On 16 January 2023 Southlake convened a site selection meeting to review the “Bathurst and Davis Dr Opportunity”. (see graphic right) 

The meeting considered the land requirements for the hospital complex itself and the associated parking. There is also reference to an “LTC fit” which I take to mean long-term-care.

Intriguingly there is a reference to requirements that may need to be built into an MZO. (The Auditor General is currently conducting an inquiry into the Government’s use of Minister’s Zoning Orders)

"Just a conversation"

Last month, in response to a Freedom of Information request, Southlake’s Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, explained why she had no record of the consequential meeting on 1 November 2022 when developer Michael Rice offered Southlake some of his Greenbelt lands at Bathurst for a peppercorn:

“At an initial meeting such as this, we listen to ideas, but do not conduct any form of negotiations or even get into specifics. As such, it isn’t customary to take notes - it is essentially just a conversation. 

If opportunities appear to have some merit, we would then begin more intentional or formal meetings in such cases, where minutes or notes could or would be taken. 

However, because we were about to embark on a formal land acquisition process, we opted to consider this opportunity along with the other potential lands available, which resulted in fair evaluations of all lands in question.”

The “Bathurst and Davis Drive Opportunity” is clearly part of that wider evaluation she talks about.

Land use planning consultants

We now know that Southlake commissioned land use planning consultants who contacted King Township in August 2019 to give them a heads up on the hospital’s Master Plan which was to recommend a two-site solution to the Ministry of Health.

King’s Director of Growth Management, Stephen Naylor, was a participant in that meeting on 9 August 2019. He would have talked to Mayor Pellegrini about it. So, ever since, Pellegrini has been telling the world he has been looking for a site for a second Southlake. However, the Township insists it has no records of ever having conducted a search for a site suitable for a hospital.

Pellegrini was interviewed by the Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, who tells us:

[288] The mayor explained that other lands in the vicinity had already been discussed as a possible hospital site and that if Mr. Rice contributed land from his recently purchased property, he believed it would potentially be a viable option for the hospital and a significant benefit for King Township. 

I shall find out after 6 December 2023 if King Township is prepared to tell me where these other lands are and who owns them. 

Elsewhere… On 21 July 2023 I filed an FoI with the Township asking for sight of all records: 

generated and authored by staff arising from the resolution moved by Mayor Pellegrini and seconded by Cllr Cober on 7 November 2022 which directed them "to work with the landowner, Province and Southlake Regional Health Centre to expedite development approvals for the lands identified for the expansion of Southlake hospital”.

Tomorrow (20 November 2023) the municipality is due to tell me what actions it took to expedite the required approvals. 

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



The Ford Government is giving more funding to "for-profit" clinics to perform certain OHIP-covered surgeries than it gives Ontario's public hospitals to perform the same operations, reports the CBC.

The CBC says:

“…the rates being paid to the privately-owned Don Mills Surgical Unit Ltd. are noticeably higher than what the province provides public hospitals for the same procedures...

Last week, former health minister Christine Elliott registered to lobby the Ford government on behalf of Clearpoint. Her official registration says her lobbying goals are to "engage the government in updating and increasing the base funding amount available to Clearpoint." 

Clearpoint runs Don Mills Surgical Unit.

Lobbying former colleagues

Personally, I think it is quite wrong for a former Health Minister who left office as recently as June 2022 to be lobbying her friends and colleagues to boost the profits of her client, Clearpoint. Who thinks this is OK - other than former Progressive Conservative Cabinet Ministers?

Elliott, the former Progressive Conservative MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, is a “consultant lobbyist” which the Integrity Commissioner interprets this way:

As a consultant lobbyist, you are lobbying when you communicate with anyone in government to try to influence a law or regulation, government policy or program, transfer of a Crown asset, good or service to the private sector, government grant, contribution or other financial benefit, or government contract, or arrange a meeting between a public office holder and anyone else.

And “Lobbying” is defined as being paid to communicate with government in an effort to influence decisions. 

The 12 month rule

Former Ministers are subject to lobbying rules which are way too lax. Former Ministers like Elliott cannot lobby for 12 months after leaving office:

“For 12 months after you leave government, you cannot lobby: (a) the minister (or ministers) of the ministry where you worked in the preceding 12 months; (b) ministers' staff who work in that ministry or ministries; or (c) public servants who work in that ministry or ministries.”

