- Written by Gordon Prentice
Luca Bucci, the Chief Executive of the Ontario Home Builders Association, quit the organisation abruptly on Tuesday (1 August 2023) giving no explanation. Bucci was previously Chief of Staff to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark.
In a terse letter to members, the President of the OHBA, Louie Zagordo, said
“Luca Bucci is no longer with the Ontario Home Builders Association, effective today.”
At the OHBA "Industry Leaders Dinner" in April, Bucci boasted the home builders were effectively writing Government policy on planning and housing.
Bucci's Linked-in profile has not been updated.
This morning’s Toronto Star reports that a draft of the Audit General’s report on the Greenbelt controversy has gone to Doug Ford as is customary and is expected to be published in a few weeks.
The Star's Robert Benzie writes:
NDP Leader Marit Stiles said the Tories are clearly worried about Lysyk’s “value-for-money” audit into the Progressive Conservatives’ decision to open up the Greenbelt for housing development.
“It’s fair to say that the walls are closing in on this Conservative government,” said Stiles, pointing out Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake is also examining the Greenbelt deals.
Tory sources, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal deliberations, acknowledged the parallel probes were a hot topic of conversation among cabinet ministers and MPPs this week.
Also generating buzz was the revelation a former top Conservative official had left suddenly as chief executive officer of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, an influential lobby group for property developers.ullscreen
Luca Bucci, who had been Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark’s chief of staff before joining the OHBA in June 2022, parted ways with the association Tuesday.
In a letter to members, OHBA president Louie Zagordo said he was “reaching out to advise that Luca Bucci (CEO) is no longer with the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, effective today.”
Zagordo did not provide a reason for the departure of Bucci, a key player in crafting the Tories’ plan to build 1.5 million new homes in the next decade to tackle Ontario’s housing crisis.
You can read the full article by clicking “read more” below.
Update on 4 August 2023: The Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk will release her report on the Greenbelt controversy on Wednesday 9 August 2023. Her report will not contain evidence sworn under oath by Michael Rice. He refused to attend an interview.
See also: Timeline: Southlake and the Sale of the Greenbelt lands in King and The new Southlake was planned to be built on Greenbelt land owned by developer Michael Rice and former hospital Board member John Dunlap
Update on 8 August 2023: From the Toronto Star: Doug Ford's Tories brace for Auditor's Report into controversial Greenbelt land swap
- Written by Gordon Prentice
I was surprised to see our MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, tweeting about fire hazards while surrounded by leafy vegetation which could easily harbour black legged ticks, always ready to pounce when they see bare skin. They carry Lyme disease which, in rare instances, can result in death.
As a Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health I thought Dawn would be alive to the risks of wandering into the woods when dressed for the beach.
The health experts tell us we can protect ourselves by
“wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants tucked into your socks, and closed-toed shoes.”
I learn that most symptoms of Lyme disease in humans usually appear between 3 and 30 days after a bite from an infected blacklegged tick. There is a painfully long list of symptoms which includes headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pains, fatigue, spasms, numbness or tingling and, frighteningly, facial paralysis.
Dawn did her piece to camera in the Township of McMurrich and Monteith which lies within the North Bay Parry Sound Health District east of the town of Parry Sound and west of Huntsville.
The Health District up there says twelve human cases of Lyme disease have been reported to them in the last five years.
“As of July 26, 2023, 99 ticks have been sent for identification. Ninety one results received, with 42 as blacklegged and one as ixodes kingi. Thirty-seven have tested negative for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.”
I like the sound of all those negative tests but, unfortunately, in recent years the areas affected by black legged ticks have been relentlessly expanding.
3,000 cases since 2021
Infected blacklegged ticks can be found across the province. And I read there have been over 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in Ontario since 2021. Oh dear!
We need Dawn to stay healthy so she can continue to warn us about the perils we face in our daily lives – and to thank, on our behalf, all those who keep us safe.
The last thing I want is for Dawn to wake up with a stiff neck, feeling fatigued.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The Big Audit
The Province announced earlier today that Newmarket’s finances will be audited by the accountancy firm, Ernst & Young LLP,
“as part of its ongoing work to build 1.5 million homes by 2031”.
We are told the findings - which will examine the books of five other municipalities - will support the Province’s work to boost housing supply and affordability.
But what does Doug Ford mean by affordable housing?
