Last week (on 13 May 2024) King Township Mayor, Steve Pellegrini, tells councillors he supports a change in the law to allow a new Southlake hospital to be built on Protected Greenbelt at the corner of Highway 9 and Bathurst. 

He tells councillors:

I want this to be very crystal clear then. If we have an opportunity to put a hospital at the corner of Highway 9 and Dufferin… I’m sorry! Bathurst. Highway 9 and Bathurst. On the corner…”

He goes on:

“I believe a hospital there… not a whole development… a hospital would be an incredible asset to this community. It serves this community. Southlake is a hospital that serves King Township.”

On 1 November 2022, the developer Michael Rice offered Southlake land in the Protected Countryside at Bathurst for a peppercorn. He bought the 2.7 sq km block of land for $80M  less than two months earlier, on 15 September 2022. The background is here.


Since then, Pellegrini has repeatedly made statements to the press and media about the planned development on the Rice lands which are known to be false

After the Greenbelt scandal, a chastened Doug Ford announced that no development would be allowed on the Protected Greenbelt or on the Oak Ridges Moraine. 

But despite this, in plain sight, Ford is taking a chainsaw to the Province’s planning system. What he said wouldn't happen - development in the Protected Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine - may now very well happen.

Bill 185

Bill 185, currently before the Ontario Legislature, proposes a new framework for Ministerial Zoning Orders which would allow development in the protected Greenbelt if it delivers on a Provincial priority such as long term care and hospitals. 

A request to the Minister to permit development on the protected Greenbelt would have to be supported by a single tier or lower tier municipality either through a resolution from Council or from a letter from the Mayor - if he or she has "strong Mayor" powers.

Fortunately, Pellegrini doesn’t have strong Mayor powers. Otherwise it would be game over.

The debate at King Council last week - responding to the Ford Government's consultation on Bill 185 - focussed on the Bill’s proposal to allow certain types of development on the Protected Greenbelt. Cllr Debbie Schaefer and Cllr Mary Asselstine object. They move an amendment saying King Council does not want to see development in the protected Greenbelt.

Pellegrini is all over the place. The four term Mayor doesn't know which side is up or down.

"At the corner of Highway 9 and Bathurst"

Finally, Pellegrini calls the vote with two in favour (Shaefer and Asselstine). Pellegrini says the amendment is lost without asking for those voting against. A third councillor, Jennifer Anstey, asks for the vote to be taken again as she wasn’t asked how she would vote. 

Pellegrini brushes the objection aside saying it needs two-thirds of the Council to ask for another vote. Anstey demurs and doesn’t press the point.

So, King Township is now happy to see a development on protected Greenbelt “at the corner of Highway 9 and Bathurst”. 

The land in question is owned by John Dunlap, a former member of the Southlake Board.

Dunlap facilitated the sale of land at Bathurst - immediately to the north of his property - to Michael Rice, the developer.

Incredibly, the Township takes their You Tube videos down after two weeks and the verbatim video record is lost forever.

I shall keep this clip up - just for the record.

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Note: Councillor Avia Eek appears throughout in the frame bottom right. She is a farmer. She says Bill 185 would not allow development in the Holland Marsh - one of the top agricultural areas in Canada. It is also protected Greenbelt.

Update on 24 May 2024: From Newmarket Today: King still hold on to hope for hospital on Newmarket Greenbelt border