In the UK (which has its own issues with former Ministers) there is a two-year ban on lobbying which, on all the evidence, is still too permissive:

On leaving office, Ministers will be prohibited from lobbying Government for two years. They must also seek advice from the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) about any appointments or employment they wish to take up within two years of leaving office. Former Ministers must ensure that no new appointments are announced, or taken up, before the Committee has been able to provide its advice. 

Elliott targets Gallagher Murphy

Bizarre as it may seem, Elliott could now be lobbying her successor as MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, Dawn Gallagher Murphy - assuming that DGM has any influence whatsoever in Government decision making.

Gallagher Murphy was hand-picked by Doug Ford who proclaimed her the official PC candidate for the riding within 24 hours of Elliott making her shock announcement that she would not be running again.

Nurses' pay held down

Back in July I wrote that nurses' pay was being deliberately held down. And the Ford Government was turning to agency nursing where costs are going through the roof.  

As Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health, our local MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, has done absolutely nothing to ensure nurses get a fair deal.

The vacuous Dawn Gallagher Murphy MPP congratulates people for what they do. After observing her for 17 months as our MPP this is her defining characteristic.

Getting nurses a fair deal? Forget it.

But will she listen to what the consultant lobbyist Christine Elliott has to say about the virtues of her client Clearpoint?

You bet.

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Click "Read more" below for Christine Elliott's view on lobbying by public bodies such as hospitals. In 2010 she called on the (then) Liberal Government "to prohibit all hospitals, local health integration networks, community care access centres, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and other publicly funded health care bodies from hiring consultants to lobby government officials". 

From the Register of Lobbyists:

Paul Calandra, the new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, endlessly repeats the line:

"We made a public policy decision that was not supported by the people of the Province of Ontario."

What weasel words these are.

The people were never consulted.

In the provincial election on 2 June 2022, the people were never asked if they wanted the Greenbelt to be opened-up for development.

It should have been the centrepiece of the Progressive Conservative platform but it wasn't there. 

Ford never had a mandate to remove lands from the Greenbelt.

The fact that he has a majority of seats in the Legislature doesn't change that fact.

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Backstory: King’s Mayor Steve Pellegrini says he has been searching for a suitable site for a second Southlake for years. 

“I have been moving this idea forward since 2019—on different lands, with different landowners.”

Two simple questions. Where are these different lands? Who are these different landowners? I was hoping to get the answers from the Township Clerk, Denny Timm, by 6 November 2023. He says the Mayor has discovered two records that appear to be "responsive".

He tells me these will now be released to me after 6 December 2023 – so long as the third party (who has to be consulted first) doesn't object. If so, it goes to appeal.

Why don't they just ask him?

My Freedom of Information request was filed with King Township back at the dawn of time, on 2 February 2023. At first I was told there were no responsive records. I appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner and now there are records. Magic.

Throughout this long drawn-out saga - with so much press commentary and so much at stake - I find it astonishing that no-one on King Council has apparently asked Pellegrini who the mystery landowner is. Why don’t they just ask him?

John Dunlap

I’ve long believed the mystery man is King landowner and land agent John Dunlap who served on the Southlake Board for four years until September 2022. He facilitated the sale of the Schickedanz lands at Bathurst to Michael Rice. (The Rice Group's portfolio is here.)

No hospital

We now know from his evidence to the Integrity Commissioner that, on 27 or 28 September 2022, Michael Rice handed over a bundle of material to Steve Clark’s former Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, giving reasons why his Bathurst lands should be removed from the Greenbelt’s protected countryside. Rice proposed new housing but there was no mention of a second Southlake

Just three weeks later, on 17 October 2022, Rice had a pre-meeting “on hospital expansion” with Pellegrini and King’s Director of Growth Management, the tight-lipped Stephen Naylor. This was to get their ducks in a row before the consequential meeting on 1 November 2022 with Southlake’s Arden Krystal when Rice offered land for a new hospital for a peppercorn. 

What happened at that pre-meeting on hospital expansion? What on earth did they get to talk about?


Did Rice tell them he now had reason to believe his Bathurst lands would be removed from the Greenbelt? And that his preference would be 100% housing with no hospital. But did he then reassure them he wasn’t going to let them down? He was going to stick with his commitment to provide land for a second Southlake.

