- Written by Gordon Prentice
Corruption is a spreading stain in the Ford Government.
Ford and his enablers like Paul Calandra contaminate everything they touch.
From their casual disregard for the truth to their shameless and brazen behaviour.
Calandra replaced the disgraced Steve Clark as Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister who looked the other way when his Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, was dismantling the protected Greenbelt.
But Calandra also stays on as the Government’s business manager in the Legislative Assembly. This allows him to keep a finger on the pulse of what's happening.
Call Doug Ford on 416 325 1941
Yesterday at Queen’s Park, the Opposition Leader, Marit Stiles, asks Ford to publish his personal phone logs for a one-week period last November during the flurry of Greenbelt announcements. Through a Freedom of Information request, Global News finds out there is no evidence Ford used his Government-issue phone. So, in breach of all the rules, did the Premier use his own phone instead?
Calandra refuses to say.
The Auditor General made it clear in her report of 9 August 2023 that Ministers’ phone and email records must be kept:
“Files that relate to the development and delivery of the Government’s policy and legislative agenda, including issues under consideration by the Minister that may form part of the Government’s policy agenda, must also be retained.”
Missing the Point
Deliberately missing the point, Calandra tells us the Premier takes calls from anyone and everyone, all the time:
“The Premier has been very open with respect to how people can contact him. As I said last week, he in fact gave his phone number out in the House, publicly, for everybody to call. I know I’ve been with him, and a number of our caucus members have been with him, when he’s answering calls from constituents with respect to programs or services for people in his riding. He’s not going to stop doing that because that’s the type of person he is.”
Yes. Yes. Yes. But the Government promised to accept all the Auditor General's recommendations, including this one about phone calls and emails.
(As it happens, I called Doug Ford on 5 November 2022 on 416 325 1941. I spoke to a real person but it wasn’t Doug Ford. The Main Man didn’t get back to me. But that was no surprise. There are 14,789,778 people in Ontario)
But anyway… what about the phone logs?
While Calandra dodges the questions, those around him are clapping like trained seals.
Calandra has presided over two recent revisions of the Standing Orders at Queen’s Park. Sounds dry as dust yet these Standing Orders shape the way in which Ford’s inchoate policies become the law of the land.
In Calandra’s watch, long-standing Parliamentary conventions are quietly thrown overboard. Bills are put on the Statute Book when they are still out for public consultation.
The Auditor General tells us 35,000 responses to the Greenbelt consultation were binned, not analysed.
No Committee scrutiny
Major pieces of legislation such as the Bill dissolving Peel Region are never sent to Committee for detailed line-by-line scrutiny. This robs people who have knowledge and expertise from putting their views directly to MPPs.
Democratic conventions such as showing up for election debates have been ditched by the Progressive Conservatives.
Ford believes manifestos would be an albatross around his neck so, instead, he simply promises “to get the job done”. Whatever that is.
At the last election in June 2022, Ford did not give any hint he would allow development in the Greenbelt. A policy he put in motion as soon as the votes were counted.
Politicians v Judges
In 2018, in the tussle over the size of Toronto City Council, Doug Ford lambasted the judges, pointing out he was elected and they weren’t.
Ford meant that as a slam dunk. But it has backfired. Spectacularly.
The judges, too, have a role to play.
As Ford is now finding out.
Click “read more” below to read the exchanges yesterday between the Opposition Leader Marit Stiles and Paul Calandra. The full version is in Hansard here.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Newmarket Today reporter, Joseph Quigley, deserves a round of applause for breaking the story on 30 September 2023 that the Provincial Government would veto a new hospital on the lands in King, owned by developer Michael Rice, that are to be returned to the Greenbelt.
The story was picked up by the Globe and Mail this morning. You can read Jill Mahoney's piece by clicking: "read more" below.
The full story is still to come out.
I want a complete truthful account from all the main players.
We don't have that yet.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
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:
 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.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
King Township prides itself on accountability and transparency.
I applaud the Township’s commitment to openness. But despite innumerable Freedom of Information requests to King over many months there are some big questions about the Greenbelt lands in King – bought by the developer Michael Rice on 15 September 2022 for $80M - that remain unanswered.
