- Written by Gordon Prentice
Doug Ford’s press conference earlier today was painful to watch.
His opening statement ends with a flourish invoking the Almighty:
“Thank you and God bless the people of Ontario.”
Now he is taking questions from journalists, mainly about the Greenbelt scandal.
He frequently moves off-topic giving us a torrent of statistics. Five to six million people coming to Ontario. 800,000 last year. Modular homes for under $500,000. Wartime homes. 60,000 new nurses 8,000 new doctors. Thousands and thousands of new educators. Over 8,000 this year alone. Four subway lines. $70 billion on transit. $30 billion on highways and roads and bridges. On and on he goes, gushing figures. Millions. Billions. Trillions. He will always fight for hard working blue collar people.
He reminds me of those apparatchiks in the former Soviet Union lauding the latest five-year plan and reeling off statistics on tractor production.
Re-evaluating everything. Consulting everyone
Oh yes...He also says he is going to review and re-evaluate all the land in the Greenbelt.
“We're going to review the whole system including the 14 properties. We're going to review all the properties. We acknowledge the process wasn't up to snuff by any means… (interruption) We're going to make sure that all properties are reviewed… all 700-800 is mandated in legislation that we should review. We're going to review them. We're going to make sure they stand with their merit and that's what we're going to look at.
…the provincial facilitator will continue working with the land-owners and the builders to move forward. But they are going to review the whole process, not just the 14 lands (but) the 700-800 applications and they’ll be able to sit down and talk to stakeholders, the indigenous communities, people that need homes. We’ll be talking to communities and we’ll do a complete review."
Phew! That sounds like a lotta work. And a lot of consultation for a Government that until today ignored what people had to say. They didn't even read or analyse the comments from the public on the Greenbelt proposals. Straight into the waste paper basket!
Community centres, hospitals, long term care homes, parks
Ford is asked if the Government entered into a legally binding agreement with any of those (ex-Greenbelt) landowners that they would have to build X amount of housing on that land.
Ford says it will be up to the facilitator to ensure that these lands include community centres, hospitals, long term care homes, parks
“and that’s something that we wouldn’t be able to do if a builder down the street, for instance, decides to build. We don’t go up and say you’ve got to build this. You’ve gotta build that. We rely on the municipalities to build homes to make sure that they get the permits out in a timely fashion. We’ve given them every single tool possible to make sure that makes their life easier to get homes built…”
Now we are into a stream of consciousness with Ford making it up as he goes along.
We are looking at the brain behind FordNation.
Personally, I want to see the plans for the development and servicing of the ex Greenbelt lands at Bathurst purchased by the developer Michael Rice on 15 September 2022 and which include a new hospital.
I am sure the Town of Newmarket will wish to see those plans too.
Update on 7 September 2023: from the Toronto Star's Martin Reg Cohn: Doug Ford's Attack on the Greenbelt hits a new low
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The Greenbelt scandal is currently with the RCMP who are deciding whether to launch an investigation.
Surely there can be no doubt now that the Police should investigate to determine if there have been breaches of the criminal law.
Was Ryan Amato – Clark’s former Chief of Staff – a rogue operator or was he doing his master’s bidding?
Clark insists he did not know what Amato was getting up to behind his back.
Clark, with his resignation as a Minister this morning, belatedly takes responsibility for the actions of his Chief of Staff. It is a bedrock constitutional principle that Ministers take responsibility for what is done in their name and they are answerable to Parliament.
The Ontario Legislature will consider the Integrity Commissioner’s report when it returns later this month. David Wake is recommending Clark be reprimanded. Clark’s resignation does not render the Integrity Commissioner’s report otiose.
Amato had implied authority. He could issue orders to public service staff only because he was acting on the Minister’s behalf. He had no authority in his own right.
In her special report on changes to the Greenbelt the Auditor General asked the Premier, in turn, to request the Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, to determine if Amato “acted contrary to the requirements of the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 with respect to his liaisons with land developers and their representatives.”
Wake is currently looking into this.
It is as plain as a pikestaff that Amato broke the rules.
