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.

Background: On 1 November 2022 the developer Michael Rice offered to gift land at Bathurst in the protected Greenbelt in the Township of King to Southlake for a new acute hospital. This was three days before the Government publicly announced it would be opening-up parts of the Greenbelt to development. King and Southlake have long insisted they have no records of that meeting. 

Drawing a line

On 27 November 2023, Southlake’s former Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, sought to draw a line under the year-long controversy about building a new hospital in rural King Township. 

In exasperation, she declared:

“I have exhausted all disclosure and have no further details.”

Follow-up meeting

In late December 2023, I learned that King Township and Southlake planned to have a “follow-up” to the 1 November 2022 meeting on 19 December 2022. 

It was subsequently re-scheduled to 24 January 2023.

I asked King and Southlake for sight of the records of this important meeting.

Invitations only

Yesterday, 4 April 2024, King released its records, consisting of invitations to the hour-long meeting at King Municipal Centre. Nothing else.

There is no agenda for this follow-up meeting. No minutes. Nor any reports of any kind. It was another one of those ethereal gatherings of important people, discussing consequential matters, where there are no records. Everyone present apparently commits everything said to memory.

Mayor Steve Pellegrini, who fabricates, presides. King’s Chief Administrative Officer, Daniel Kostopoulos, is there too with Southlake’s Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, and the hospital’s Vice President of Capital Facilities, John Marshman.

Who said what to whom remains a complete mystery.

Records unnecessary

Arden Krystal believes there are many instances where record keeping is simply unnecessary. She explained what happened on 1 November 2022:

“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.”

Original reasoning

Plainly, much of Arden Krystal’s original reasoning no longer applies. The first meeting of Southlake’s Land Acquisition Sub Committee was held on 5 December 2022 and Southlake convened a meeting on 16 January 2023 specifically to discuss the “Bathurst & Davis Drive Opportunity”, the location of the hospital and how and where a new long-term care facility would fit it.

On 1 March 2024, I asked Southlake for sight of all records of that meeting on 24 January 2023. 

Playing it long

They tell me I should expect a reply by 1 May 2024.

We shall see.

Southlake and King both play it long, keeping information close to their chest, hoping we lose interest and go away.

That’s how the system works.

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The Ford Government this week posted an eye-watering deficit of $9.8 billion in its 2024 budget

Our MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, says that shouldn’t concern us because the Government is on the path to balance the budget. It hasn’t lost its way.

Her predecessor, former MPP and health minister, Christine Elliott, now a lobbyist for the private health sector, spent her entire political career railing against deficits.


She told MPPs 

“deficit financing is anathema to Conservatives”

because that means

“we are paying more and more in interest payments” 

Christine Elliott took every opportunity to denounce the last Liberal Government for running up deficits.


And now her close personal friend Peter Bethlenfalvy, Ford’s Finance Minister, is the author of this heretical $9.8 billion deficit.

In the 2018 Provincial election, Bethlenfalvy contributed $10,000 to Elliott’s election campaign in Newmarket-Aurora.

So I don’t expect to hear any criticism of Bethlenfalvy from Elliott, Ford's former Deputy, the health minister turned money-grabbing lobbyist.

Nor from Gallagher Murphy who hailed the Budget on Twitter (X): 

“Building a Better Ontario continues the government's Plan to Build, keeping costs down for Ontario families while retaining a path to balance.”

$13.9 billion in debt interest

In the meantime, the Ford Government will be shelling out $13.9 billion on debt interest in 2024/25.

Gallagher Murphy believes borrowing to fund tax cuts is the way to go – whether it’s Ford’s 5.7 cents a litre cut in gas taxes or getting rid of licence plate fees. 

The six-month extension to the gas cut will cost $620M. Eliminating the licence plate fee costs the Provincial Treasury $1.1 billion in lost revenue every year. 

Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are now spending 35% more than the last Liberal Government and the provincial debt 

“has soared by $116 billion to $462.9 billion, the largest debt of any sub-national jurisdiction in the world.”

Carbon Tax or Carbon Rebate

Yesterday, Gallagher Murphy told MPPs that no Ontarian should have to choose between filling up their car with gas or filling up their pantry. It was another jab at the “Carbon Tax”.

