Premier Doug Ford lays blame for the housing crisis and the need to use Greenbelt lands on the backs of immigrants

By Staff

September 4th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Before his Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing resigned Premier Doug Ford spoke to the Association of Municipalities in Ontario using phrasing that appeared to be putting the blame for the housing crisis on the backs on immigrants.

In an opinion piece Toronto Star political columnist  , late in August said:

“He used the same phrasing again two days later, reading from the same Teleprompter: “Failing to act threatens to erode our unwavering support for immigration.”

“Again on Monday, in a highly touted speech to municipal leaders from across the province, the premier repeated his gut-the-Greenbelt-or-else warning: “Failing that would threaten to erode Canadians’ unwavering support for immigration.”

Premier Doug Ford: Does he understand the people of Ontario?

“Over and over, again and again, Ford purports to be raising the alarm in his role as a guardian of social cohesion. But if tolerance is truly his goal, the premier is playing with rhetorical fire.

“It’s not a dog whistle. It’s a bullhorn being blown from Ford’s bully pulpit.

“The premier’s comments this week to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario were especially unseemly and unsettling. His speech brought back memories of Ford’s performance in early 2018, when he told an audience of northern mayors that he wanted to put Ontarians to work first, before ever letting in foreigners who might take their jobs.

“Back then, Ford’s parochial pitch fell flat in front of a more worldly audience of northerners, who well understood the massive demand for talented foreign doctors and nurses, teachers and preachers, traders and tradespeople in their rapidly depopulating cities and towns. But it took a while for the premier to catch on.

“Again in 2018, Ford turned his wrath on “illegal border-crossers,” picking a fight with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by claiming, wrongly, that “this mess was 100 per cent the result of the federal government.” It was an attempt to whip up resentment then, just as he risks fanning prejudice now.

Let’s be clear about the housing squeeze, the Greenbelt gambit and the foreign factor. No matter how many times Ford tries to connect the dots and paint by numbers, he is making it up as he goes along.

“As much as Ford keeps pointing to future immigration levels as justification for his action, the truth is that the housing shortage long predates it. Even as the premier continually cites the Greenbelt giveaway as the prerequisite to building new homes, the reality is that his own housing advisory task force (and the auditor) argued the precise opposite.

“In fact, there is more than enough land that can be repurposed to meet the government’s building targets without cannibalizing protected lands. In any case, the auditor’s report notes that the government had already met its specific housing targets last October, a full month before it suddenly went back to the well by targeting the Greenbelt.”

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Steve Clark resigns as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

By Staff

September 4th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clarke gave Premier Doug Ford his letter of resignation and posted the contents on Twitter (X)

Steve Clark: Now just the MPP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

The release of a damning report from Ontario’s integrity commissioner finding that Clark violated the integrity act “by failing to oversee the process by which lands in the Greenbelt were selected for development “, was the beginning of the end for Clark

In his letter Clark said:

“Although my initial thought was that I could stay in this role and establish a proper process so that these mistakes don’t happen again, I realize that my presence will only cause a further distraction for the important work that needs to be done and that I need to take accountability for what has transpired.”
Clark said he plans to continue as MPP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

Marit Stiles: Leader of the Official Opposition NDP

Marit Stiles, the Leader of the Official Opposition NDP said in a media release:

“Steve Clark is finally taking some responsibility for his role in the government’s Greenbelt scandal. But the Auditor General’s report, the Integrity Commissioner’s report, and now a potential criminal investigation clearly show that this corruption reaches far beyond Clark’s office. 

“Now it’s time for Doug Ford to face the music.  

“Recall the legislature so we can restore these lands to the Greenbelt; and give Ontarians the transparency and accountability they deserve from a Premier.” 

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David Crombie: 'We really need to close ranks when it comes to people who bold faced lie'

By Pepper Parr

September 4rd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

David Crombie, former Mayor of Toronto and a lifelong Conservative who served in the government of Joe Clark and Stephen Harper talks about Premier Doug Ford in a 35 minute podcast with one of the Liberal leadership candidate. The following are excerpts from that podcast.

“The original promise to the public, was to not touch the Greenbelt. That was followed by a talk he gave to a number of developers telling them that he would open up the Greenbelt.

“When the Conservative government was re-elected the in 2022 everything changed.

David Crombie

“He was at least honest enough to say “it’s a scam. I don’t believe in the Green Belt. It’s a sea of weeds.”

“No one should be fooling around here. This is not just going to adjust the Green Belt. They want to blow it up. Why?

“Because green belts are our preserves for a long time. The point of having a preserve is to not have speculation of land prices.

“He’s now let loose thousands of acres of land to speculation.

“The auditor general’s report, was incredible enough.

“The Minister’s chief of staff resigns

“Nothing changes

“The idea that a Minister is responsible for what happens on his watch is forgotten.

”We’ve got a situation where the Housing Minister’s Chief of staff attends a private construction dinner where developers are literally handing him private packages

“People are busy so they can’t pay attention to all of this all the time.

“This is daylight robbery. This is not fooling around. A bit of corruption here, a bit of corruption there. This is a heist.

“These guys are bent on doing it.

“Again, listen to the premier, the Premier says the buck stops with me. I take full responsibility.

“Unbelievable, you’re a minister. Is there any world in which you wouldn’t know what was going on in your office?

“I mean, I don’t usually use these words. It’s not my style. But you’ve got to get through to people. These guys just will not tell the truth. And they’ll lie anytime they need to. And they’ve been doing it ever since the idea that somehow the Minister is not accountable for his chief of staff. That is so bizarre.

“The government’s ideology in many ways, is do whatever you can to win and do whatever you can get away with.

“It hurts me to say it, I’ve worked with all three political parties.

“We really need to close ranks when it comes to people who bold faced lie, and at the same time, ruin the future for your children.

“And grandchildren. That’s what they’re doing.”