Section 6 of O.Reg.382/07 states:
6. (1) When performing his or her duties to the Crown, a public servant shall not give preferential treatment to any person or entity, including a person or entity in which the public servant or a member of his or her family or a friend has an interest.
(2) When performing his or her duties to the Crown a public servant shall endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity that could benefit from it.
(3) A public servant shall not offer assistance to a person or entity in dealing with the Crown other than assistance given in the ordinary course of the public servant’s employment.
It is beyond dispute that the developers Michael Rice and Silvio de Gasperis received preferential treatment that will net them billions of dollars from a process that was totally corrupt.
The Auditor General told us that during her audit she came across examples of what appeared to be preferential treatment which
“included providing information about the ownership and purchasing of lands, setting up investment-opportunity meetings with Minister’s Office staff, and the consideration of draft legislative and regulatory changes… We found situations where lobbyists working for developers emailed political staff to suggest amendments to legislation. In these cases, political staff copied and pasted the wording of the lobbyists’ proposed amendments into a new document, which they then forwarded onto Deputy Ministers for inclusion in legislative packages. Senior non-political public servants, who were directed by political staff to carry the proposal forward, appeared unaware that the proposed amendments had originated from a lobbyist.”
Ontario’s laws were being written by lobbyists.
Amato says investigation would vindicate him
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.”
I want to see that investigation conducted by the RCMP.
Michael Rice’s defence is simply that he is a very good businessman with a very sharp eye for development opportunities. He was not tipped off by anyone. He just figured it all out by himself. (Michael Rice photo right)
Rice was prepared to make land available for a new hospital and had been in touch with Southlake about a number of sites before settling on the Greenbelt land at Bathurst. Wake gave weight to this.
What was public knowledge - and what wasn't
The fact that Southlake was looking for a second site was public knowledge in August 2021, perhaps before. The Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, said the lands – or some of them – could be donated by a benefactor.
But at that stage it was not public knowledge that John Dunlap, a Southlake Board member, would facilitate the sale of the Bathurst lands from the President of the Ontario Home Builders Association, Bob Schickedanz, to the developer Michael Rice – nor that Dunlap owned land immediately adjacent to it. That information emerged later.
Who knew what and when?
And we haven’t heard from Arden Krystal – or from any of the people at Southlake - about what they knew and when they knew it. Light – as I often say - does not escape from Southlake.
When did Krystal first realise the Bathurst lands were in the protected countryside in the Greenbelt? And what did she do about it? Did she lobby the Ministry of Health to have the lands removed from the Greenbelt? What professional planning advice did she and the Southlake Board receive?
And when did King Township’s Director of Growth Management, Stephen Naylor, tell Mayor Pellegrini that the Bathurst lands were in the protected Greenbelt and the implications of this?
Rationale for removal of the Bathurst lands from the Greenbelt
Commissioner Wake tells us that on 27 or 28 September 2022 Michael Rice gave Ryan 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.”
Was Naylor presented with this information at the meeting with Michael Rice on 17 October 2022?
If not why not?
Did he ask Michael Rice when the lands would be removed from the Greenbelt because planning law, as it stood on that date, would not have permitted the development Rice had in mind.
Click "read more" for Auditor General's recommendations to the Premier. The Auditor General's report is here. The Integrity Commissioner's report is here. And my Timeline of Southlake and the Greenbelt land at Bathurst is here.
Update on 4 September 2023. From the Toronto Star's Martin Reg Cohn: Steve Clark's departure: too little too late
- Written by Gordon Prentice
I expected Steve Clark's resignation at some stage. It has just come sooner than I thought. (I am tapping this out at 10.30am on Monday)
The resignation does not draw a line under the Greenbelt scandal. There is still more to come out.
Doug Ford - the man on a mission - mentions the 1.5 million homes yet again. Deflecting from the real issue of corruption in the heart of Government.
Update at 5.20pm on 4 September 2023: Paul Calandra appointed as new Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs - but he keeps his current job as House Leader. What a joke.
Here is how the news broke on Twitter:
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Ontario's beleaguered Premier, Doug Ford, maintains the pretence that he needs Greenbelt land to tackle the Province’s housing crisis. Yet the task force which he himself appointed makes it clear Greenbelt land is not needed.
