Background: Last September Southlake Hospital in Newmarket announced that it would be eliminating 97 Registered Nurse positions because of “significant financial pressures”. The hospital said it hoped to avoid “any frontline involuntary employment loss”.

 So what happened?  

Southlake gets “one-off” bail out

Southlake Regional Medical Centre received an $18.5M one-off cash injection from the Province to help fund its day-to-day operations during 2020-21. The hospital has been in the front line, battling the Covid 19 pandemic.

Southlake’s Annual General Meeting passed without fanfare on 23 June 2021when the Treasurer, Steve Hills, warned Board members that, despite the extra funding from the Ministry of Health, the hospital would be back in deficit next year.

Hills told Board members the Ministry funding was

“intended to help address working capital deficits accumulated in previous years. While this result is a positive step in addressing the structural financial challenges of the hospital, it was achieved largely off of one-time supports received in March 2021 and therefore does not represent a permanent solution. At this time, the Hospital is forecasting a deficit position for fiscal 2022.”

“Not sustainable”

At last year’s AGM on 17 June 2020 when he reported a deficit of $17,679,000 Hills said:

“The current financial position is not sustainable.” 

In his Treasurer’s Report Hills says the Ministry of Health provided financial support throughout the pandemic.

“We were also fortunate to receive a combination of base and one-time operating funding and working capital support to assist with the ongoing financial challenges that pre-date and are unrelated to COVID.”

“Team-based staffing”

The papers put before the Board last week make no mention of the cuts in the numbers of registered nurses other than the Treasurer’s oblique reference to “team based staffing models”.

Perhaps the hospital’s Annual Report will shed some light on this but it has yet to be posted on their website.

While the hospital and its staff have worked heroically to protect us all from Covid, the pandemic has ensured things can never be quite the same. The hospital has to address increased wait-times arising from delays to treatments and postponed surgeries as well as dealing with

 expected challenges with health human resources as staff recover from an unprecedented year. These will be coupled with increased future demands for specialty staff as the health system tries to catch up for lost time..”

Burned out

Last year, Southlake’s Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, told the House of Commons Health Committee that dealing with the pandemic meant cancelling operations.

Our hospital went down to 30% of our normal volume. We've modelled that for hip and knee replacements alone it could take us seven years to recoup the number of surgeries we would need to do if we don't work evenings, weekends and everything else. Of course, the problem with that is human resources. As one of my other colleagues mentioned, they are pretty burned out. To try to get them to work those extra hours, even if we were funded for it, would be very difficult…”

Which brings me back to where I started. What has happened to the plans to get rid of 97 Registered Nurse positions?

The Ontario Nurses Association tells me that 70 have received termination notices but none, as yet, has been laid off.

Newmarket-Aurora's MPP is the Minister of Health, Christine Elliott.

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Update on 3 July 2021: Below: Ontario Nurses' Association ad in this morning's Toronto Star and Globe and Mail:


































As a result of the pandemic, Southlake’s Board suspended open board meetings from March 2020 and meets virtually. Last week’s AGM – as with the year before -  was also virtual with no public attendance. Click here to read the reports that went before the Board.








Toronto’s Dundas Street is likely to be renamed. 

A staff report going up to the City Council’s Executive Committee on 6 July is recommending a renaming of Dundas Street “and other civic assets” at a cost of $5.1M to $6.3M over two years.

This is absolutely the right thing to do.

A press release from the City Council explains:

"A petition calling for the renaming of Dundas Street was created in June 2020 following global discussions on racial injustices, inequality and anti-Black racism, which led the public to scrutinize the origins and history of monuments, street names, parks and buildings across Toronto. The petition objected to the street’s namesake, Scottish politician Henry Dundas, who was involved in delaying the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, causing more than half a million Black people to be enslaved in the British Empire.

The recommendation to rename Dundas Street and other civic assets bearing the same name follows discovery sessions, extensive academic research and a review of over 400 global case studies, and furthers the City’s commitment to anti-Black racism, Indigenous truth and reconciliation, as well as building a more inclusive and equitable Toronto."

We are told a transition plan would be developed to support Dundas Street residents and businesses to prepare for the name change.

Read background report here.

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Henry Dundas told the House of Commons on 2 April 1792 that it would be:

"impossible to emancipate the present slaves at once; nor would their immediate emancipation be of any immediate benefit to themselves; but this observation does not apply to any of their descendants if trained and educated in the manner I have suggested."

Update on 29 June 2021: from the Toronto Star: Will "Dundas" soon be history? And from the Globe and Mail: Toronto moves to rename Dundas Street over legacy of namesake

Update on 30 June 2021: Toronto Star Editorial: Farewell to Dundas Street

Update on 15 July 2021: from the Toronto Strar: Toronto Council votes to re-name Dundas Street


Did Dr Merillee Fullerton deserve to be re-shuffled out of her job as Ontario’s Minister of Long-Term Care? 

