Ontario’s official Opposition requested Wednesday the integrity commissioner probe the relationship between a minister, members of the premier’s inner circle and a prominent developer whose land was removed from the protected Greenbelt.
New Democrat Leader Marit Stiles said her party wants the commissioner to examine a 2020 trip to Las Vegas by then-minister Kaleed Rasheed, Doug Ford’s then-principal secretary Amin Massoudi, Jae Truesdell – at the time in the private sector but who served as Ford’s director of housing policy starting in January 2022 – and developer Shakir Rehmatullah.
Rasheed, Massoudi and Truesdell initially told the integrity commissioner they went to Las Vegas in December 2019 where they “briefly” encountered Rehmatullah.
They later said the trip occurred in 2020 after reports from The Trillium and CTV called Rasheed’s timeline of his trip into question and a spokesperson said Rasheed had “mistakenly” given the integrity commissioner incorrect dates.
“From where I’m standing, none of this looks right and I know it doesn’t look right to Ontarians either,” Stiles said. “We hope our request will get people the truth that they deserve.”
Stiles wants Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake to examine the “misleading” information given to the commissioner.
“This government wants us all to believe that it was a total coincidence that one of their MPPs and two of the premier’s closest advisers all provided the wrong dates to the integrity commissioner and only corrected the record once media reported evidence to the contrary,” Stiles said.
The lawyers for Rasheed, Massoudi, Truesdell and Rehmatullah did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The province removed 7,400 acres of land from the Greenbelt last year to develop housing, but has since tabled legislation to reverse course.
That reversal came 10 months after the province removed the land and only after two legislative watchdogs found the selection process was flawed and favoured certain developers.
The scandal has rocked Queen’s Park and cost Rasheed his job as minister of public and business service delivery. He was also booted from the Progressive Conservative caucus, but could return should he clear his name, Ford has said.
The Greenbelt land removals also cost Steve Clark his job as housing minister.
The RCMP is investigating the government’s decision to open up the Greenbelt to development.
Ford has apologized for the Greenbelt land removal and said it won’t be touched going forward. He also said he believes nothing criminal has taken place and the government will co-operate with the police probe.
The government supports the NDP’s request to the integrity commissioner to investigate, said new Housing Minister Paul Calandra.
“The premier has been clear to all of us: we will assist to the fullest extent on this and anything else,” he said.
The Office of the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario confirmed it received the request to investigate.
“The request will be reviewed in accordance with the office’s procedure,” said Michelle Renaud, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario.
She added the request will take into account a section of the Members Integrity Act that states: “If the commissioner, when conducting an inquiry, discovers that the subject-matter of the inquiry is being investigated by police or that a charge has been laid, the commissioner shall suspend the inquiry until the police investigation or charge has been finally disposed of, and shall report the suspension to the speaker.”
In August, Wake found the government gave preferential treatment to certain developers, including Rehmatullah, when it chose which lands to remove from the Greenbelt and allow development.
Rasheed told Wake on that probe that he is close friends with Rehmatullah and that his wife works for the developer.
Rehmatullah also attended the wedding of Ford’s daughter last September.
In the fall of 2022, the developer requested Ryan Amato, Clark’s then chief-of-staff, to remove a parcel of land from the Greenbelt, which the government eventually did, the integrity commissioner’s report found.
“On the evidence, I am unable to make a definitive finding as to what or who prompted Mr. Rehmatullah in the fall of 2022 to take the steps he did to request that his small piece of land and the land of two of his fellow members of a landowners group be removed from the Greenbelt,” Wake wrote. “But I find it is more likely than not that someone did.”