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?

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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.

The Mayor of Aurora Tom Mrakas believes in “leadership that gets things done”. Except, I suppose, when it comes to providing shelter for homeless men.

On Thursday, at York Region’s Committee of the Whole, (7 March 2024) Mayor Mrakas will give his colleagues notice that he intends to bring forward a motion to a future Council meeting which proposes sheltering the homeless in underused York Region buildings, including its HQ:

WHEREAS York Region has recently adopted a true hybrid work policy where 60% of the staff will work only 50% of their work week on site;

WHEREAS Regional office buildings, including the 422,000 square foot Regional Head Office on Yonge Street will now, as a consequence, have sizeable areas of under and unused taxpayer funded office space available for other purposes;

Regional Staff be directed to undertake a review of all Regionally-owned buildings for the purposes of identifying those that are under and/or unused and provide an analysis of those that can be potentially repurposed for other regional priorities including supportive housing.


We shall see in due course if Tom is the leader that gets things done or if this is just a cack-handed and crude attempt to deflect the justified criticism he has been getting for the way he handled York Region’s application for the shelter at 14452 Yonge Street.

Newmarket Today has been tracking the story along with its readers. One. Two. Three and Four. 

Mrakas posted this on 14 February 2024 implying he asked York Region a year earlier to identify other potentially suitable alternative sites. However, the record shows he said nothing about this search for alternative sites at the meeting on 24 January 2023.

“A year ago, when this application was originally presented, instead of denying the application outright, this Council gave the applicant more time to conduct a site selection process – establish siting criteria, scan for potentially suitable properties, assign a score for each based on those criteria and provide the completed site selection matrix to this Council. Take the time to provide facts to support the applicants stated belief this is the BEST location for the proposed development and thus warrants the zoning amendments requested or to take the time to find a more appropriate site  in Aurora, one that aligns with the intent of our OP.

Unfortunately, that did not occur and we are left to consider, a year later, the same application with little additional facts to support the requested zoning amendments.”

Alternative sites

So, the question for me is whether, at any stage, he asked York Region to look for alternative sites or whether this is just a convenient ex post facto excuse for his inaction in the year between Aurora’s two Public Planning meetings that considered the Region’s application for a shelter.

So, eager to establish the truth of the matter, I file a Freedom of Information request with York Region. I am asking for sight of:

1.     ‘Records which indicate any requests made to York Region by Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas, or any Town of Aurora staff requesting York Region to:

a)     Scan for and/or identify possible alternative sites for the proposed transitional housing / emergency shelter for men at 14452 Yonge Street,

b)     Create a site selection matrix ranking each potentially suitable property with a score.

2.     Records of York Region’s response to these requests.’

Timeframe: January 24, 2023, to February 13, 2024.  

I hope to get an answer by the time Tom brings forward his motion to Council.

Leaders who get things done don’t sit on their hands for a year and blame others when nothing happens.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Note: York Regional Council went into closed session in May 2023 and debated the Men’s Emergency and Transitional Housing issue for just over an hour. They decided for their own reasons not to support any action before the Ontario Land Tribunal on the Region’s Zoning By Law Amendment application for the proposed men’s emergency and transitional housing at 14452 Yonge Street in Aurora.

Update on 5 March 2024: From Newmarket Today: Aurora Streamling Planning Tools to expand Housing Options: Mayor

Update on 7 March 2024: From the Era: After rejecting man's shelter, Aurora Mayor wants to explore sheltering homeless in York Region's HQ

On 1 November 2022 the developer Michael Rice offered land in the protected Greenbelt to Southlake for its proposed new acute hospital.  

Neither Southlake Regional Health Centre nor King Township admit to having any records of that consequential meeting at King Municipal Centre.

Hospitals (and municipalities) have a duty in law to keep records.

We have some graphics from Rice’s presentation but nothing else. 

No need to take notes

Southlake’s former Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, who was there with the hospital’s Director of Capital and Facilities, John Marshman (photo below right), said it was just an initial meeting and there was no need to take notes.