Covid was a catastrophe. But responsibility goes beyond the embattled Fullerton. She was dealt a bad hand.

(Photo right: Rod Phillips - the new Minister for Long Term Care)

By the end of April 2021 when the Covid 19 Long Term Care Commission reported, 11 staff and almost 4,000 residents in Ontario’s long-term care homes had died.

The Commission’s assessment is blunt:

“The Province’s lack of pandemic preparedness and the poor state of the long-term care sector were apparent for many years to policymakers, advocates and anyone else who wished to see. Ontario’s policy makers and leaders failed during those years to take sufficient action, despite repeated calls for reform…” 

Fullerton inherited a new ministry spun out of the Ministry of Health in June 2019 just at the time when co-ordination and joined-up thinking was most needed.

Ford’s Deputy Leader and Health Minister, the Teflon-coated Christine Elliott, couldn’t wait to rid herself of responsibility for long term care. She wanted to concentrate on health restructuring where savings and efficiencies, real or imagined, could be made.


Elliott’s Newmarket-Aurora riding is in York Region whose retiring Medical Officer of Heath, Dr Karim Kurji, complained last year that the planned health reorganisation was a huge distraction at a time when the Region should have been focussing laser-like on the pandemic.  

Fullerton gets the bad press but the person who should be carrying the can is Christine Elliott. Unlike Ford who, as Premier, is still learning on the job, Elliott has been steeped in health policy for decades.

Elliott spent years in opposition as the PC’s Health Critic and when she left Queen’s Park she accepted the offer from Kathleen Wynne of a well-paid job as Patient Ombudsman. But, reading the debates at Queen’s Park, it is clear she was obsessed by inefficiencies (as she saw them) in the Health system. 

Cuts in inspections

She figured there were savings to be made – such as the major reduction in the number of inspections in long term care homes. The regulatory assessment produced by the Ford Government viewed these inspections as red tape.

Elliott gave evidence to the Long Term Care Commission on 24 February this year confessing she was unaware that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had been warning in 2019 of a looming pandemic.

James Callaghan, Counsel for the Commission, told her public health experts around the world were forecasting that an influenza pandemic was statistically overdue and 

“if the source is not the avian influenza virus currently circulating, which has the potential to evolve into a strain that could cause a pandemic in humans, it will be another as yet unknown virus”.

He asks Elliott:

“I take it, as Minister of Health, you were aware that the World Health Organisation, for example, in 2019 was warning of the possibility of a pandemic and that governments weren’t ready for it. Were you aware of that advice from the World Health Organisation?”

Elliott replies:

“No, I wasn’t.”

I shake my head.


Elliott also didn’t think about the masks and medical supplies that would be needed in care homes if and when a pandemic struck. Global supplies would tighten and it would be hard to get protective equipment.

“I wasn't aware of that issue to begin with, so I didn't think about the situation in Ontario.”

Before June 2019 when long term care was hived-off,  Elliott was Minister of both Health and Long Term Care. She was asked if she took any steps to ensure that the long-term care facilities under her control actually had the supplies that she, as the Minister responsible for emergency preparedness, would have expected.  Elliott replies: 

“That was not something that I looked into specifically.”

Clearly, Elliott's focus was not on long term care. Her mind was on other things.

Duplicity comes naturally

So Fullerton is re-shuffled and her replacement is Rod Phillips – the ex-minister who was sacked by Ford for travelling to the luxury island of St Barts during the December holidays when we were all being told to stay at home and avoid  unnecessary travel. 

The duplicitous Phillips gives the impression he is here in Canada when he is actually relaxing on the beach in the Caribbean.

Welcome to Ontario’s new Minister for Long Term Care.

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Ford's re-shuffle: the details

See also the Auditor General's Report on Long Term Care

Four people were shot last night in Etobicoke including a one-year-old child, two other children age 5 and 11 and a 23 year old man who had been shot in the legs according to a page 2 report in this morning’s Toronto Star.  

The shooting happened at a child’s first birthday party.

One child was in a life-threatening condition and another in serious condition in hospital. The 1-year-old had been “grazed” by a gun shot.

In the old days this would have been front page news but, tragically, this kind of gun violence has become normalised. Politicians who should be outraged, shrug their shoulders.

I wrote to my own Liberal MP, Newmarket-Aurora’s Tony Van Bynen, on 22 January 2020 asking him to table Parliamentary questions on gun violence.  Astonishingly, Canada doesn’t collect statistics on the number of young people under 18 shot and wounded by someone using a handgun nor on the nature of their injuries.

Eighteen months on I am still waiting.

