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
A spokesperson for a member of Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet says the minister “mistakenly” gave the integrity commissioner wrong information about a Las Vegas trip he took to the same hotel at the same time as a developer who owns land removed from the Greenbelt last year.
Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake expanded his Greenbelt investigation to include an interview with Kaleed Rasheed, Ontario's minister of public and business service delivery, after The Trillium reported he and developer Shakir Rehmatullah went to Las Vegas in early 2020, according to information from multiple independent sources.
Premier Ford's principal secretary at the time, Amin Massoudi, and the premier's office's current housing policy director, Jae Truesdell, who was working in the private sector in early 2020, also went to Las Vegas at the time, The Trillium reported in stories on June 29 and July 24.
When Wake questioned the three linked to the government — Massoudi, Rasheed, and Truesdell — about the trip, they told the integrity commissioner they had actually gone to Las Vegas together in December 2019. Massoudi and Rasheed also both said they only "briefly encountered" Rehmatullah in the lobby of the Wynn Las Vegas hotel, where they said they went on separate trips.
On Sept. 11, The Trillium reported new evidence challenging the accounts the four gave to Wake, including that Massoudi booked an 80-minute "Good Luck Ritual" massage at the hotel's spa on Feb. 1, 2020 — another date that Rehmatullah gave the integrity commissioner records to show that he stayed at the Wynn. A few days before that story was published, a spokesperson of Ford's told The Trillium that Rasheed and Truesdell both now denied having gone to Las Vegas in early 2020.
Last Thursday, Rasheed didn't directly answer when asked after appearing before a parliamentary committee meeting at Queen's Park if he had told the integrity commissioner the truth about Las Vegas, saying, "I have declared everything to the integrity commissioner."
CTV News then reported on Tuesday that Rasheed and Rehmatullah also got massages at the same Las Vegas hotel spa, at the same time as Massoudi on Feb. 1, 2020, according to hotel staff
In a statement sent by email on Tuesday, Rasheed's spokesperson said the cabinet minister had "mistakenly" shared incorrect information with Wake "based off the original itinerary for the December 2019 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," Rasheed's spokesperson added.
"When it finally escalated, it was discovered the December 2019 trip was rebooked and took place on January 30th to February 1, 2020. The hotel provided Minister Rasheed the invoice showing proof of payment to the hotel on Minister Rasheed's credit card."
Rasheed has contacted the integrity commissioner's office about his mistake, and shared with it, and the invoice and proof of payment from the hotel with Wake, the cabinet minister's spokesperson said.
Other new evidence The Trillium reported on Sept. 11 was that a reservation at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel spa under Rasheed's name for "Wynn pedicure" and "80-minute aromatherapy" treatments was made on Feb. 4 of this year. Rasheed had also told Wake that his only trip to Las Vegas since being elected a Progressive Conservative MPP in 2018 was the one he took a few years ago.
His spokesperson also confirmed on Tuesday that Rasheed had gone to Las Vegas in February of this year, saying it "was personal in nature," that "Minister Rasheed paid for this trip," and that he's "submitted all relevant information to the Integrity Commissioner."
The interviews Rasheed, Rehmatullah, Truesdell and Massoudi did with Wake in 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.
Unlike Rasheed, Rehmatullah, Truesdell and Massoudi had been interviewed by Wake in his Greenbelt investigation before being called for follow-up questions about the Las Vegas trip.
Rehmatullah and Truesdell were key witnesses and figures in the rest of Wake's investigation, which was launched with a focus on now-former housing minister Steve Clark. Massoudi was not.
Part of a 102-acre plot of land in Markham that Rehmatullah bought for $15 million in 2017 was removed from the Greenbelt by the Ford government last year.
The integrity commissioner found Clark broke the ethics law for MPPs by failing to properly oversee the Greenbelt land removal process that his former chief of staff led. Clark resigned from Ford's cabinet on Sept. 4, days after the integrity commissioner released his report. He remains a PC MPP.
Wake wrote in his Aug. 30 report that he made "no findings with respect" to the Las Vegas trip.