Link to the full podcast

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How to make garage door repairs cheaper

By Evelyn Brown

September 4th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Quality garage doors can last for decades. However, with that long of use, there are bound to be damages or breakdowns that require their repairs. As reported by Home Advisor and Improvement the average cost of a garage door remodel is $218, with high-end parts running around the $553 mark.

Is this a repair you can do yourself or do you need a trained person to fix it?

When repairs are needed, you have two options: do it yourself or call a handyman. The first option seems more advantageous financially, but it’s not always possible. We will look at all the options on how you can reduce the cost of garage door repair

At the stage of diagnosis

● Self-diagnosis. Try to identify the problem on your own. Read the manual for your door, they usually have a section with the most common difficulties and how to solve them. Or look for the answer to your question online, perhaps watch a few videos. This will help save you money on calling a professional.
● Online consultation of a craftsman. Some masters provide such services via the Internet and such a consultation can be free or cheaper than a house call.
At the stage of selection of materials
● Reuse of materials. Before buying, check to see if you already have some of what you need.
● Buying used parts. Sometimes used but quality materials can cost much less.
● Buying non-original parts. To benefit at the moment, you can opt for cheaper analogs of the part you need. However, this entails risks of its more rapid failure.

At the stage of work

● Self-repair. Many simple tasks, such as lubrication, replacing small parts, and re-configuring the remote control can be done with your hands. Find detailed video instructions and get started.
● Combining tasks: If you need to do something not only to the garage door but also something else to repair, try ordering all the work at once, it may come out cheaper than repairing individually. At least for the cost of calling a handyman.
● Call a handyman in advance. Urgency always affects the final cost of the work. If your breakdown does not require urgent repair, then call the master on normal terms in his nearest window.

At the stage of choosing an executor

If you are going to attempt to repair a garage door by yourself become familiar with all the parts.

● Price comparison. Compare the proposals from different performers. Not only by cost but also by the tasks included in it.
● Online auctions and platforms. Sometimes on specialized platforms, you can find performers who are ready to do the work cheaply.
● Discounts or promotions. Some companies offer discounts in the “dead” season or promotions for certain types of work.
Additional tips
● Training videos and tutorials. There are enough resources on the Internet where you can see how to perform this or that repair yourself.
● Sharing experiences. Ask for advice from friends or neighbours who have already faced a similar problem. Perhaps the neighbour’s son will fix your gate cheaper than the master.
● Preventive measures. Most people don’t worry about their garage door until something breaks. However, the truth is that your door should be well-oiled, nuts and bolts tightened, and well-balanced. This greatly affects both its functionality and how long it will last. Is your garage more than a couple of years old? Get an annual tune-up from a professional garage door service company and you’ll avoid costly repairs in the future.

Self-repair vs. calling a master: Where is the benefit?
When deciding whether to do the repair yourself or to call a master, you should take a responsible attitude and evaluate several factors:

1. Financial costs for materials, tools, and work. Remember that if you do not have the necessary equipment, the result may be more expensive than if you hire a professional.
2. Time and effort. Evaluate how complex the job is and how much time it will take. And what financial consequences will come with the risk of making a mistake,
3. Quality and results. If you have the necessary experience, the result can be at the level of a professional. But remember that the handyman gives a warranty on his work, which can be beneficial to you.
4. Personal Safety: Some jobs can be dangerous without the proper equipment and knowledge. And professional handymen know and follow the standards, removing the risks from you.

Based on these criteria, you can choose between self-repair and calling a handyman. Each case is unique, so it’s important to conduct a full assessment before making a decision.

When it is more cost-effective to call a handyman
In some situations, calling in a handyman can be more beneficial:

A broken cable can be done by an experienced handi-man or a neighbour who understands mechanics.

1. Technical complexity. If the breakdown involves complex mechanisms such as automatic opening and closing, it is better to entrust it to a professional. A mistake in repair can lead to costly consequences.
2. Need for specialized tools. Sometimes repairs require specialized tools, which are quite expensive and will not pay for themselves in one repair.
3. Parts. Professionals often have access to parts at wholesale prices and can offer a better price than retail stores.
4. Warranty case. If your door is still under warranty, repairs will probably be free or cheap as long as a certified craftsman does the work. If you do it yourself, you may even nullify your warranty.
5. Warranty on work done. Many professional services offer a warranty on their services, which can save you money in the long run.
6. Time Savings. If you don’t have the free time or desire to research how to make repairs, calling a handyman can be more cost-effective in terms of your time. And if you translate that into the cost per hour of your work as well, for sure.
7. Adherence to standards and norms There are some instances where repairs must be done according to certain standards that only a qualified professional knows.

While do-it-yourself repairs may seem cheaper at first glance, the long-term economic and safety factors often speak in favor of calling in the professionals.

This is probably going to require professional trained help.

Conclusion
With the variety of options in today’s world, finding a way to make garage door repair cheaper is not difficult. As a rule, the financial benefit requires balancing it with the investment of your time, risks incurred, or lost profits.

Choosing to make a financial outlay, such as calling a repairman, provides a strategic benefit that can be overlooked at the moment. Make an informed decision based on your priorities and you’ll be on the plus side either way.

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Canada could be sitting on the largest housing bubble of all time.

An international strategist points to a perfect storm of stretched house prices, weak affordability, and over-leveraged mortgage borrowers characterizing the Canadian housing market.

By Zakiya Kassam

August 29, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

An international strategist is warning that Canada could be sitting on the largest housing bubble of all time.

“I’ve analyzed housing bubbles in the developed world and Canada’s really got a unique one to its own,” Phillip Colmar, Managing Partner and Global Strategist at MRB Partners, told BNN Bloomberg last week.

Canada has stretched house prices and weak affordability, said Colmar. He also put particular emphasis on the country’s household debt levels.

Phillip Colmar, Managing Partner and Global Strategist at MRB Partners.