The Integrity Commissioner wrote in paragraph 290 of his report:

Mr. Rice explained that if he had known in the summer of 2022 that the King Township property would be removed from the Greenbelt, he would not have entered into the discussions about using part of this particular site for the hospital. However, he told me that given his earlier discussions, he is “committed” and “sticking to it” with respect to making land available for the hospital. 

Did Rice let Pellegrini and Naylor into his thinking? 

Slanderous allegation

Pellegrini insists he had no prior knowledge of the Province’s plans to open up the Greenbelt for development. On 1 February 2023 he demanded an apology from the Official Opposition at Queen's Park for their “slanderous” allegation.

Elsewhere... We have had some movement from Southlake but there is more to come out.

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Andrew Rawnsley, the Chief Political Commentator of the UK's Observer newspaper, wrote this weekend:

"If a government looks bad from the outside, it will be twice as rotten on the inside. I've found this a reliable rule of thumb over the years."

He was writing about the damagingly incompetent and chaotic premiership of Boris Johnson.

But his words could equally apply to Doug Ford, a master of sophistry, who has thrown all the rules of good governance overboard. 

Ford says with a straight face that he has been cleared by the Auditor General and the Integrity Commissioner.

He conveniently forgets what he said at important meetings.

Scandalously, he refuses to put to the vote in the Legislature the Integrity Commissioner's recommendation to reprimand the disgraced ex Minister Steve Clark.

When did that ever become OK?

Here is the Toronto Star editorial of 3 November 2023 commenting on Ford's press conference on 31 October 2023.

It is Ford at his most shameless.

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Premier Doug Ford claims ignorance in land use debacle. Documents seem to tell a different story

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has put himself in a disgraceful position.

His only apparent defence against allegations of corruption on recent land use decisions is to claim profound ignorance of key decisions on his government’s number one priority, decisions that attracted publicity, debate and significant opposition.

Documents released this week under freedom of information legislation suggest that, as with his government’s actions on an aborted Greenbelt reopening, political staff ignored standard processes in order to override official plans and impose boundary changes on Ontario municipalities, a move also since reversed.

But with numerous comments in the emails and other internal communications to the wishes and orders of the “PO,” a reference to the premier’s office, the documents appear to take the scandal for the first time into Ford’s office.

“PO wants this done,” said one. “po has asked me for a picture to make sure (a certain property is) captured,” said another. Last-minute changes to Peel Region’s official plan came “from someone at PO,” said another.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said the documents released by the advocacy groups Ecojustice and Environmental Defence suggest Ford was clearly “looped in” on the decision-making.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said it’s “abundantly clear that all roads lead to the premier’s office.”

“The Ford government has given developers the inside track to decision making,” he said. “There are deals taking place behind closed doors designed to benefit a handful of wealthy, well-connected insiders.”

Just as the Greenbelt changes stood to hand some developers billions of dollars in profits, the municipal changes last November favoured some developers and made their land more valuable because housing could be built on it.

Ford continues to maintain that he had no knowledge of what was going on. “I don’t even know which lands you’re talking about,” he told reporters this week.

That despite the fact this is the most critical issue facing his government and the document release had received wide coverage.

He insisted he couldn’t recall the “thousands of changes” made to cities’ official plans to free up more land for housing. “There’s no one person that can review every single change.”

To date, the botched initiative has been written off as staffers running amok under an inattentive minister.

 Ford’s office appears to hope that reversing the egregious decisions and the departure of a few ministers and political staff involved will be enough to let them ride out the controversy.

But this issue will not be going away any time soon.

Fraser properly said that the premier needs to waive cabinet privilege — which saw great portions of the documents released Tuesday blacked out — and that the RCMP Greenbelt investigation must be expanded to cover the changes to municipal boundaries.

At a rambling news conference Tuesday in Etobicoke, the premier indulged in a carnival of deflection, distraction, evasion, offering up a veritable caricature of political stone-walling.

He talked about the double-double and egg sandwich he had at Tim’s. He announced an extended gas tax cuts. He denounced the federal carbon tax. He demanded the end of bike lanes on Bloor Street West. Some of his comments would have been laughable if they weren’t so palpably hypocritical.

“Every dollar counts,” Ford said with a straight face, even as his land-use chaos promises to end up costing plenty.

For instance, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra has already said municipalities would be compensated for any costs incurred as a result of the previous amendments to their official plans.

Ford needs to understand that while the serious matter of land use abuses remains unresolved, the folksy everyman act won’t cut it.

Until this reeking matter is explained, nothing he says on anything will have much credibility.