Across the country about 80% of people can expect to get back in rebate more than they pay. In Ontario, a family of four will get a $1,120 rebate in 2024. (Gallagher Murphy says Ford’s cut in gas tax has saved the average household $320 since it was introduced in 2022.)

The Federal Government has done a very poor job of explaining carbon pricing. So that people who should know better say the “Carbon Tax” is just another audacious money grab - unrelated to the fact that the Canadian north is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet and our forests are going up in smoke.

New job!

Perhaps in her new job as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry she will at last make the connection between climate change and what she must know is happening out there – thawing permafrost, disappearing ice-roads, shrinking ice-cover, starving polar bears.

And, year after year, vast swaths of forests burning out of control.

We could see the blue haze here in Newmarket.


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Update on 29 March 2024: From Newmarket Today: Newmarket-Aurora MPP blasts Carbon Tax increase

Update on 30 March 2024: from the Toronto star: Ontario budget an "abdication of responsibility"

"The Ontario budget set base funding for forest firefighting at $134.9 million this year. $81 million less than it spent overall in 2023.

"But (Alex) Catherwood (press secretary to Minister Andrea Khanjin) said it would be "completely inaccurate" to suggest the forecasted spending was a budget cut, saying the Government would "spare no expense in ensuring the safety of people, property and communities". 

From Christine Elliott's 2018 Candidate's Campaign Return to Elections Ontario:

Today (27 March 2024) the new Chief Executive of Southlake, Dr Paul Woods, tells Newmarket Today the hospital is struggling to find a new site for its proposed new acute hospital. 

It is a tragedy it has come to this.

From the outset Southlake and King Township should have been transparent about Michael Rice's gift of land and the conditions attached to it.

Southlake should have worked closely with York Region and with the other lower tier municipalities such as Newmarket in their search for a suitable site for a new acute hospital instead of keeping them at arm's length.


The story of what happened under Dr Wood's predecessor, Arden Krystal, continues to unfold. Key information is still being withheld by Southlake. And, in the background, the RCMP’s investigation into the Greenbelt scandal grinds on.

To this day, the disgraced former Housing Minister Steve Clark has still not offered an apology to the Legislative Assembly for his role in the Greenbelt scandal. The recommendation by the Integrity Commissioner last August for the Legislature to reprimand Clark lies on the Order Paper as Premier Ford and House Leader, Paul Calandra, refuse to bring it forward for debate and a vote.


On Monday (25 March 2024) Southlake confirmed that it had been planning to include a Long-Term-Care facility within the new acute hospital complex in the protected Greenbelt at Bathurst in King Township.

The developer Michael Rice gifted land for a new hospital at a meeting at King Municipal Centre on 1 November 2022 with Southlake’s then Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, and its Vice President of Capital Facilities, John Marshman and King’s Mayor, Steve Pellegrini.

King and Southlake insist to this day they have no records of the meeting.

It defies belief there are no records of such a consequential meeting. Public bodies such as hospitals and municipalities have a duty in law to keep records.

Protected Greenbelt

Rice told the Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, that when he bought the 2.78 sq km tract of land he initially thought there would be no change in its protected Greenbelt designation – at least not in the short term. 

He nevertheless believed a hospital could be built in the protected Greenbelt with ancillary medical buildings and a Long-Term Care facility alongside. He did not say if he had taken professional planning advice before coming to this conclusion. King’s Planning Chief, Stephen Naylor, refused to give his view on whether a hospital could be built at Bathurst in the protected Greenbelt saying it was a matter for the Province.

Rice changes his view

Rice told Commissioner Wake that by September 2022 his view had changed. He said that while he always believed that parts of the Greenbelt would eventually be opened up for development, even by a Liberal Government, Ford was moving more quickly than he anticipated.

On 15 September 2022 Rice bought the Bathurst Greenbelt lands for $80M. With development approval the land would be worth many times this sum.

Bathurst lands would fit the bill

On the evening of 14 September 2022 at the BILD dinner, Rice met Steve Clark’s Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, and quickly concluded the Government was moving to open-up parts of the Greenbelt for development. He told Amato he had land which would fit the bill and, two weeks later, gave Amato 

“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.”

There was no mention of an acute hospital on the Bathurst lands. 