That’s why I am asking the Township to hear an in-person deputation from me at the King Council meeting on either 16 or 30 October 2023 – whichever is more convenient to them. My deputation concerns:
The evidence given to the Integrity Commissioner by the Mayor of King relating to lands in the municipality that could be suitable for a new Southlake Hospital.
The wording may have to be tweaked a bit to ensure it is completely in order but that's what I want to talk about.
The Township asks all deputants for their speaking notes beforehand. Presumably to avoid surprises and ambushes. I have no problem with this.
As everyone now knows, on 1 November 2022 at a meeting hosted by Mayor Steve Pellegrini at King Municipal Centre, the developer Michael Rice offered Southlake Hospital’s Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, land for a new hospital on the then protected Greenbelt at Bathurst. It would essentially be gifted.
The Bathurst lands are designated in King’s Official Plan (2019) as “prime agricultural” lands in the Greenbelt’s Protected Countryside.
Rice told the Integrity Commissioner he believed it would be possible to build a hospital on these lands – despite their designation – and that both he and his colleague John McGovern:
"anticipated they would be able to potentially develop medical buildings, a long-term care facility and other long-term assets on land that was in the Greenbelt and not necessarily available for other types of development".
York Region’s Chief Planner, Paul Freeman, insists, then and now, that a new hospital or medical facilities would:
not be permitted on the King site and therefore likely directed to a settlement area.
King Township’s Director of Growth Management, Stephen Naylor, piloted King’s Official Plan (2019) through all its stages over many years. There is nothing in the Plan that even hints that the Bathurst lands would be opened-up for development. There is no mention of a hospital. He refuses to say what his opinion is on the development of the Bathurst lands. When I asked him for his views as a professional planner he referred me to the Province.
This is the background to Mayor Steve Pellegrini’s appearance before the Integrity Commissioner who was investigating whether former Minister Steve Clark had breached the Members’ Integrity Act.
Mayor Pellegrini told the Integrity Commissioner (Report of 30 August 2023 in 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 (Mayor Pellegrini) believed it would potentially be a viable option for the hospital and a significant benefit for King Township.”
Keys to the Kingdom
Over the months I have filed many Freedom of Information requests with the Township. But, despite this, I have not been told where these "other lands" are nor who discussed them as a possible site for a new hospital. The Township says it has no records of any search for land suitable for a new hospital. And there are no records of meetings where these sites were considered.
I have been in touch with other members of King Council and they cannot shed any light on these discussions – when they happened and who was involved. The man with the Keys to the Kingdom is Mayor Pellegrini himself.
But Mayor Pellegrini’s words as reported by the Integrity Commissioner suggest (in ordinary English usage) that the “other lands in the vicinity” are, in fact, contiguous. And if “Mr Rice contributed land” it would “potentially be a viable option for the hospital”.
The Missing Link: John Dunlap
If this is the case, the “other lands” in question are owned by John Dunlap, the former Southlake Board member and the land agent who facilitated the sale of the Bathurst lands from Bob Schikedanz to Michael Rice.
The schematic which was presented to the 1 November 2022 meeting by Michael Rice appears to show the Southlake logo straddling the Greenbelt lands owned by Rice and Dunlap. (see right)
Southlake has pretty much stonewalled on all Freedom of Information requests that could shed light on this. Ludicrously, they say they have no records of Michael Rice’s offer of land for a new hospital. Appeals to the Information and Privacy Commissioner on this and other related matters are slowly grinding forward. Southlake has a duty in law to keep records.
If the Township agrees to hear my deputation I shall ask Mayor Pellegrini to identify the other lands suitable for a new hospital and who was involved in the discussions.
We take it one step at a time.
Update on 30 September 2023: From Newmarket Today: Province vetoes proposal for hospital in Greenbelt bordering Newmarket
Timeline: Southlake and the sale of the Greenbelt lands in King, click here.
Click "read more" below to read the evidence of Michael Rice and Steve Pellegrini to the Integrity Commissioner
- Written by Gordon Prentice
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