: From the Newmarket Era: Newsmakers 2023: Newmarket Hospital President, Arden Krystal, retires amid Successes and Challenges
Click "read more" for sight of documents withheld by Southlake.