Figures from York Region's own Housing Affordability Task Force showed total housing supply of 1,126,960 units across the Province - that's housing approved and proposed. The figure excludes over 225,000 units under construction.
Ford and his discredited Housing Minister, the pitiful Steve Clark, told York Region it must deliver 150,000 units by 2031. A tall order you may think but the Region has a total housing supply of almost 200,000 units. But they may not all get built for the simple reason that municipalities grant approvals and developers build - or choose not to.
Hitting the target
“the total number of units under construction, registered, draft approved, and proposed exceed the forecast number of units required to achieve the Provincial housing target.”
“Draft Approved” units are lots in a plan of subdivision or plan of condominium which have draft but not final approval and registration. “Registered units” have been registered through a plan of subdivision, but have not yet been built.
The update gives figures for eight (out of nine) constituent municipalities. King has not been given a target. But there is no common baseline with some municipalities showing approvals from 2016 onwards and others going back to the early 2000s.
Housing and Servicing Allocations
Water and sewage capacity is critical and for as long as I can remember these so-called “servicing allocations” have been rationed. The Province dragged its feet for years, delaying approval for additional wastewater capacity. It's still up in the air following the cancellation by the Province of the North York Sewage Solutions project. Wastewater will be going down to Lake Ontario but we don't yet have all the details.
Here in Newmarket, if a developer chooses not to build then the allocation is withdrawn. That’s what happened with 22 George/39 Davis Drive where zoning was approved years ago for a total of 395 apartments and the landowner sat on his hands.
Freeman says municipalities will get the details of their capacity servicing assignments in November. But without a big increase in servicing allocations in Newmarket I don't know how the Town will be able to deliver Ford's target of 12,000 units.
The Chief Planner’s report sits alongside an update on housing needs.
The number of renter households in York Region doubled from 2001-2021 and rents have skyrocketed. The supply of rental housing has not kept pace with demand at a time when homeownership has been priced out of the reach of many people.
The Housing Needs Analysis for York Region makes bleak reading.
Renters are relying increasingly on the so-called secondary rental market (where owners rent out their property or part of it). The analysis gives eyewatering figures for rents.
“The average price for a leased condo in 2022 ranged from $1,700 (bachelor) to $3,200/month (3+ bedroom), and the average price for a leased single or semi- detached unit ranged from $3,100 (3-bedroom) to $4,700 (5+ bedroom), both of which are well above regional affordable rental thresholds which range from $1,300 (bachelor) to $2,350 (3+ bedroom).”
13% of all households in York Region in "housing need"
I learn that 50,000 households – about 13% of all households in York Region - are in core housing need which means they are spending more than 30% of their gross income on housing or their home is too small. Owners in core housing need spent a crippling 56.3% of their income just to keep a roof over their heads. Renter households spent 49.4% of their income on housing. (Though these are 2016 figures.)
It is time for Ford to tell his friends, the developers, to get building the homes that people need and to stop blaming municipalities for causing the crisis.
And he must return the land at Bathurst (and elsewhere) to the Greenbelt.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Newmarket Aurora MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, charged taxpayers $4,518 for her widely publicised event in Aurora where constituents could view the Coronation of King Charles III on a big screen.
Gallagher Murphy offered “light refreshments” to those attending the early morning viewing at the Royal Canadian Legion on 6 May.
In her “Dialogue with Dawn” column in Newmarket Today she trilled:
“We will have an assortment of scones, tea and coffee and a breakfast will also be served.
Don’t forget to wear your favourite fascinator.”
Bread and Circuses
Gallagher Murphy likes her bread and circuses, preferring spectacle to debates on policy. She boycotted all the candidate debates at last year's Provincial election and parrots the FordNation line on all matters of policy.
The MPP will be planning for her upcoming “Free Corn Roast and BBQ” which she vowed would be an annual event.
Last year’s Free BBQ on 16 October was billed to the taxpayers, costing us over $11,000.
After the event Newmarket Today asked her for an interview. She declined.
Below: Extract from Gallagher Murphy's expenses submitted to the Ontario Legislative Assembly for payment.
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