The Liberal Government has, of course, introduced Bill C21 to regulate firearms. But this has been described by Newmarket Mayor, John Taylor, as "highly flawed public policy at best and political downloading at worse".

It could happen here

If the children had been shot and wounded in Newmarket or Aurora rather than Etobicoke Van Bynen would have made a touching and well crafted comment. There would be thoughts and prayers aplenty.

But would he make the case for a handgun ban?

Absolutely not.

On all matters Van Bynen takes his cue from the Prime Minister.

And Trudeau’s inaction on banning handguns is political cowardice. Pure and simple.

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Photo above right shows Danielle Kane who was left paralysed below the waist in the Danforth shooting.

Update on 21 June 2021: From the Toronto Star: Neighbourhood reeling after brazen daylighlight shootings

Update on 22 June 2021: From the Toronto Star: Bill C21 - All-in against gun violence

Click Read more and read the correspondence.

I do not know if Conrad Black still lives here in Canada – the country whose citizenship he renounced in 2001 and the one which gave him sanctuary after his release from prison in the United States where he had been convicted of fraud. 

However, I know for a fact that Black is a member of the UK Parliament and, as such, is deemed to be resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. Black is currently on leave of absence but the tax rules still apply. 

When I recently asked him if he satisfied the requirements for membership of the UK Parliament or if he was there under false pretences he told me:

 “Of course I am fully qualified to hold the status I do.”


Guidance from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) says this:

“Members of the House of Commons (MPs) and House of Lords (Peers) are treated as resident and domiciled in the UK for Income Tax, Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax purposes. This applies to the whole of each tax year in which a person is a member of either House. It applies even if that person is a member for only part of the tax year and regardless of whether or not they are on a leave of absence.” (my underlining)

At the start of a new Parliament, the Clerk of the Parliaments writes to peers on leave of absence to ask whether they wish to retire from the House of Lords or whether they plan to attend again but wish to continue their leave of absence in the new Parliament. 

I'll be back says Black

On 2 December 2019, Black told the then Clerk of the Parliaments, Ed Ollard, he expected to be able to take part again in the proceedings of the House in due course and wished to stay on leave of absence. 

Tax – and especially international taxation - is notoriously complex but, on the face of it, Black should be a UK taxpayer. 

As it happens, 13 years ago when I was an MP at Westminster, I introduced the Disqualification from Parliament (Taxation Status) Bill which, unfortunately, failed to make progress. The Government, though, endorsed the general principle that UK Members of Parliament should be expected to pay UK taxes and this was subsequently brought into law with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

Part 4 of the Act provides that Members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords (other than Lords Spiritual) are to be deemed to be resident, ordinarily resident and domiciled in the United Kingdom for the purposes of income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax. As a result, MPs and Lords are liable to pay these taxes in the UK on their worldwide income.

That seems clear enough.

Home is where the heart is

Although we must tread carefully through the complexities, it seems HMRC will treat you as UK resident if you spend 183 or more days in the UK in the tax year; have a home in the UK, and do not have a home overseas and work full-time in the UK over a period of 365 days.

Of course, it is not quite so cut and dried. There is now a Statutory Residence Test which takes into account the amount of time you spend in the UK and the connections you have with the UK.

Additionally, we learn:

‘Ordinary residence’ is different from ‘residence’. It is not defined in tax law and is based on cases heard by the Courts. If you’re resident in the UK year after year, this would indicate that you normally live here and you’re therefore ‘ordinarily resident’ here.

 As a general rule, HMRC regards you as domiciled in the country where you have your permanent home and

“For the purpose of the Statutory Residence Test we consider that a person’s home is a place that a reasonable onlooker with knowledge of the material facts would regard as that person’s home.”

Is Black here? Or is it a hologram?

I’ve been following Conrad Black’s pronouncements and declamations in the National Post and elsewhere ever since he was released from jail in the United States and I've always taken it as a given that the great man was here amongst us, pontificating in Canada.

Who knows?  He wants the UK authorities to believe that all along he has been domiciled in the UK, dutifully paying his taxes to the Exchequer. But, then again, perhaps he has been living here and paying UK taxes! 

The House of Lords authorities do not require peers to confirm in writing that they are resident, ordinarily resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. They take it on trust. This is engagingly quaint. But it is also a glaring loophole.

Don't ask. Don't tell

The people who do know - the tax authorities – do not comment on the tax affairs of individuals.

The House of Lords won’t ask. And HM Revenue and Customs won’t tell.

Clearly, the UK Parliamentary authorities should ask peers on leave of absence like Black to confirm in writing that they are UK resident, ordinarily resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes and that they fulfil the requirements for membership of the UK legislature. 

I wouldn’t take anything on trust from someone with a criminal record.

So why should the UK Parliament?

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