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Political blogger uncovers evidence for Greenbelt investigation

“People should connect the dots. There are all these questions that need to be answered. Really, the genie was out of the bottle,” says the Newmartet resident

Newmarket political blogger Gordon Prentice saw something wrong with the Township of King’s reaction to the province’s announcement that part of its Greenbelt would be opened up for development.

King Township passed a resolution on November 7, 2022 calling for the province to accelerate part of that land to become a new hospital site for the Southlake Regional Health Center. King Mayor Steve Pellegrini said the owner would make part of the Greenbelt land available for the purpose for a small fee.

Prentice said that given that the province announced the opening of Greenbelt land for development on November 4, the timing is not practical. He filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the community. The community announced that the mayor met with Southlake and the developers on November 1 about the idea.

“People should connect the dots,” Prentice said. “There are all these questions out there that need to be answered. Really, the genie was out of the bottle.”

Now that information is in the spotlight of an investigation by the provincial integrity officer into whether the province gave developers advance notice of the development of Greenbelt land. The provincial NDP held a press conference today about the November 1 meeting and other evidence it has presented to the commissioner on the matter.

“Maybe they had a crystal ball,” new NDP leader Marit Stiles said at a news conference. “But it seems to me that someone knew something.”

NeumarktToday received no response to a request for comment from the community of King prior to publication. This story will be updated when a reply is received.

Greenbelt land in King, just west of Newmarket, has been under scrutiny for several months.

The province, previously barred from development like the rest of the green belt, included the country in a Nov. 4 announcement about some areas of the green belt earmarked for housing. The King properties were purchased in September for $80 million by a company led by Michael Rice. Rice also runs the Rice Group which operates several large scale developments in the York area.

Prime Minister Doug Ford and Minister for Communities and Housing Steve Clark have both denied that the government gave any developers advance notice of the opening up of Greenbelt country.

Prentice said the NDP approached him about blog posts he made regarding his FOI request and a letter he sent to the provincial integrity officer regarding it.

He said he hoped the investigation would reveal the truth and he questioned the denial that the developers hadn’t received any notice of the Greenbelt.

“The whole thing is absurd,” said Prentice, a former UK MP who also ran for a seat as deputy mayor of Newmarket in last autumn’s general election.

The NDP today highlighted additional details including that John Dunlap, who served on Southlake’s board until September, was the broker of record for the King Greenbelt property transaction.

The NDP further noted that Rice is a regular contributor to Ontario Conservatives, having donated more than $10,000 to the party since 2018.

“The more we learn about the days and months surrounding this deal, the week, the more dodgy it gets,” Stiles said.

Prentice said he sent more RFIs to the community and Southlake to find out more about the meeting and what they may have known.

“Ask the obvious questions and stick with it until you get the answers,” Prentice said.

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