Canadian households packed on $16.5B in debt in the first quarter of this year, according to data from Statistics Canada (StatCan). That included $11.2B in mortgage debt. While that figure represents a “relatively slow” quarter for mortgage borrowing — it follows “record” levels of debt packed on in Q2-2021 and Q2-2022 — StatCan also reports that mortgage interest payments grew 12.6% on a quarterly basis and 69.7% compared with the first quarter of 2022 “as a result of ongoing rate hikes.”

Obligated payments of principal fell 6.8% “as the significant stock of variable rate mortgages likely allowed interest payments to further adjust without a concomitant rise in principal.”

Meanwhile, a “decline in households’ disposable income” pushed the country’s household credit market debt as a proportion of household disposable income to 184.5% in the first quarter, up from 181.7% in the prior quarter.

Household credit market debt to household disposable income, seasonally adjusted (Statistics Canada)

Household credit market debt to household disposable income, seasonally adjusted (Statistics Canada)

“The worst part for a housing bubble is when you have a credit bubble underneath it. And the amount of Canadians leveraged into the system versus incomes is is pretty astronomical,” continued Colmar.

Meanwhile, banks are doing what they can to keep Canadians in their mortgages, including offering borrowers the option to tap into relief plans, payment deferrals, and extended amortizations.

RBC, for instance, recently disclosed that the number of Canadian residential mortgages with amortization periods surpassing 25 years was up 40% year over year in July. Similarly, TD reported an annual rise of 35%. Both banks say they’ve seen a spike in loans extended over 35 years.

This kind of ‘hand holding’ is what’s keeping the rate of mortgage delinquencies low, Victor Tran, mortgage and real estate expert with RATESDOTCA, told STOREYS in a previous interview. It’s also one of the things keeping the housing bubble at bay for the time being.

“[Banks] are basically just kicking the can down the road. They’re helping these customers out,” said Tran. “If lenders stop helping these customers out, then yeah, we’re going to start seeing a huge increase in mortgage delinquencies and mortgage defaults. And sure, we may see many forced sales in the market.”

Tran also pointed out that Canadians are holding onto their mortgages at the expense of other credit products.

“For example, credit cards, student loans, lines of credit, some auto loans — they’re starting to see a huge rise in delayed or missed payments,” he said. “That was kind of expected due to inflation and rising costs. Because if anyone has to miss a payment, they would leave the mortgage payment or any type of housing payment to be left last to miss.”

Although it remains to be seen if the Bank of Canada will opt to raise its policy rate in the months to come, further volatility is sure to bleed into the mortgage space, which could ramp up the severity of a recession.

Experts have been split on when, or even if, a recession will hit — a key factor that will precipitate a housing bubble burst. Just last month, an RBC report predicted a moderate economic contraction in 2023. A July report from financial advice provider Finder, however, found a 50-50 split between economists who believe a recession will happen in the next year and a half and those who don’t expect a recession to happen within the next two years at all.

But looking ahead to early September, when Canada’s next GDP report is due to come out, economists surveyed in a recent Reuters poll pointed to a sharp slowdown in economic growth as being likely.

“Not to be too scary, but there is definitely a risk here that if mortgage rates go higher, or unemployment were to rise when we hit the next recession, then this thing does end up in a deleveraging cycle,” Colmar said.

Picked up from STOREY.CA; the online platform for real estate news.

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Canadians are a little out of the loop when it comes to their own mortgages.

By Staff

September 1st, 2023,

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It seems that Canadians are a little out of the loop when it comes to their own mortgages.

The Real Estate and Mortgage Institute of Canada (REMIC) painted a pretty dismal picture of Canadian borrowers earlier this month, reporting that 58% can’t recall what their monthly mortgage payments are “without looking them up.”

REMIC also revealed that 68% of current borrowers are “murky” on what their monthly payments would be if the Bank of Canada raised its policy rate to 5% (and mind you, the rate hit 5% in July) including close to 32% who say they don’t know and over 36% who say they’re unsure.

There’s shock value to those figures — at first blush, they’re uncomfortably high and seem to point to a sort of irreverence in a high-stakes borrowing scenario — but experts point out that mortgage holders these days are facing an unusual level of nuance. Interest rates haven’t held steady for more than a few months at a time since last March, and mortgage rate volatility has certainly been one of the fallouts.

How many of these home owners know what is set out in their mortgage?

Andy Hill, mortgage broker and Co-Founder of ratefilter.ca, says that it makes sense to him that only a portion of borrowers — and he surmises those with an adjustable-rate product, as well as fixed- and variable-rate carriers who are up for renewal — would be hyper-aware of their monthly mortgage payments, as only some are “at the whim” of interest rate fluctuations.

“If they’re not coming up for renewal, if they’re not an adjustable-rate mortgage, effectively, they have no reason to make that sort of calculation at this specific time,” he says.

Early mortgage documents were to some degree hand written.

Similarly, Victor Tran, mortgage and real estate expert with RATESDOTCA, notes that it’s not uncommon for current borrowers to be less “in tune” with the broader market dynamics that inform things like mortgage rates as they move away from the initial purchase of their home, saying that consumers tend to be “reactive as opposed to proactive.”

“They usually look into these sorts of things when they actually have to,” he adds.

READ: “Mortgage Malaise”: Over A Third Of Canadians Regret Their Current Mortgage

With another BoC rate decision slated for next week, Tran urges borrowers coming up for renewal in the coming months to be proactive: “shop around” with different lenders and, although predictions are mixed on whether the bank will opt to hike or hold, consider locking in a rate preemptively.

“If rates go up, you’re protected at a slightly lower rate. If the rates go down, then great, you just reapply for that new rate hold or a new pre-approval,” he says.

Tran also notes that, while the BoC’s policy rate dictates the prime rate, which is then tied to variable-rate mortgages and lines of credit, consumers can follow the Canada government bonds for some insight into fixed-rate mortgage products.

“As Canada government bonds increase, fixed rates will also increase. And vice versa — if bond yields are coming down, fixed rates will also come down,” he says. “And people can monitor that online. You can just Google ‘Canada five-year government bond’ or ‘three-year government bond.’ And the fixed rates are tied to those directly.”