Definition of housing affordability
The Province used to define maximum housing affordability (as set out in the Provincial Policy Statement 2020) as 30% of the gross household income for households with incomes in the lowest 60% of income distribution. York Region explains it this way:
“This is the maximum house price that the lowest earning 60% of households can afford to purchase, assuming that 30% of household income is spent on mortgage payments, mortgage insurance and property taxes.”
York Region’s annual household income at the sixth decile was a very substantial $150,426 which translates into a maximum affordable house price of $564,326. The chart shows the selling price of various housing types in 2022 within York Region and not a single category is affordable for a household on an annual income of $150,426!
Alice in Wonderland
We are now in the Alice and Wonderland situation where the Province is proposing a new Provincial Planning statement to replace the 2020 version but the new one doesn’t define what is meant by affordable housing. In fact, it makes no mention of affordable housing.
Instead Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster) introduces a new vague definition of housing affordability which is to be 80% of the average purchase price of a home.
In 2022, 80% of the average price of a single detached house in York Region would be $1,381,074; for a semi-detached $958,476; for a townhouse $903,513 and for all housing types $1,112,264.
And this when the average Affordable Housing Threshold is $564,326.
How will the average be calculated?
The Regional Treasurer, Laura Mirabella, told members of the Regional Council in December last year that Bill 23 does not define how the average will be calculated. She expects the definition to come in 2023. Will the average be calculated using sale prices by Region? Or, more narrowly, on a municipality-by-municipality basis? Or even on a Province-wide basis?
“It is completely unclear how “average” will be defined. But, yes, if the purchase price of affordable ownership housing new-builds is deemed to be 80% of whatever that average purchase price is, there would be a full exemption which would be a significant loss in development charge revenue for us.”
Developers building “affordable housing” will now be eligible for a waiver on development charges which are paid to the municipality and are used to build the roads, sewers and so on that are needed to support new developments and make them viable.
Ludicrously, the Government relies on the recommendations of the Housing Affordability Task Force which calls on the Province to
“Develop and legislate a clear, province-wide definition of “affordable housing” to create certainty and predictability.”
Where is the definition?
It may be staring me in the face but I can’t see it.
Target plucked out of thin air
Newmarket has been given a target of 12,000 new homes by 2031. This figure has been plucked out of thin air. I have no idea where it came from. And, in any event, it is totally unrealistic as the Town has no room to expand outwards.
If there is an answer it is to increase density along the main corridors, Yonge and Davis, already identified for growth. But even so, 12,000 new units is a staggering number.
I’ll believe it when I see it.
As we all know Ford makes it up as he goes along.
Update on 27 July 2023: From Newmarket Today: Province names auditor to examine Newmarket finances and from the Toronto Star: Poll finds a majority of Ontarians believe Ford takes decisions which benefit friends
Update on 28 July 2023: From the Toronto Star: Auditing City's books doesn't add up
- Written by Gordon Prentice
My friend Kevin passed on this email exchange he had with Dawn Gallagher Murphy’s Office yesterday. He thinks it deserves wider publicity and I agree.
People can't sit on the fence on this issue. Nurses' pay is being deliberately held down. And the Ford Government is 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.
24 July 2023: 7.54am:
Good morning Dawn.
I wonder if you have read The Globe and Mail article on the use of agency nurses in Ontario hospitals? Do you have any thoughts on the cost of agency nursing?
24 July 2023: 10.32am
MPP Gallagher Murphy noted your email this morning (24 July 2023) and asked that I provide some background on what our government is doing to address this situation.
Indeed, the proportion of agency nurses has decreased from 3.8 % in 2017 and remains under 2% of total hours worked in hospitals. As a result, we have launched the largest healthcare recruiting and training initiative in the province’s history. We also launched the “Learn and Stay” grant for nursing graduates to receive full tuition reimbursement in exchange for committing to practice in an underserved community.
Between 2018 and March 2023, over 60,000 new nurses have registered to work in Ontario. This includes over 12,000 new nurses registered and ready to work on 2022 , a record year for Ontario.
Ontario is also investing a total of $80 million over 3 years, starting in 2023-24, to further expand nursing education in universities and colleges by increasing enrolment by 1,000 registered nurses, 500 practical nurses and 150 nurse practitioner seats.
This also includes new initiatives to make it easier for foreign credentialed health workers to work in Ontario hospitals and other healthcare settings in need of staffing report.
