A parting shot
News Fridays, am I right?
ABOVE THE FOLD
Over the last 24 hours, Ontario politics has exploded.
FRIDAY CHEAT SHEET:
— VINCENT KE is off the PC bench amid allegations of Chinese election interference, and we’ve got fresh accusations about those ties.
— Parliamentary Assistants got shuffled in the hullabaloo. Ditto a lawyer MPP whose licence remains suspended due to professional misconduct, who’s now in charge of the Justice committee.
— Meanwhile, CHARLES SOUSA enters the fray.
— SCOOP: NDPers swipe left on TikTok.
— Pour one out for KISKA.
— Birthday boy and Labour Minister MONTE MCNAUGHTON gets dirty (in the name of toilet reform).
Let’s dig in.
Breaking last night — KE OUT: VINCENT KE will sit as an Independent after exiting the PC caucus amid allegations he’s connected to Chinese election interference.
Ke fights back: The two-term MPP for Don Valley North dismissed the bombshell scoop from Global News as “false and defamatory.” He doesn’t want to “be a distraction to the government” and as such, quit the PC caucus to “dedicate my time to clearing my name and representing my constituents.”
A conscious uncoupling: In a statement of his own, DOUG FORD agreed and accepted the resignation, which was Ke’s idea in the first place, the Premier insisted. “While the allegations against Mr. Ke are not proven, they are serious and deserve his full and undivided attention…As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, Mr. Ke offered to step away from the Ontario PC caucus.”
The bombshell: Per Global’s sources, Ke allegedly “served as a financial intermediary” in interference schemes by the Chinese Communist Party, to the tune of $50,000.
Throw it on the pile: Remember the Legislature’s Chinese flag-raising ceremony that was cancelled after blowback over the two MICHAELs — SPAVOR and KOVRIG —who were locked up in Beijing on what Canada called unlawful grounds? Our sources say Ke had been in favour of the hoisting, despite Ford’s orders not to attend.
Quick refresher: It’s not the first time Ke’s connections to China have gone under the microscope. Back in 2019, the National Post zeroed in on his trip to China to attend a government-run workshop that would help attendees “realize the Chinese dream and the common struggle.”
Fun fact: Ke’s lawyer, GAVIN TIGHE, has also represented Ford in the past.
PA SHUFFLE — Ke’s exit meant Parliamentary Assistants had to be shuffled.
New roster: SHEREF SABAWY takes up the mantle for Ke as PA to the Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery KALEED RASHEED.
KEVIN HOLLAND takes on tandem portfolios, becoming the PA to Minister of Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs GREG RICKFORD.
MATTHEW RAE is now PA to Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister STEVE CLARK.
DAVE SMITH joins Team Tourism as PA to Minister NEIL LUMSDEN.
Meanwhile, a committee shakeup: When the House reconvenes after March Break, GOLDIE GHAMARI — who, as exclusively scooped by this reporter, had her lawyer’s licence suspended due to allegations of professional misconduct — will take over as chair of the Standing Committee on Justice.
First in Queen’s Park Observer — DIPPERS DISCONNECT: New Democrats are the latest to say goodbye to TikTok.
Marching orders: We got our hands on a memo GREG DENTON, chief of staff to captain MARIT STILES, sent to the Oppo caucus Friday afternoon. “In line with recent announcements from the federal and provincial governments citing security and privacy concerns, we are asking all caucus members to remove TikTok from their mobile devices effective immediately.”
“We know this may be disappointing for some of you who use TikTok to connect with constituents. Our communications team is happy to help you find other ways to connect,” Denton went on to say.
Sorry, Sol: That’s bad news for at least one prolific TikTok user on the Oppo bench: SOL MAMAKWA, whose 39.2K followers and account were still active as of Saturday morning.
Also on the ban bandwagon: Public schools could be next in line, Education Minister STEPHEN LECCE warned. Earlier, the Ford government banned the app from all government devices and ordered the PC caucus to de-app, following similar moves from Ottawa and the European Commission.
IN OTHER NEWS…
News Fridays, am I right?