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.

Newmarket needs a new Library. 

That's been my view for years.

But it looks like no-one on the Council nor, astonishingly, the Library Board agrees with me. They are happy to make do with what they’ve got, putting their money in “outreach”.

The Library Board’s resident clown, Councillor Victor Woodhouse, dangled the prospect of a new Library at the Town’s Committee of the Whole on 8 April 2024 which was considering the Library’s “Report to the Community 2023”. He asked the Board Chair, Darryl Gray, and the Library’s Chief Executive, Tracy Munusami:

“We talk from time to time about the library expanding and doing something different and something more and I wonder if you can shed any light on the new building we've talked about? I think in the order of $40 million.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth he confessed it was just a joke!

Oh dear!

Ten years ago, in 2014, I recall the former Library Chief Executive Todd Kyle making a very persuasive case for a new building. The Park Avenue library was too small. Newmarket spent less per capita than successful libraries in similar-sized communities. Ours is one of the smallest libraries per capita in the Province. The building was difficult to service and there was insufficient parking. People have been talking about a new library, off and on, for years.

Space at a premium

The Library Board admits space is tight. But they believe the way around this is to take the Library out into the community through “outreach”.

Unfortunately, we do not have statistics showing where (a) new members and (b) existing members of the Library live. Some councillors, such as Ward 7’s Christina Bisanz, have been wondering aloud if library services are reaching people in her patch, a million miles from the Library’s downtown location.

At the time of the last municipal election in 2022, there was some talk about opening a second branch but this never really got off the ground. Then people toyed with the idea of a mobile library. But that too was parked.

And the Deputy Mayor, Tom Vegh, no longer says:

“The debate over the need for a new public library is long over. The only question now is where and when.”

Today, his focus of attention is the Lendery, the Library of things, like pots and pans and power washers that people can borrow free of charge.

New Library no longer an aspiration

But what I find so depressing is that a new library is not even an aspiration. Not even to the Library Board.

Of course, the Town has other things to spend its money on such as Mulock Farm (which I support) but, at some stage, it will have to start thinking about a new building.

In the meantime, we need accurate, up-to-date statistics and explanations of what they mean. There are 5,357 new members but we have no breakdown showing how many live in Town and how many outside.

This information used to be given as a matter of course. 

In-person visits to the Library is new. How is that measured?

Annual Reports

Library Board Vice Chair, the effusive Councillor Kelly Broome, told the meeting on 8 April 2024 when discussing the Library’s “Report to the Community” that if councillors had all the annual reports lined up before them they would see the significant increase in services in recent years. Hmmm. I think that’s gilding the lily somewhat.

Library usage dropped off dramatically during the COVID years (as expected) but is now recovering. But many of the key metrics show us only slowly getting back to where we were in earlier years.

We still don’t have the full palette of usage statistics for 2023 (which are normally presented to the Board by April) but we do have figures from previous years. Here are the statistics for 2014 - the year Todd Kyle spoke out. And here are the figures for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

A report going to the NPL Board later today shows that, in our area, Georgina and East Gwillimbury have three libraries apiece. Neighbouring municipalities such as Aurora and Whitchurch-Stouffville have a single library like us but with much smaller populations.

At some point Newmarket will have to bite the bullet. 

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Update on 16 May 2024: Newmarket Today: Newmarket Library eyes Monday openings







Click "read more" below for the discussion on the Library's Report to the Community 2023 which was presented to the Town's Committee of the Whole on 8 April 2024.

Southlake Regional Health Centre and the Municipality of King held a “follow-up” to the meeting on 1 November 2022 when the developer Michael Rice offered some of his land in the Protected Greenbelt at Bathurst as the site of a new acute hospital. 

The follow-up meeting was on 24 January 2023 – eight days after we learned the proposed hospital site at Bathurst was being planned to accommodate a Long-Term Care facility, a money-making add-on championed by Rice. 

The (then) Chief Executive of Southlake, Arden Krystal, and the hospital’s Vice President of Capital Facilities, the tight-lipped John Marshman, were invited. King’s dissembling  Mayor Steve Pellegrini and the Township’s Chief Administrative Officer, Daniel Kostopoulos, were to host the meeting at King Municipal Centre.

No Records

In the absence of any records of the meeting other than the invitations I asked King to look at the files held by Pellegrini and  Kostopoulos and yesterday I was told:

“A search has been conducted and no responsive records were located.”