But, without records, how was this multi-million dollar gift of land reported to Southlake’s Board and, specifically, to its Land Acquisition Sub Committee which had been charged with the task of identifying possible sites?

That is - or should I say was - the enduring mystery.  

Word of Mouth

I asked Southlake - via Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner - how this incredibly generous gift of land was reported to the Board. I am told it was by word of mouth.

The Land Acquisition Sub Committee met for the first time on 5 December 2022. The co-chair, John Marshman, reported from memory on what had happened at the meeting over a month earlier. 

He spoke to “known opportunities” (Agenda item 8) but there is no supporting documentation. Southlake tells me that none of the many redactions in the agenda and in the accompanying slide presentation contain any records from the 1 November 2022 meeting – neither maps, plans, graphics nor anything else.

Known Opportunities

All we have are the partially redacted minutes from the 5 December 2022 meeting which (at point 8) refer to “Known Opportunities”.

• The Co-Chair discussed the known opportunity to build a new Southlake in King Township following proposed amendments by the Ontario government to the Greenbelt.

• It was noted that the municipality has provided a preliminary endorsement of the site to build a new hospital.

And that’s it. 

Which rather begs the question: What were these known opportunities? And how did the Land Acquisition Sub Committee get to know about them? 

Did the known opportunities include the offer of land from former Southlake Board Member and land agent John Dunlap? What happened to that?

Michael Rice and the Long Term Care facility 

Michael Rice refused to meet Ontario’s Auditor General as part of her investigation into the Greenbelt scandal but he chose to meet the Integrity Commissioner, David Wake.

In paragraph 289 of his report, the Integrity Commissioner tells us:

“With respect to the King Township site, Mr Rice and his employee (Mr McGovern) told me they were interested in the hospital option, as they 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.”

Was any of this – the ancillary medical buildings and long-term care facility - discussed at the 1 November 2022 meeting? Without records we have no way of knowing.

But if Rice didn’t mention it, why not?

And if he did mention it, shouldn’t that have been reported to the Southlake Board?

We know Southlake held a meeting on 16 January 2023 to review the “Bathurst and Davis Drive Opportunity”. (See graphic below)

The first item on the agenda at item 1(a) refers to the size of the building and the quantity of parking required and at 1(b) the LTC fit. 

What does LTC mean in this context if it is not a reference to Long Term Care?

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See also: Timeline




















































 Photo above: 3pm on 22 October 2023 BBQ at Riverwalk Commons - half way through the event

Dawn's Second Annual "Free" Community BBQ

Newmarket-Aurora Progressive Conservative MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, billed taxpayers $9,376.75 for her “second annual free community BBQ” held at the Riverwalk Commons in Newmarket last October. 

Her first "free" BBQ in 2022 cost the taxpayers $11,160. This was almost one quarter of her entire annual budget for “office operations”.

Last October when I quizzed her about the use of taxpayers' money to fund her BBQ she told me it was an absolutely appropriate use of public money.

Thin on the Ground

There was a dispute last year about how many people showed up to the BBQ.

Newmarket Today originally estimated 200 people but this correction appeared in an update on 23 October 2023:

Editor's Note, Oct. 23, 2023: This article was altered to update the attendance figure from 200 to 400 based on information provided by Dawn Gallagher Murphy's constituency office. 

Gallagher Murphy claimed 400+ compared with 500 the year before. I spent an hour there just chatting to folk and it was perfectly obvious people were thin on the ground.

Public Subsidy of $23 per person

Even on Gallagher Murphy’s own figures each person attending the “free” BBQ was getting a public subsidy of around $23.

Personally, I think most people would choke on their hot dog if they realised taxpayers were paying for their "free" meal.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

It's not just Dawn Gallagher Murphy who is treating constituents. Though she started the trend. This is how the Progressive Conservative MPP, Deepak Anand, does it in Mississagua. His thanksgiving celebration cost the taxpayers an eye-watering $16,950.

Update on 15 March 2024 from Newmarket Today

Below: Gallagher Murphy's claim for hospitality expenses. (See also: some mistake?