Many churches and some families celebrate the end of a mortgage by burning it.

But regardless of the bank’s next move or the type of mortgage scenario Canadians are finding themselves in, Hill stresses that there’s power in doing your homework and not just relying on “experts” to inform your next mortgage move (or sticking with the same product out of convenience.)

“You really want to do a little bit of research into the mortgage you’re currently in and what you’re being offered,” he says. “Look at the bank that you bank with, look at what other banks have available, look at the broker network — I think all of those avenues are good to explore. Just like one would with any other investment, you want to check out the variety of different options available, and then be empowered in your own decision making.”

Content was picked up from STOREY.ca; the online platform for real estate news.

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Provincial government moves to return 104 acres in Ajax to the Greenbelt

By Staff

August 31st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The 104 acres on Kingston Road in Ajax that was taken out of the Greenbelt so that housing could be built on the property is now going to go back into the Greenbelt because the people who bought it attempted to flip the land they bought for $15.8 million on June 18, 2018 — less than two weeks after Ford’s Tories were elected.

Robert Scott from Lennard Commercial Realty, who is the co-operating broker for the marketing of the Ajax property, said they’re currently marketing it as an agricultural land with a potential to be developed for other purposes such as residential or industrial.

The listing did not include an asking price, and said the realtors would be taking in offers up until Sept. 14.

Scott said the company marketed the property through a Chinese agent who has a listing agreement with the owner, whom he’s never met.

Land was taken out of the Greenbelt – provincial government moving to put it back in.

In its statement the provincial government said:

“The government’s intention in amending the Greenbelt boundaries has always been to increase the supply and affordability of homes by building at least 50,000 homes quickly, while also expanding the overall size of the Greenbelt.

“Any attempt to sell these lands or otherwise profit from this decision without building the homes Ontario residents rightly expect runs contrary to the government’s intentions and will not be tolerated.

“To ensure that construction on the remaining lands proceeds without unnecessary delays, the government will inform the remaining proponents that they are required to notify the Office of the Provincial Land and Development Facilitator of any potential transactions or actions regarding these lands. Any actions that stand in the way of building homes quickly on these lands will not be tolerated.

“The facilitator continues to work closely with proponents at these sites to ensure the government’s criteria regarding these lands are met. These criteria include making substantial planning progress by the end of 2023 with shovels in the ground no later than 2025 and that proponents cover the cost of community benefits, such as housing-enabling infrastructure, parks and green spaces, as well as other amenities that will result in complete communities.

“If these expectations are not met, the lands will be returned to the Greenbelt.”

That raises a bunch of questions. Will the ownership of the property revert to the people who sold it?

There is going to be a lot of financial pain for someone when this is settled.

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It will cost you $2 to get into Spencer Smith Park during Ribfest

By Pepper Parr

August 31st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

UPDATE: City Communications advises that the city had nothing to do with the adding of an entry fee.

UPDATE # 2:  Turns out the city has rented the space to Lakeshore Rotary.  Don’t know yet when that decision was made.

Not sure how this came about – but the sign over the eastern entrance to Spencer Smith Park says $2 Entry Fee.

Ribfest is taking place for four days and in order to get to where the Ribs are sold and the bands are playing you have to now pay.

We didn’t see or hear about that at any Council or Standing Committee meetings – we clearly missed that.

We will check into it.   It would appear that the park is no longer fully public.

Wondering as well:   How much did Rotary pay for the use of the park ?

UPDATE:  

City Communications said: “Ribfest is NOT organized by the City, it is completely run by Rotary Lakeshore. My understanding is that they are looking at this as a donation, however you will have to contact them directly for further info and comment.”

Interesting:  How does Rotary decide to add an entry fee without getting permission from the city.  It still amount to a public park not being fully public.

Imagine that a tourist decides they want to experience the park and take a walk out to the end of the Pier.

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Public opinion certainly isn't on the side of the Premier, municipalities or the developers

By Staff

August 31st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Alliance for a Liveable Ontario commissioned Environics Research to gauge public perceptions about the cause of the housing crisis facing Ontario, the preferred solution and whose opinion people trust.

The results show there is overwhelming support for governments to be actively involved in getting housing built in existing towns and cities where services already exist. Ontarians do not want housing on the Greenbelt and farmland.

The Key Takeaways were:

Leader of the provincial opposition Marit Stiles does not think a soybean field inside the Greenbelt is the place to build houses when there is already enough land elsewhere.

83% of Ontarians hold the view that there is no need to build housing on the Greenbelt and farmland to solve Ontario’s housing challenges because there is enough land already available in existing towns and cities. This view mirrors the findings of multiple reports (see here) that show more than enough land has been set aside within existing urban boundaries to build over 2 million homes.

88% of Ontarians think the government should get actively involved in housing solutions, focusing on lands where services already exist.

41% of Ontarians either trust no one or are not sure about who to trust when it comes to the housing issue.

Civil society groups are trusted by 33%.

The Premier is trusted by 10%, local Councils by 10%, and housing developers by 6%.

Without trust very little will get done

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Integrity Commissioner concludes Clark breached sections of the Members’ Integrity Act - recommends Minister reprimanded. 

By Pepper Parr

August 30th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is a stinker.

It is 190 pages long that was produced quite quickly.  Set out below is a portion of the document.   A deeper reading and some analysis will follow.

J. David Wake, Integrity Commissioner said:

The matter went before cabinet on November 2, was approved, and after a short 30-day public consultation period, the Greenbelt changes took effect.

The resulting public outcry over this move led to a complaint filed with me on December 8, 2022.

Marit Stiles: Leader of the NDP opposition at Queen’s Park

In that complaint, Marit Stiles, Member of Provincial Parliament for Davenport, asked for my opinion on whether Minister Clark contravened sections 2 (Conflict of Interest) and 3 (Insider Information) of the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994. Making or participating in a decision that furthers another person’s interest improperly is prohibited under section 2 of the Act. Communicating information that may be used to further another person’s interest improperly is prohibited under subsection 3(2) of the Act.

