The finance minister for Canada’s most populous province resigned Thursday after going on a Caribbean vacation and seemingly trying to hide the fact by posting a video on social media showing him in a sweater before a fireplace.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he had accepted Rod Phillips’ resignation as minister hours after Phillips returned home from a more than two-week stay on the island of St. Barts despite government guidelines telling people to avoid travel.
“Travelling over the holidays was the wrong decision, and I once again offer my unreserved apology,” Phillips said in a statement.
In a video posted on Twitter on Christmas Eve, the sweater-wearing finance minister was shown drinking eggnog beside a fireplace with a gingerbread house and a miniature Christmas tree.
“I want to thank every one of you for what we are doing to protect our most vulnerable,” Phillips said to Ontarians hunkered down at home over the Christmas holidays.
It’s #ChristmasEve. To my constituents in #Ajax & people across Ontario, all the best during this special time of year. Even as COVID-19 changes how we celebrate, we should reflect on what makes Christmas so special to us – including family & the act of giving. #MerryChristmas! pic.twitter.com/AX7hKWA88n
— Rod Phillips (@RodPhillips01) December 24, 2020
But Phillips himself had been enjoying a Caribbean vacation since Dec. 13 on St. Barts, a French island popular with the rich and famous, even as his Twitter account had suggested he was in Ontario.
Opposition parties and health officials had called for Phillips to be fired from Cabinet.
One party released video of a Zoom call showing Phillips participating — also while wearing a sweater — with a picture of the legislature as his backdrop, but with what sounds like waves heard in the background.
Here is Rod Phillips during a Zoom meeting on Dec 16, which he attended from St. Barts, with a fake Queens Park backdrop.
— Ontario NDP (@OntarioNDP) December 30, 2020
Arriving Thursday at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Phillips told waiting reporters that he’d made “a dumb, dumb mistake.”
“I hope people appreciate that I disappointed no one more than myself,” Phillips said.
The incident created a political problem for Ford, who acknowledged on Wednesday that he knew Phillips was out of the country before it became public. Ford said he called Phillips “shortly after he arrived” in the Caribbean.
“I should have said get your backside back into Ontario and I didn’t do that,” Ford said.
Ontario began a province-wide lockdown on Saturday, and Ford has been blaming travelers for bringing the coronavirus to the province. Canada’s national government and the Ontario government have both repeatedly told Canadians not to travel abroad during the pandemic.
The Ford government already was being criticized for halting vaccination distribution over the holidays.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national government, meanwhile, announced Thursday that effective Jan. 7 passengers must provide documentation of a negative test result to airlines prior to boarding a flight to Canada.
Canada already requires those entering the country to quarantine for 14 days, and it has banned all flights from the United Kingdom because of the new variant of COVID-19 spreading there.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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