Ontario minister resigns from cabinet amid contradicting accounts of Las Vegas trip
Published Wednesday, September 20, 2023 4:02PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 20, 2023 4:02PM EDT
Ontario’s minister of public and business service delivery has resigned from his cabinet position and the Progressive Conservative caucus after records show contradicting accounts of a Las Vegas trip that was investigated by the province’s integrity commissioner.
The Premier’s Office confirmed MPP Kaleed Rasheed’s resignation in a short statement released Wednesday afternoon. However, they added that if the integrity commissioner cleared him, he would be “provided an opportunity to return to caucus.”
“A new Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery will be named in the coming days," the office added.
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Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake reviewed the trip as part of his investigation into Housing Minister Steve Clark’s handling of the Greenbelt, noting the “potential relevance” of allegations that a government minister and staffer went to Las Vegas with a developer. The review was prompted by media reports from The Trillium that exposed that a government minister had met with a developer while out of the country.
According to the integrity commissioner, the parties involved—Rasheed and then-principal secretary to Premier Doug Ford, Amin Massoudi—said they took the trip in December 2019 and “exchanged pleasantries” with developer Shakir Rehmatullah in the lobby of a hotel. Rasheed told the integrity commissioner that he is friends with Rehmatullah but did not know he was going to be in Las Vegas at that time.
Rehmatullah is the founder of FLATO Development, a company listed as the owner of two of the sites removed from the Greenbelt.
However, records show that the minister actually went on the trip in February 2020. The three individuals also got massages at the same time, according to three hotel staffers who confirmed the fact to CTV News Toronto.
Rasheed and Massoudi got the “Good Luck Ritual” massage and developer Shakir Rehmatullah got a custom massage at the same time in the Spa at Encore, at around 4 p.m. on Feb. 1, 2020, the employees said.
The minister’s staff told CTV News Toronto earlier this week that the trip was originally planned for December 2019, but it was rescheduled due to scheduling conflicts. The original timeline for the trip was shared mistakenly with the integrity commissioner, they said.
“Upon receiving the information, Minister Rasheed contacted the integrity commissioner’s office to correct the record and has shared the supporting hotel invoice and proof of payment paid for by the Minister. All relevant information and records are with the Integrity Commissioner,” spokesperson Doug Allingham said.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Rasheed said that he made the decision to resign “as not to distract from the important work of the government.”
“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,” he said.
Until that time, Rasheed will sit as an independent in the Legislature representing Mississauga East-Cooksville.
This is the second minister forced to resign after an integrity commissioner’s report found that decisions about developing the Greenbelt were made without transparency or supervision.
Earlier this month Housing Minister Steve Clark resigned from his position in cabinet. He remains a member of the PC Party.
The resignation came after the integrity commissioner found that he broke ethics rules for “failing to oversee the process by which lands in the Greenbelt were selected to development.”
As a result, he was found to have breached sections 2 and 3(2) of the Members' Integrity Act, which pertain to conflicts of interest and the use of insider information.
The commissioner found that Clark misinterpreted a mandate letter regarding the removal of land from the Greenbelt resulting in a rushed timeline, made the decision to withdraw from supervision over the decision-making process, and took the proposal to cabinet without properly questioning his staff’s choices.
NDP Leader Marit Stiles said the second resignation within Ford’s cabinet shows the government is “spiralling out of control.”
This is the second Conservative cabinet minister in a matter of weeks to resign as a result of the Ford Conservatives’ corruption crisis, and we know that we’re just scratching the surface,” she wrote in a statement.
In a statement interim Ontario Liberal Leader John Fraser said the resignations are concerning and a sign of “deep problems” within the government.
""All roads lead to the Premier’s Office in this $8.3 billion backroom deal that benefited Doug Ford’s friends and fundraisers,” Fraser said.
"Ontario Liberals call on Doug Ford to open the books on the $8.3 billion Greenbelt Giveaway and give Ontarians the answers they deserve."
With files from Jon Woodward