My inquiry was limited to determining whether Minister Clark’s role in the decision to remove certain properties from the Greenbelt contravened the Act.

In the course of this inquiry, my staff and I received evidence from 61 witnesses plus Minister Clark. We reviewed maps, documents, text messages, emails, briefing decks and other documents totalling thousands of pages. Much of the evidence was gathered through the exercise of my powers under section 33 of the Public Inquiries Act, 2009 to summons witnesses and to have them produce relevant documents. I was satisfied with the level of cooperation shown by all witnesses and their counsel in this inquiry in making themselves available and producing documents.

The evidence paints a picture of a process marked by misinterpretation, unnecessary hastiness and deception. It shows that Mr. Amato advised Minister Clark to “leave it with me” as he embarked on a chaotic and almost reckless process that I find led to an uninformed and opaque decision which resulted in the creation of an opportunity to further the private interests of some developers improperly.

Ryan Amato: Chief of staff to the Minister of Municipalities and Housing resigned earlier this week.

Mr. Amato gathered packages of materials from developers keen to have their lands removed from the Greenbelt. When submissions for Greenbelt removals were met with “send me more information” instead of only a polite acknowledgement, this was a subtle change in the messaging that was noticed quickly by the ever-sensitive antennae in the developer network. Certain members of the development community seized the opportunity and provided Mr. Amato with detailed maps, files and reports supporting the removal of various properties from the Greenbelt. There was no public call for submissions, consultations or assessments, but those developers who caught wind of this change – and sought access to Mr. Amato – obtained the opportunity for their lands to be removed.

Based on the evidence, of the 15 properties that were removed from the Greenbelt or redesignated, Mr. Amato was involved in the selection of 14. This report outlines the evidence gathered on how each of the 15 properties came to be included in the cabinet submission.

 

The public servants believed that Mr. Amato was providing direction and/or approvals from the minister and the Premier’s Office. But by his own admission and that of other witnesses, Mr. Amato was operating largely alone and undirected.

I find that Mr. Amato was the driving force behind a flawed process which provided an advantage to those who approached him. It was unfair to those landowners who had an interest in seeing their lands were removed and who were unaware of the potential change to the government’s Greenbelt policy. The argument that they could be considered at a later time must not be particularly comforting to them now and since the December removals, no action has been taken to consider any other properties for removal from the Greenbelt.

It is incumbent on the minister, however, to supervise his staff. Members cannot hide from accountability under the Act where, through undue carelessness or inattention, they fail to oversee important policies or decisions in their offices. I find that the minister made three critical decisions which contributed to the improper result of the process.

Portions of the Mandate Letter the Premier sent to Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Minister of Municipalities and Housing Steve Clark

First, Minister Clark misinterpreted the mandate letter’s timing for Greenbelt removals which led Mr. Amato to embark on a rushed process with unfortunate results.

Second, he made the decision to withdraw from the supervision and direction of this highly significant initiative within his ministry, leaving it to his recently appointed chief of staff who had never served in that capacity before and who was “drinking from a firehose” trying to grasp all of his new responsibilities.

Third, he made the decision to take the proposal to cabinet without having questioned Mr. Amato or the deputy minister as to how the properties had been selected for removal or redesignation.

Mr. Amato’s communications to developers must be attributed to Mr. Clark since I find that he failed to oversee an important initiative in his ministry which led to some developers being alerted to a potential change in the government’s position on the Greenbelt with the result that their private interests were furthered improperly.

During the inquiry, I encountered evidence that is relevant to mandates I have under other pieces of legislation, on which I have outlined and offered commentary as well as recommendations in this report.

Based on the evidence gathered in this inquiry, I conclude that Minister Clark breached sections 2 and 3(2) of the Act. Accordingly, I have recommended to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that Minister Clark be reprimanded for his failure to comply with the Act.

While now public the Integrity Commissioner reports has to be presented to the government who can ignore it, accept the recommendation or decide to take a different approach.

 

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Alliance for a Liveable Ontario wants Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner to expand their investigations

By Staff

August 30th 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Alliance for a Liveable Ontario (ALO) is now calling on the Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner to expand their investigations to include review of the many other decisions of the Minister’s Office at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing since July 2022. Such a review could help restore

• The power of Conservation Authorities. Bill 23 compromises Conservation Authorities’ capacity to regulate development that negatively impacts wetlands, rivers or streams and to provide municipalities with guidance on preventing flooding.

• Municipalities’ capacity to address affordable housing. Under Bill 23 and Bill 97, the limitations on Inclusionary Zoning make it irrelevant to those most in need, and the Minister has the right to overturn any municipally-approved rental replacement bylaws.

• The funding needed to support development. Bill 23 reduced the amount of Development Charges and Parkland Dedication Fees municipalities may charge. The resulting lack of funds for necessary infrastructure is stalling progress on new developments.

• Local, democratic, sustainable decision-making. The Province overruled (Regional) Official Plans, forced urban boundary expansions, introduced ‘Strong Mayor’ powers and expanded the range of Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs).

A large display of public support is needed to justify further investigations. Please review the short ALO letter and, if you agree, please endorse the letter by 5pm, September 11, 2023 and pass it on to others who might be interested.

In a Special Report on Changes to the Greenbelt, the Auditor General found that

1. The process used to select sites for removal from the Greenbelt “was not transparent, fair, objective, or fully informed”,

2. “Direct access to the Housing Minister’s Chief of Staff resulted in certain prominent developers receiving preferential treatment”, and

3. “The owners of the 15 land sites removed from the Greenbelt could ultimately see a collective $8.3 billion increase to the value of their properties” [based on 2016 Municipal Property Assessment Corporation property values].

A large display of public support is needed to justify further investigations. Please review the short ALO letter and, if you agree, please endorse the letter by 5pm, September 11, 2023 and pass it on to others who might be interested.

 

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Minister of Housing gets out of town to announce a new housing grant

By Staff

August 30th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Steve Clark, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is sticking to his guns.

