EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a new Village Media website devoted exclusively to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park.
The "Mantharays" are sticking around.
Algoma—Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha has hired back the team of staff who worked for him before his expulsion from the Ontario NDP caucus at beginning of the month over alleged "workplace misconduct" that the party's investigating.
Two of the "Mantharays," as the MPP referred to the team of three in an Instagram post, have worked for the MPP for most of his almost 12 years as a provincial representative, he told The Trillium on Monday.
Mantha and the NDP have each kept many details of the allegations and the investigation quiet to protect the complainant's privacy.
But Mantha said he has no plans to fade out of politics. Much the opposite, in fact. Talking in broad strokes about his situation, he said "We are all served with destinies in our lives and we're all faced with challenges."
"And this is one which has demonstrated to me that there is more improvement that I can do as an individual," he added. "I will grow. I will become a better person, a better father, (and) a better community member."
Mantha has said he will be co-operating with the NDP's investigation. He wasn't able to provide an indication on Monday of how long it may take. In the meantime, he said he'll continue working on behalf of his constituents in Algoma—Manitoulin and toward the possibility of seeking a fourth re-election in 2026.
"My next step is just becoming an effective independent member, serving the people of Algoma—Manitoulin and actually preparing myself to contact Elections Ontario to register myself as an Independent member because 2026 is not that far away and I'm going to be looking to get ready for that election," said Mantha, adding that he'll make a final decision on running for re-election again "later on."
While he was still an NDP MPP, Mantha took a "personal leave" at Stiles' behest from mid-February until the end of March.
The allegation against Mantha was made in December and Stiles learned about it a few days before becoming leader in early February, she's said.
Stiles announced in a statement on April 1, two days after his unexplained personal leave was reported by The Trillium, that she had removed Mantha from the NDP caucus.
The first day Mantha took his seat in the legislature in 2023 was as an Independent on April 6 to hear the NDP's newly-elected MPP Sarah Jama's inaugural speech. He's regularly attended legislative proceedings ever since.
Mantha said two main issues will be top-of-mind for him for the remainder of the spring sitting: doctor recruitment and health care more widely, and the improvement of roads in his northern Ontario riding.
He also said he hopes to soon table a new private member's bill seeking to better connect doctors to the Ministry of Transportation so that people whose driver's licences are suspended for medical reasons are notified more quickly. This would be his third active private member's bill; Mantha's other existing pieces of legislation seek to bring more awareness to child abuse and take a step toward reimbursing people in Northern Ontario for costs they incur when travelling long distances for health care.
Mantha also said he'll be spending a significant amount of time over the next few months catching up on constituents' case work — something made easier by the return of his staff.
In returning to work for Mantha's now-Independent office, his three staff are now non-unionized. Most of the NDP's political staff are unionized — a quirk unique among its counterparts at Queen's Park of the party born out of the labour movement. According to an NDP source, "in general, when a member is removed from caucus, their staff are no longer employed by the NDP."
Asked if he has any desire to someday return to the NDP, Mantha said it's "not even a thing I'm thinking of right now."
He is, however, still hamstrung in a number of ways due to his split from the NDP. For example, Mantha said he hasn't yet recovered the archive of casework files he kept while he was with the party since 2011. He also said he has to start a fundraising "treasure chest" anew again and organize a new riding association if he is going to run again in 2026.
"Right now, my ultimate goal is serving the people of Algoma—Manitoulin. They are going to tell me what I should do. I'm going to listen to them," Mantha said.
—With files from Jessica Smith Cross