On 1 March 2024 I asked Southlake if they had any records of the meeting. They tell me they need more time as they must consult “third parties” – presumably King Township.  

I am now told to expect a reply from them by 30 May 2024.

The endless months-long delays between filing a Freedom of information request and getting an answer are sapping. 

But it is the cavalier disregard of basic record keeping that stings. No agendas, no minutes, no emails, no notes of any kind. 

No Paper Trail

It is all off-the-books. No paper trail. Word of mouth.

We know the meeting happened. And that it followed the hugely consequential meeting on 1 November 2022. Which itself is part of the wider RCMP investigation into the Greenbelt scandal.

But, for the moment, we don't know who said what to whom.

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On 13 February 2024, Aurora council considered a proposal from York Regional Council to locate a new 55-unit transitional housing/ emergency shelter for men at 14452 Yonge Street on land owned by the Region. 

The Mayor, Tom Mrakas, voted against the proposal and the new shelter - which had been in the works for years - was rejected by Aurora Council 4-3

In an on-line post the day after the vote, Mrakas claims he asked the Regional Council a year before – in January 2023 – to look for alternative sites. Where is the evidence for this?  

No Objections

In fact, for long enough, Mrakas didn’t raise any objections to the proposed shelter until nearby residents expressed alarm. They feared their neighbourhood would be changed for the worst with property values tumbling and crime soaring following an invasion of wild homeless men. In the blink of an eye Mrakas became the residents’ vociferous champion.

He challenged York Regional Council to find accommodation for the homeless in their own underused properties, pointing to the new Regional HQ in Newmarket. 

He promises to bring a motion to York Regional Council to force the issue. (See bottom right for original motion)

High noon is Thursday 11 April 2024

Muscular Mrakas

I expected a muscular Mrakas to come out swinging in defence of his outraged residents. Instead, we saw a low-key and hesitant Mrakas calling simply for a review of the Region’s property portfolio to ensure it was providing “value for money” for taxpayers. 

No mention of putting homeless men in the Regional HQ.  

After reading his media posts I felt rather let down. This is the Mayor who famously tells us he stands by his residents, right or wrong. And if they don’t want a Regionally owned and operated shelter for homeless men in their neighbourhood - with round-the-clock supervision by trained and qualified staff – then that’s good enough for him. The homeless men have gotta go somewhere else. 


At last week’s meeting, Mrakas dodged questions from Newmarket’s John Taylor. 

When Taylor asks him what he meant by the term “supportive housing” Mrakas can’t answer and instead makes a snide remark about wordsmithing.

Taylor quizzes Mrakas on his reasons for rejecting the shelter in Aurora. Mrakas said it did not fit “seamlessly” into the Town’s Official Plan and Zoning regulations. But, by the same token, would putting homeless men in the Regional HQ – an office building – fit “seamlessly” into Newmarket’s own Official Plan and zoning regulations?


Mrakas is asked by the Chair if he wants to respond to Taylor’s points. But a feeble Mrakas stays silent. 

In his Tweet following the meeting, Mrakas boasts his motion had been agreed unanimously. But, here again, he is being economical with the actualité. He timidly allows his motion to be gutted, removing all trace of the context which inspired the motion in the first place.
Georgina’s Naomi Davison says she would be more comfortable supporting the motion if it simply restricted itself to an inventory of buildings owned by the Region together with their current zoning rather than the motion: 

“that specifically speaks to housing in this building”.

Mrakas says if the reference offends anyone he would have no problem taking it out.


Richmond Hill Mayor, David West, agrees that drawing up an inventory of what the Region owns is a “no-brainer”. Everyone agrees with that. 

He calls for an analysis of the implications of converting office buildings to residential.

Good point.

I am still waiting to hear if Aurora Town Hall can accommodate homeless men.

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Update on 18 April 2024 from the Aurora Banner: Residents' Group "extremely disappointed"

Click "read more" for transcript of the exchanges at the Committee of the Whole on 11 April 2024.

Why shouldn’t municipalities be given powers to build homes for those in housing need?  

That’s the question being asked by Richmond Hill’s Joe DiPaola, and why not? 

Governments have long since left the field to the private sector which is, for a million and one reasons, happier building monster homes rather than the more modest affordable ones. 

The Man with the Plan

Step forward Joe Di Paola, the man with the plan.

DiPaola is married to Charity McGrath who was once a wannabe Progressive Conservative MPP for Newmarket-Aurora. But her Parliamentary ambitions turned to dust after she was accused of dirty tricks by fellow conservatives in trying to secure the PC nomination. 