He was in Little Current on Manitoulin Island this morning to tell them about the over $1.6 million provided through the Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF) to help create three affordable housing units for seniors in the community.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark

In partnership with the Government of Canada, the Ontario government is also providing $821,180 through the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative to support the creation of another three units in this building.

Fielding Place is a brand-new senior’s facility with 12 units, including one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Three out of 12 units are funded by the Social Services Relief Fund. Two of the units are fully accessible and each unit is equipped with kitchen appliances, air conditioning, and in-suite laundry. The units also have a private patio and ample storage. Residents will be close to waterfront parks, local shops, banking, and community activities.

Things are cooler up north.

The announcement gets the Minister out of town and away from Queen’s Park where the politics of the housing problem prevent people from seeing some of the small projects that serve smaller communities.

Donna Stewart, CAO, Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board put the decision in perspective: “It took us 24 years to make this a reality and we have finally succeeded in adding 12 affordable senior’s units to our portfolio.

Have you any idea how far from Queen’s Park Manitoulin Island actually is.?

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Best: If we don't have local news what we will have is people in City halls cranking out press releases

By Pepper Parr

August 30th , 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Earlier this month we did a piece on Bill Kelly’s radio program on what was his last broadcast from CHML. A part of that program included a conversation between Kelly and John Best, Editor of the Bay Observer. The two have known and worked with each other for years.

Best made a comment on what media was like – and what it is like today. We set that out below and then write about how media is “managed” by the Communications department in Burlington.

John Best, Publisher of the Bay Observer

John Best: “But if we don’t have local news Bill, what we’re going to have is all these people in City halls cranking out press releases that we all get by the dozens: there will no longer be any kind of an observing filter. It’ll simply go from the PR people directly to the public, and at some point it will be taken as gospel.

“And that’s really dangerous. That’s almost Orwellian to guys like me that have worked around the media for most of our adult lives. The concern is that the answers are not readily at hand.

“There was a time when they were reporters. I mean, they were people that were employed to go out and get the story to talk to the newsmakers to report on this.

“But when newsrooms are decimated as they have been, especially as you say in some small markets with local news, the people that are left, and there’s not that many of them, have no choice but to simply, you know, reprint the press releases that the politicians or others are putting out.

“The few reporters that are left don’t have time to question – basically all they’re doing is repeating the spin that these people are putting on it. And that’s not good for the public. That’s not good for us to be informed and know what’s going on. There’s a valuable piece of that that’s starting to erode right now and I think we all need to be concerned about the implications of that.

“Reporters actually speak to people, to ask them questions and get answers and you can’t do it all by email, and text. It’s too impersonal and you don’t get to the truth. If you can’t look people in the eye when you’re asking them questions you probably don’t have a news story.”

The comments John Best made sum up what the Gazette has to deal with from the City hall communications department.

If I sent a note to a city staff member – I get an answer from the Communications people who offer to get me an answer.

There is rarely an opportunity to actually talk to a staff member. At a Performing Arts event recently I ran into a person I used to have lunch with – the person was always very responsive when questions were asked.

But at the Performing Arts event the comment was “I am not allowed to talk to you.” We once got the same from a member of Council. That one stunned me. When the Council member was running for office we met frequently and talked about his plans. He wrote two Opinion pieces for the Gazette.

That Council member turned out to be a major disappointment – there was hope when an election campaign was taking place but it didn’t take long for people to realize that there wasn’t much to the image – he ended up becoming a lap dog for the Mayor.

Council did formally recognize and support free press day. That was the equivalent of a Mayor who talked up her experience as a journalist but has yet to hold a wide open media event. Her preference is to appear on programs that will never ask her a hard question,

This approach to the managing of how the city decides to work with media comes right from the top. City Manager Tim Commisso determines what the policy is going to be.

He basically continued the practice that James Ridge had in place.

While individual members of Council have their issues with Commisso – they have not taken any steps to open up the way the city hands out information. They like it the way it is.

Some Councillors, early in their first term of office, were a bit forthcoming. One got into the practice of talking about matters that were discussed in closed sessions of council. This kind of thing is like icing on a chocolate cake for a reporter – but you have to be very very careful when you get this kind of information.

You don’t want to burn the source.

We work from the premise that an informed society can make informed decisions. People in Burlington do talk about what they don’t like – but they seem to need time to figure out what to do. Rarely does a candidate lose office after just one term; the exception would be Cam Jackson who was out the door after four years.

Burlington is in the process of going through a very significant change. There will be thousands of people who will live in apartments many of whom will use GO trains to get to where they work. Their involvement in local community events might turn out to be limited.

The current City Council

Gifted leadership learns what drives a community; what people want and what they don’t want and has the communication skills to build bridges between the different points of view.

Burlington doesn’t have that kind of leadership and there is no one on the current council that shows signs of having the royal jelly.

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Public opinion - it is seldom static

By Pepper Parr

August 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We were doing some research on where the picture that was used in the “Can’t Afford Meed Ward” Facebook page – that we can’t seem to find and I ran across the article I did on the Meed Ward announcement that she was going to run for Mayor. 

 

The picture that was used in the article was a picture I took at the event.  It’s out there – anybody can find and use it. Link to that story is HERE

What was on Med Ward web sites and Facebook pages has been removed.  The suspicion over there is that another candidate running for Mayor in the 2018 election was responsible for the posting.

It was a very short story – at the bottom there were 16 comments.  They are set out below.  How many of those people would say the same thing today ?

16 comments to Meed Ward announces she will run for Mayor in October.

  • Ian

    After so many years of arrogance and non-representation at City Hall I can now see a way out of this Dark Hole to a future where transparency and electoral representation will rule the day and where there will be OPEN and HONEST discussions rather than the ‘lip service’ that exists today.

    Marianne Meed Ward has a long history of fighting for the rights and concerns of ALL the citizens of Burlington and as Mayor she will be in a position to ensure that Council is more focused and held to a higher level of accountability

    Join the MOVEMENT!

