EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a new Village Media website devoted to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park.
A cabinet minister in the Ford government has resigned and left the Progressive Conservative caucus after admitting to giving Ontario's integrity commissioner incorrect information about a Las Vegas trip with a Greenbelt developer.
Kaleed Rasheed, formerly the minister of public and business service delivery, and the MPP for Mississauga East—Cooksville, resigned on Wednesday afternoon.
In a statement he posted on Twitter, Rasheed said he decided to make the “incredibly difficult” decision to leave the PCs “so as not to distract from the important work of the government.”
Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake expanded his recent Greenbelt investigation to look into the Vegas trip, which The Trillium first reported on June 29.
On Sept. 11, The Trillium reported new information challenging the accounts that Rasheed, the developer Shakir Rehmatullah, Amin Massoudi, a former close aide of Ford's, and Jae Truesdell, the premier's current director of housing policy, gave to Wake about the trip.
The Trillium reported in its June 29 story that Massoudi went on the trip. On July 24, The Trillium reported that Truesdell, who was working in the private sector in between stints in the government in early 2020, had been there, too.
In the interviews they did with Wake afterwards, the three linked to the government — Massoudi, Truesdell and Rasheed — said they’d gone to Las Vegas together a couple of months earlier in December 2019. During that time, Rasheed and Massoudi said they only “briefly encountered” the developer, Rehmatullah, in the lobby of their hotel.
Rehmatullah, who runs Flato Developments and owns land removed from the Greenbelt last year, was travelling separately, according to the accounts he and the others gave Wake. Rehmatullah also gave Wake records indicating he stayed at the Wynn Las Vegas from both Dec. 6 to 9 and Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, 2020.
The new information The Trillium reported on Sept. 11 included that Massoudi had booked an 80-minute "Good Luck Ritual" massage at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel — where they stayed — on Feb. 1, 2020.
On Tuesday, CTV News reported that Rasheed and Rehmatullah had also gotten massages at the same hotel spa at the same time as Massoudi on Feb. 1, 2020.
The Trillium had also reported that another booking under Rasheed’s name had been made at the Wynn hotel’s spa on Feb. 4, 2023. He had told the integrity commissioner that he had only visited Las Vegas once — in December 2019 — since being elected as an MPP in 2018.
On Tuesday, a day before he resigned from Ford’s cabinet, Rasheed’s spokesperson said in a statement that he had "mistakenly" shared incorrect information with the integrity commissioner "based off the original itinerary of the trip."
"As noted in the commissioners' (sic) report, Minister Rasheed had been trying to contact the hotel numerous times for assistance in obtaining proof of payment but received no response," said Rasheed's spokesperson, adding that the now-former PC MPP had contacted the integrity commissioner to provide the correct information and “correct the record.”
Ford’s office notified journalists of Rasheed’s resignation in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
“If Mr. Rasheed can clear his name through the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, he will be provided an opportunity to return to caucus,” the premier’s office’s statement said.
Rasheed posted his statement on Twitter shortly afterwards, saying, “I look forward to taking the steps required to clear my name with the Integrity Commissioner so that I can return to the Ontario PC team as soon as possible.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Michelle Renaud, the spokesperson for the integrity commissioner’s office confirmed it received “revised information” from Rasheed after publishing its Aug. 30 Greenbelt report, which was launched to focus on now-former housing minister Steve Clark.
In a follow-up email, Renaud said that since Wake became Ontario’s integrity commissioner in 2016 “a similar situation” to Rasheed’s — in which an interview subject sought to fix incorrect information they provided the commissioner after a report’s release — has not happened.
The Trillium emailed Rehmatullah, Massoudi and Truesdell on Tuesday night, after Rasheed’s spokesperson statement was received, asking if they also planned to go back to Wake to provide clarifying information. None had responded by 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
All of the interviews they did with Wake as part of his Greenbelt investigation were under oath. Knowingly lying under oath is known as perjury in Canada's Criminal Code. Mistakenly giving untrue information or forgetting certain facts, however, would not be perjury. Wake did not accuse anyone of perjury in his report.
The integrity commissioner’s Aug. 30 report found Clark to have broken the ethics law for MPPs by failing to properly oversee the Greenbelt land removal process that his former chief of staff led.
Although the ethics watchdog’s office is barred from saying much about in-progress investigations, its Greenbelt scandal-related work isn’t believed to be over. The office has signalled it still may be poking around on the premier’s daughter’s 2022 wedding festivities that developers attended, Ryan Amato, Clark’s former top staffer, and “Mr. X” — an unregistered lobbyist flagged in Wake’s Aug. 30 report.
The integrity commissioner also wrote that he made "no findings with respect" to the Las Vegas trip in his report.
Opposition party leaders Marit Stiles, of the NDP, and John Fraser, of the Liberals, each suggested that they’re thinking about filing a new complaint with the integrity commissioner about the Las Vegas trip.
Ford’s office said it would appoint a new minister of public and business service delivery in the next few days.
Rasheed’s departure marks the second member of Ford’s cabinet to resign in just over two weeks. Clark resigned as Ontario’s municipal affairs and housing minister on Sept. 4, days after Wake’s report was published. Ford shuffled his cabinet later that day.
Unlike Rasheed, Clark has remained a PC MPP.
“With this latest announcement by Mr. Rasheed, we have a government that continues to spiral out of control,” Stiles said on Wednesday.