Greenbelt, another minister out: premier in trouble, he cancels the project to “open” to builders

BREAKING UPDATING: Premier Doug Ford, after reflection with provincial parliamentarians, announced the decision to cancel the project to “open” the Greenbelt to builders. “I’m very, very sorry,” Ford said at a press conference few minutes ago. “It was a mistake to open the Greenbelt.”

TORONTO – “Galeotto” (*) was that massage: the one they received, at the same time, in a Spa in Las Vegas, the (now former) minister of Public and Business Service Delivery  of Ontario, Kaleed Rasheed, the former secretary of Prime Minister Doug Ford, Amin Massoudi and a builder, Shakir Rehmatullah, founder of FLATO Development, a company listed as the owner of two of the sites removed from the Greenbelt and therefore become buildable with great fortune for the builder.

The massage in question – which, coincidentally, has the name “good luck ritual” – which led to Rasheed’s resignation yesterday, ended up in the sights of integrity commissioner J. David Wake thanks to a series of journalistic reports carried out by The Trillium and CTV which highlighted a series of details relating to that trip to Las Vegas, supported by testimonies from some employees of the Spa. In particular, there would be discrepancies between what the minister declared to the commissioner for the integrity and what was witnessed by the employees of the Spa.

Hence, Rashhed’s decision to resign: resignation accepted by Prime Minister Doug Ford.  In a statement released on Wednesday, Rasheed said he had made the decision to resign “so as not to distract the government from the important work it is doing. I look forward to taking the necessary steps to clear my name with the integrity commissioner, so that I can return to the Ontario Conservative team as soon as possible,” the former minister said. Until then moment, Rasheed will sit as an independent in the legislature representing Mississauga East-Cooksville.

Rasheed is the second minister forced to resign after an integrity commissioner’s report found that decisions on the Greenbelt development were made without transparency or necessary oversight. A few weeks ago, in fact, it was the turn of the Housing Minister, Steve Clark, who according to the integrity commissioner would have broken ethical rules for “failing to supervise the process through which lands in the Greenbelt were selected for development ”. In essence, with his conduct he would have favored some builders to the detriment of others.

The opposition, meanwhile, attacks. NDP Leader Marit Stiles says the second resignation within the Ford government shows the government is “getting out of control. This is the second Conservative minister in a matter of weeks to resign and we know we are only scratching the surface,” she wrote in a note.

In a statement, Ontario’s interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said the resignation was troubling and a sign of “deep-seated 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,” he said. “The Ontario Liberals are calling on Ford to open the books on the $8.3 billion ‘Greenbelt’ and give Ontarians the answers they deserve.”

(*) NOTE: The expression “Galeotto was…” is used to indicate an object or an event that made possible an affair (business, love, or another kind). It is a quote from the 5th “Canto” of Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno”.

In the pic above, Kaleed Rasheed with Prime Minister Doug Ford in a video posted by Ford on Twitter last June (@fordnation)