  • gordon

    Kerri: The reality here regards the issue of misrepresentation rather than misinformation as you suggest. Hard to walk this one back for the thousands of voters impacted here as well as those across the city who were stunned to see this unfold.

  • Fran – Tyandaga-Ward1

    Congratulations Marianne! Well Done!

  • gordon

    We will let the Pearson and Bateman communities weigh in on this!

    • Kerri

      gordon: There is no reason what so ever for the Pearson and Bateman communities to hold the decision made by the Director or Education and upheld by the board of trustees against Marianne. The final outcome of those difficult decisions was not her doing. If the folks in those communities choose to believe the slander and misinformation that is thrown about by the representatives of those school communities, well that is very unfortunate. Instead of slander and name calling on social media, perhaps people who have sincere questions reach out to Marianne for a discussion in a respectful manner.

  • bonnie

    Bob, I am a resident of ward 5 and Marianne has already been in touch about canvassing in this ward. Do you really believe that MMW saved Central H.S. and if so, you have not met the strong parents of the Save Central Campaign. I have had the pleasure of sitting on a committee with MMW and believe me, she will fight for all the residents of our city.

  • Bob

    The good people of Burlington deserve a mayor who will represent all of the city not just the downtown interest. I don’t think you’ll find her canvassing the neighborhoods around Pearson and Batemen after that shameful display to save the decrepit building on Baldwin. I would also urge all Burlington residents particularly the lifelong Burlington residents to visit the downtown to see for yourself the councillors riding and ask yourself if this is the Burlington you want

    • Phillip

      Marianne is not to blame for the disaster that the downtown is becoming; she has fought to protect the historic character of the downtown while encouraging development that is consistent with maintaining that development. She has consistently been voted down by 5 other councillors (while the mayor also voted against some of these developments, my gut tells me he did so after carefully looking around and making sure the development was going to be approved by those 5 councillors).

    • Sharon

      Robertt Bateman High School families don’t just live in Ward 5. We are everywhere!! Including Ward 2. I am sure she will find doors closing in her face or not opening at all. Bateman has not forgotten what MMW and Leah Rehnolds did on June 7, 2017.

  • Judy

    I’m very happy to hear that Marianne is running; however, I have only one regret about her decision. If the worst happens and she doesn’t get elected as Mayor, then we’ve lost her from Council and Ward 2.

  • PamC

    I do hope that not all the proposed development will be stopped.

  • Phillip

    Great news!!! I believe Marianne will provide the courageous, principled leadership that TRULY engages all constituencies in this City.

  • Frank Smith

    We now have a more engaged candidate for mayor.

  • Helene Skinner

    Thank God!!!!

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Burlington is where the Premier and a number of the Greenbelt developers celebrated the wedding of a daughter

By Pepper Parr

August 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In a statement released by Leader of the Opposition Marit Stiles said

“This is not the first time a developer has used the Ford government’s “housing tools” for speculation and profit.

“In fact, a close contact of the Premier recently made windfall profits after getting special zoning orders to build on farmland with a strip of the Greenbelt running through it.

“This developer, Shakir Rehmatullah of Flato Developers, was on the guest list for the Ford family wedding and is closely connected with the Premier’s former right-hand-man Amin Massoudi.”

The room where large expensive weddings take place. Fabulous location.

The event took place at the Pearle Hotel and Spa which is part of the Bridgewater development in downtown Burlington.

“Yet, the government gave little to no response when that sale was made public by the Toronto Star.

“Earlier this year, prolific donor and another close contact of the Conservative Party, Silvio De Gasperis, who owns the historic Dominion Foundry Site, received an MZO to begin demolition of the site only to turn it into a parking lot.

“This closely connected developer continues to make profit while new housing is still nowhere to be seen, despite this government insisting that the MZO was issued to increase housing supply.”

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Premier Ford working 24/7 to find a way out of the mess one of his Minister's created

By Pepper Parr

August 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The drip, drip, drip is becoming a gusher of public outrage causing Premier Ford to back track and begin looking for a way out of the mess his Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing created.

Leader of the Opposition Marit Stiles in a soybean field inside the Greenbelt

Marit Stiles, Leader of the Opposition at Queen’s Park said: “Ford’s Conservatives are changing their tune simply because they got caught. Clearly, this is a government that has one set of rules for those with close connections to their party and a different set for everyone else. None of this is about housing. This government needs to recall the Legislature so we can restore all of these lands to Greenbelt protection now, and Ford needs to fire Minister Clark from Cabinet.” 

Ford expressed concern earlier today that a company called Buena Vista Development is trying to sell 765 and 775 Kingston Road East in Ajax.

Those are two of the “sites that were selected as part of the land swap to build at least 50,000 new homes and grow the size of the Greenbelt,” the premier said in a statement.

What do you make of that body language. Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Clark communicating with Premier Ford.

“At no point was the intention to sell disclosed to the government’s facilitator during active and ongoing discussions.

“This behaviour goes against everything that our government is doing to bring home ownership into reach for more people.

“In response, our government is exploring every option available to us, including immediately starting the process to put these sites back into the Greenbelt.”

In firing a salvo at the Ajax landowner, Ford is sending a signal to developers who have had their Greenbelt land rezoned.

“To the other property owners, you’re on notice: if you don’t meet our government’s conditions, including showing real progress by year end with a plan to get shovels in the ground by 2025, your land will go back into the Greenbelt,” the premier said Tuesday.

Officials from Buena Vista Development were not immediately available for comment.

CBC has reported the land at 775 Kingston Road East was purchased in June 2018 for $15.8 million and that the company’s main officer is Yuchen Lu, who resides in Fuyang, China.

Ford is doing his best to make it clear that if the land taken out of the Greenbelt was not developed – he said he wanted to see shovels in the ground by 2025 – then the land will revert to being part of the Greenbelt.

From a purely legal point that might be easier said than done – but that is some distance down the road.  Road now the Premier is working 24/7 to save his government.