Rice told the Integrity Commissioner that if he had known in the summer of 2022 that the Bathurst lands in King were to be removed from the Greenbelt 

“he would not have entered into discussions about using part of this particular site for a hospital”. 

"Sticking to it" 

But given his earlier discussions he was “committed” to the hospital and was “sticking to it”.

I am left wondering if Rice told the meeting on 1 November 2022 that he wanted to include ancillary medical buildings and a Long-Term-Care facility within the acute hospital complex. And if not, why not? 

Known Opportunities

Southlake’s Land Acquisition Sub Committee (LASC) held its first meeting on 5 December 2022.

The Chair, John Marshman, reported back from memory on the 1 November 2022 meeting and Rice's gift of land. There were no written reports. Sub Committee members were simply told the gift was a 

“known opportunity”.

It is unclear how Sub Committee members got to know about these "known opportunities".

Were there other “known opportunities”? What happened to John Dunlap’s offer of land for a new hospital?

Was that a known opportunity?

Sites for new Southlake "limited"

The Sub Committee decided to engage Colliers International to advise them on real estate matters. Colliers reported in May 2023 saying sites for a new hospital were very limited. 

In coming to this conclusion:

 “sites which fell under current conservation land statuses or within the Greenbelt or Oak Ridges Moraine areas were not considered as realistic opportunities based upon current development restrictions.”

This was three months before the Ford Government formally dropped its plans to allow development in the protected Greenbelt.

LTC fit

On 16 January 2023 Southlake held a meeting on the “Bathurst & Davis Drive Opportunity”. At the top of the agenda was an item on the “LTC fit” which we now know to mean long-term-care.

The meeting considered the location of the hospital and:

“requirements that may need to be built into an MZO (Minister’s Zoning Order)”.

Where did that come from - the MZO? Who brought that forward and why?

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Update on 4 April 2024 from the Newmarket ERA

See also: Timeline: Southlake and the sale of the Greenbelt lands in King









Last week's UK Budget tells us the Conservative Government is abolishing “Non-Dom” (non-domiciled) tax status

For me it is a bitter sweet moment. 

I wanted to see an incoming Labour Government get rid of this crazy hangover from colonial days. Instead we have the weird paradox of a dying Conservative Government abolishing a tax device which, over the years, has benefitted thousands of its own well-heeled supporters.

Non-Dom status allows the super-rich – who claim their true home is elsewhere – to pay UK tax only on the money they choose "to remit" or bring into the country - not on their worldwide income.

They park their millions in tax havens off-shore.


I spent years on the trail of the deceitful multi-millionaire, Lord Ashcroft, establishing that he was indeed a tax dodger who got into the House of Lords on false pretences.

Ashcroft, a former Chair of the Conservative Party, was “raised to the peerage” after promising the then Leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague, that he would bring his tax affairs on-shore and become a UK resident for tax purposes. He never did.

After ten years in the House of Lords – voting to make the laws of the land – he was revealed to be a non-dom, liable for only a fraction of the tax that would have been payable as a UK resident. 

Freedom of Information

Although I was a member of the UK Parliament at the time, it took a Freedom of Information request – two years and more from start to finish - to force him to admit his non-dom status after a brazen cover-up lasting a decade. 

Non-Doms can no longer sit in the UK Parliament.

In 2010 – the year he was exposed as a tax cheat – Ashcroft donated £5M to the Imperial War Museum enabling it to build an “Ashcroft Gallery” to house his collection of Victoria Cross medals.

Ashcroft's "fascination with bravery"

Ashcroft, who describes himself as an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster, tells us he has a fascination with bravery which goes back to his childhood.

There is nothing brave about the shamefully dishonest way he behaved to get into the House of Lords.

The valiant soldiers whose medals lie in Ashcroft’s Gallery must be turning in their graves.

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Note: Michael Ashcroft retired from the Lords in 2015 though he still keeps the honorific title “Lord”. Despite his retirement from the Lords, Ashcroft still active in UK politics.

The transcript of the celebrated Jeremy Paxman interview of William Hague on the Ashcroft peerage is here. The BBC video has been taken down and is no longer available.

From the Guardian: Michael Ashcroft's former daughter-in-law, Jasmine Hartin, fined for killing police officer in Belize.