Our government will continue to work with the healthcare sector to ensure Ontarians can continue to count on the care the need and deserve.
With all these initiatives in place we are confident that the nursing situation will continue to improve in Ontario.
I trust this helps you to better understand what our government is doing to address this important issue.
Dennis C. Flaherty
24 July 2023: 11.11am
Good morning Dennis.
Thank you for your rapid response to my email. Your comments seem to come straight from the communications person in the Deputy Premier's office, who also happens to be Minister of Health. The article indicated that 78 hospitals are using agency nurses up from 31 in 2020-21. It also indicated that the cost of agency nurses had ballooned 341 percent from 2020-21. The average nurse in a hospital setting is paid $49.02 an hour while agency nurses can cost as much as $250.00 an hour.
It seems to me that a conservative government would look at this situation and realize it is not getting value for money and pay nurses under contract a better wage. Your comments do not address the issues raised in the article and the Ontario Nursing Association disagrees with the government's figures.
The Arbitration Panel's Report quotes figures from Ontario’s participating hospitals:
"In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the Participating Hospitals reported spending $38,350,956 on agency nurses, in 2021-2022, $70,978,158 and in 2022-2023, $173,669,808 (with the numbers for 2022-2023 probably an undercount for reasons explained in the Ontario Nursing Association brief, reply brief and at the hearing).
Agency hours grew from 449,608 in 2020-2021, to 1,183,358 in 2022-2023 (or, according to the Oontario Hospitals Association, 1,259,183).”
In the video below we can see thousands of nurses protesting in Toronto on Thursday 2 March 2023:
Click below for Globe and Mail article:
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Our local MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, is a Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health.
For this she gets a top-up to her MPP’s salary of over 14%.
Before being appointed by Ford as the PC candidate for Newmarket-Aurora Dawn Gallagher Murphy was invisible. Now she is absolutely everywhere. She is on Twitter and Facebook and every week she is smiling at us from our local on-line newspapers, posting happy ads, wishing us all well. When she is not opening things she is congratulating people. She is omnipresent.
So I am waiting to see if she will say anything about the arbitration award that gives nurses, on average, a pay rise of 11% over two years.
When she was elected last year she said Southlake would be her number one priority but, since then, she's had nothing to say about nurses' pay and the fact that it has been capped at a 1% increase for the past three years.
Today we learned an Arbitration Panel had found in the nurses’ favour.
“Even though that ruling is under appeal, the nurses were able to go back to the arbitrator to secure additional wages for 2020-2022 under the previous contract, since the contracts were subject to reopening if Bill 124 was repealed or declared invalid.”
Righting Past Wrongs.
The President of the Ontario Nurses Association, Erin Ariss, RN, says:
“This decision is a first step to righting past wrongs, and bringing hospitals nurses’ compensation up to where it should be. In his decision, Arbitrator Kaplan explicitly recognizes that improving wages is among the best ways to recruit and retain desperately needed nurses and begin to fix the nursing shortage. ONA members have been organizing across the province to push for better wages to improve staffing and patient care. This time, we were heard.”
Dawn says Nurses keep us safe
In May, during National Nursing Week, an excited Gallagher Murphy posted this gushing video on Twitter thanking the nurses for what they do for us:
DGM: Dawn Gallagher Murphy here, your MPP for Newmarket Aurora. And happy National Nursing Week!
Nursing week is May 8th until May 14th and this year’s theme is:
“Our nurses. Our future”
and I'm so excited to be sitting here with my dear friend and constituent, Ruth. And Ruth is a nurse. Nurses come in all kinds of forms. They work in our hospitals. In long term care. In our community. They work to take care of us and they help us in our health care to ensure that we are safe.
And I just wanted to ask Ruth what made you want to become a nurse?
Ruth: Really I just like helping people.
DGM: That to me says it all. So everybody thank you nurse. Because I'm thanking Ruth for everything she does to take care of us.
Ruth deserves her pay rise
Personally, I think Dawn should thank Ruth by telling her she welcomes the decision of the arbitration panel. Ruth deserves a pay rise.
Dawn could even tweet about it.
Update on 24 July 2023: from the Globe and Mail: Ontario spending on private nurses soars since COVID 19.
See also my blog (from September 2021): Southlake and Agency Nurses
Page 8 of 259