Public pressure works.

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Rudi Denninger passed away on Friday at the Oakville Trafalgar Hospital.

By Staff

August 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Rudi Denninger passed away on Friday at the Oakville Trafalgar Hospital.

No details yet on funeral arrangements.

There are five Denninger’s locations in the Hamilton Burlington markets.

Hundreds of young people in Burlington and Hamilton got their first part time jobs at Denninger’s stores.

Rudi Denninger’s recent passing marks the end of the beginning of the wonderful food empire he founded. As CEO of Denninger’s Foods of the World he moved the company into a leadership position in specialty food purveyors. Many other purveyors of food took advice from him. He was a strong patron and business leader in our community (Hamilton and Burlington).  His specialty products and prepared meals are sold and distributed far beyond Denninger’s own stores.

Rudi invented many types of sausage including their best-selling Spinach Sausage. He was a big supporter of Joe Brant Hospital as well as a strong supporter of Rib Fest from the very beginning. Under his leadership, Denninger’s employed hundreds of young people for many of whom it was their first job.

His name will forever be part of the legacy he left us and we love.

 

 

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Funding available for non-profits that work to create a safer community.

By Staff

August 28th. 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Halton Region is now accepting applications for the Building Safer Communities in Halton Grant, which will provide funding for community-based prevention and intervention programs that address gun and gang violence. The Region will distribute up to $2.4 million between January 1, 2024 and March 31, 2026 to eligible local organizations.

“Keeping children, youth and young adults engaged, healthy and safe are important steps to preventing involvement in crime and gun violence,” said Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr. “While Halton has a low rate of gun and gang violence, these issues cross municipal borders and local prevention and engagement programs are critical to keeping all communities safe. Public Safety Canada  is funding this important initiative in Halton and across the country.”

Keeping youth and young adults engaged, healthy and safe are important steps to preventing involvement in crime.

In 2022, Public Safety Canada introduced the Building Safer Communities Fund, announcing investments of $250 million to help communities tackle the root causes of gun and gang violence across Canada. The Building Safer Communities in Halton initiative is part of Halton’s Community and Safety Well-Being Plan and aligns with the Region’s broader effort to work closely with local partners to keep the community safe and healthy.

Applications for the Building Safer Communities in Halton Grant will be accepted until September 22, 2023. To be eligible for the grant, organizations must:

  • support children, youth and young adults (ages 6 – 29) in evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies;
  • align with priority program types in application guidelines (e.g., counselling, harm reduction, supportive housing, etc.);
  • align with priority themes in application guidelines (e.g., preventing and addressing human trafficking, developing and supporting positive coping skills, etc.);
  • provide services to Halton residents;
  • ensure equitable and inclusive service delivery to support diverse, equity-deserving or marginalized populations and;
  • be incorporated as a non-profit organization, registered charity, or a First Nations, Metis or Inuit band.

The Region will be hosting three information sessions to help community organizations learn about the grant and the application process:

  • Session 1: Wednesday, September 6, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Virtual)
  • Session 2: Thursday, September 7, 6 to 8 p.m. (Virtual)
  • Session 3: Friday, September 8, 2 to 4 p.m. (In-person – Halton Regional Centre, 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville)

To apply for the grant or learn more, visit the Community Safety and Well-Being page on halton.ca. To attend a session, please register by emailing buildingsafercommunities@halton.ca.

 

 

 

 

 

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Minister of Education tries to straddle rights of students with the rights of parents to know when there is a gender change

By Pepper Parr

August 28th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

During the Minister of Education media event earlier today a reporter asked:

Will Ontario bring in policies like we’ve seen in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan to require that parents be informed if their children change gender identity at school?

Minister of Education got tossed questions that needed delicate answers. He did Ok.

Minister responds
Look, I think it’s important to note that every school must be safe for every child. I think we understand, though, that parents must be fully involved and fully aware of what’s happening in the life of their children. I mean, often there are health implications. And I think we have to respect the rights of parents recognizing that these can be life changing decisions, and I think parents want to be involved so that they can support their kids. And I think that’s a really important principle that we must uphold.

Reporter follows up with:
Are you going to require legislation ?

Minister
We’re simply making clear as a province that we believe parents should be fully involved fully aware of what’s happening to their children; these are significant changes and they have a right to know. And so we would expect school boards to be transparent with parents.

Reporter:

How do you respond to the criticism we’ve heard that it puts some LGBTQ kids at risk, where maybe they’re not, you know, their home environments, not a safe place for them to be out or to have a different gender identity?

A transgendered person matters. It is a tricky question – there is no simple, clear cut answer.

Minister
This is why lead with recognition. Safety must prevail the safety of the child both at home and school, for there are exceptional circumstances where there can be situations of potential harm to a child educators are well versed on exactly what to do and who to turn to. If they believe that child may be harmed for whatever reason or whatever circumstance – we will always safeguard the rights of children to be safe will always ensure that that is the case. Educators do amazing work in recognizing the signs and the changes in behaviour and energy and attitude.

They really do wear many hats and we’re grateful for what they do. But there’s a well-established protocol to ensure the safety of children and I have every confidence that what has been the case for many years will continue to be that they can leverage those that protocol if they believe something potentially could put the child at risk.

Is as an overarching value system, I really do believe that parents need to be fully aware, fully engaged in school boards and to be transparent with parents. I mean, they are the legal guardians. They love their kids. They want to be aware of what’s happening in the life of their children in their schools. And I think that that is really important that they know.

Reporter
Your position is that they should but there’s not a requirement to report or like anything like any directive like that from the Ministry of Education.

Minister:
School boards will have policies. I’m just affirming the provinces position on the matter quite clearly, which is parents have a right to know and we will respect parental rights. We think boards must do the same.

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“Dissolution of Halton Region not ruled out.”

By Staff

August 28th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

If Region dissolved – what would the office space be used for?

 

Local paper suggests “Dissolution of Halton Region not ruled out.”

Details at this link;

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