In any event, Joe DiPaola is saying some interesting things. And we should listen.

At York Region’s Committee of the Whole on 7 March 2024 in a debate on homelessness DiPaola joined Newmarket’s John Taylor in calling for vigorous action to tackle the crisis in housing affordability and the relentless rise in homelessness.

Tent encampments

Last month Taylor told Regional councillors the number of people experiencing homelessness was growing exponentially.

He warned that without drastic action there would be tent encampments all over York Region within three to five years. 

A report from Region’s Commissioner of Community Services and Chief Planner underlined the scale of the problem:

“Demand for subsidized housing continues to grow with 2,400 new eligible applications added to the Region’s subsidized waiting list in 2022 and the supply is not keeping up. As of December 31, 2022 there were 14,867 households on the subsidized waiting list with about 371 applicants housed annually on average between 2008 and 2022.”

Allow municipalities to build affordable homes 

DiPaola’s solution is for the Province to allow municipalities to build affordable homes. He talks about the possibilities in Richmond Hill:

“We have a 20-acre parcel that we owned for a Civic Centre on Young St and Major Mackenzie. And we've abandoned a $220 million Civic Centre. We don't need that office space. It’s not required like we thought it was. And we have an opportunity. The only thing we have proposed is a park.

“If municipalities were allowed we could take 5 acres, build 2,000 units. It would cost about $600 million. We would be able to offer them at $800 a unit per month to people and then break even.  Because we're not paying for the land. We're not paying for the financing costs. We have the money. 

“We have over $350 million in reserves in Richmond Hill. We could dip into that as long as we're assured that we get that stream of income. If we were allowed to be the builders we could solve the problem. 

Practical Plan

DiPaola refers to the elephant in the room. Everyone is saying the right things but no-one has a practical plan to tackle the problem. He says his Richmond Hill example could be applied in York region and across the Province.

“The Region's resources are far greater than Richmond Hill. But if the provincial government allowed municipalities - solely for the purpose of providing housing for their vulnerable residents - where we're allowed to take our property and build… within a strict regulated formula and using the list of people that are already qualified as the most in need for housing. We have a list there. Built the units and start to put people into units that we supply.

“In the 70s and 80s we never had this problem because the federal government realized that housing was important and they built subsidized housing for people who weren't able to afford it themselves. Now they're unwilling to. It seems like the Province is also unwilling. I think we have the ability. Why don't we just take on the role of creating subsidized housing in our region and house people who need to be housed?

“I think we could do 10,000 to 20,000 units in the next three to five years and we could fund it in a way that doesn't even impact our financial positions - both the nine local municipalities and the region using land that we own on key transportation corridors. It can be done.”

Fundamental Disagreements 

Debates at York Region rarely involve members challenging their colleagues on what they have to say. That’s not the way they do things. Most criticism is indirect and sotto voce. No-one wants to cause offence or unpleasantness by fundamentally disagreeing with a colleague’s position. “Debates” are nuanced affairs. 

So I don’t know what other members of the Regional Council thought of Joe DiPaola’s thought-provoking contribution.

But this was Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti's veiled rebuke:

“We, the Region and our local municipalities, are absolutely not equipped to spend the millions of dollars that are required to address homelessness.”

This is the same Frank Scarpitti who voted against a Vacant Property Tax in York Region on the grounds it would infringe property rights and be the thin end of the wedge.

Tom Mrakas

Now our gaze turns to Thursday, 11 April 2024.

That’s when Aurora’s stridently populist Mayor Tom Mrakas will tell the Region’s Committee of the Whole that homeless people should move in to York Region’s underused public buildings such as their brand new HQ on Yonge Street. 

I’m waiting to hear from the Region if Tom ever asked them to look for an alternative location for the shelter in Aurora that has given him so many headaches.

I am assuming the Mayor has already prepared for the inevitable question in everyone’s mind next Thursday – even if it is not articulated. 

Has he reviewed all the buildings owned by his own municipality – including Aurora Town Hall – to see if there is any space there to accommodate the homeless?

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See also from York Region: Affordable Private Market Housing Implementation PlanCommunity Housing Development Master Plan and Homelessness in York Region and Development of Homelessness Service System Plan

Click below for more from Joe DiPaola. He says municipalities are allowed to build elaborate luxury indoor swimming pools and tennis courts and community centres but not the homes that people need. A typical subdivision community centre comes in at $200M.