A former top adviser to Premier Doug Ford, who joined a trip to Las Vegas that is now under scrutiny, left his government post in 2022, but has since kept working for the Progressive Conservative caucus on a $237,000 contract that only ended this month.
Amin Massoudi, a long-time aide to the Premier, served as Mr. Ford’s principal secretary from June, 2019, to late August, 2022. He has been named in an Integrity Commissioner report for his role in a 2020 vacation in Las Vegas that has since prompted the resignations of cabinet minister Kaleed Rasheed and another senior aide to the Premier, Jae Truesdell.
The trio had stayed at the same hotel as prominent Toronto-area developer Shakir Rehmatullah, who has benefited both from special fast-track zoning orders issued by the government and stood to gain from its now-reversed decision to swap lands out of the protected Greenbelt area for housing.
Mr. Massoudi has been providing “communications support” to the Premier after his departure from government last year, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ford’s office said, but as of this month no longer has a formal role with the government.
“During his time in the Premier’ Office, Amin provided communications support and was the Premier’s primary speech writer. Amin was retained to provide these services for a period of time as he transitioned away from his long-time position. That contract has now ended and he has no formal role,” said a statement from Ivana Yelich, Mr. Ford’s deputy chief of staff.
Ms. Yelich said the contract, which began in mid-August and lasted approximately a year, ended this month. She declined to provide further contract details.
Mr. Massoudi received clearance from the Integrity Commissioner before the contract was awarded, Ms. Yelich said. Mr. Massoudi did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Massoudi’s company, Atlas Strategic Advisors Inc., was paid $237,300 in 2022-23 under the heading “caucus support,” according to Wednesday’s public accounts, an annual financial statement from the government.
According to corporate records, the company changed its name from Amin Massoudi Consulting Inc. last August. The Atlas business name was registered in November, 2022. Mr. Massoudi is the sole director of the company, which doesn’t have a website.
Mr. Massoudi’s name has surfaced in recent weeks after Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake detailed a trip he took to Las Vegas with Mr. Rasheed and the Premier’s former housing policy adviser Mr. Truesdell.
Both Mr. Rasheed and Mr. Truesdell have since resigned after providing incorrect information about the trip to the Integrity Commissioner – at the same hotel at the same time as Mr. Rehmatullah, who would later benefit from the Greenbelt land swap.
After months of outcry, the Premier last week apologized and backed down from his government’s plan to develop parts of the Greenbelt, an environmentally protected area that arcs around the Greater Toronto Area. His government has since vowed to protect the boundaries of the Greenbelt in legislation for the first time, and expand it even further.
But the opposition have refused to relent, accusing the government of corruption and preferential treatment for a select group of developers, who stood to gain $8.3-billion in land value, according to the former auditor-general.
Mr. Rasheed, who now sits as an Independent, quit both cabinet and caucus last week after acknowledging he gave incorrect dates to the Integrity Commissioner about the Las Vegas travel. He initially said it took place in December, 2019, but revised the dates to early 2020.
Lawyers for Mr. Massoudi and Mr. Truesdell have also since provided the Integrity Commissioner with “revised information regarding dates of travel to Las Vegas,” according to Michelle Renaud, a spokeswoman for Mr. Wake’s office. Mr. Truesdell and Mr. Rehmatullah did not respond to a requests for comment.
CTV News has reported that Mr. Rasheed, Mr. Massoudi and Mr. Rehmatullah received massages in the hotel spa at the same time on Feb. 1, 2020.
According to Mr. Wake’s report on Aug. 30, Mr. Rasheed told the Integrity Commissioner that he was “shocked” to run into Mr. Rehmatullah, who is a friend, in the lobby of the hotel. Mr. Rasheed’s wife also works for the developer, and Mr. Rasheed put in a conflict-of-interest screen in December, 2021, at Mr. Wake’s behest.
Mr. Rasheed’s office told the Trillium and CTV News that the December trip was rescheduled to early 2020 and that he “mistakenly” shared information with Mr. Wake based off the former itinerary. His office said Mr. Rasheed “discovered” the trip actually took place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 2020.
With reports from Stephanie Chambers and Jeff Gray