Ontario’s finance minister has been forced to resign after going on a lockdown-busting St Barts vacation and posting a fake Christmas Eve video in an effort to hide his real location.
Rod Phillips shared a video of himself drinking eggnog in a sweater in front of a fireplace with a gingerbread house and a little Christmas tree.
He thanked Ontarians staying home and avoiding nonessential travel because of the pandemic over the Christmas holidays, telling them: ‘I want to thank every one of you for what we are doing to protect our most vulnerable.’
Except that Phillips was enjoying a Caribbean vacation at the time on the French island of St. Barts, a popular spot for the rich and famous,
His Twitter account had suggested he was in snowbound Ontario for weeks but the truth has since surfaced that he’s been in sunny St. Barts since December 13.
Phillips also shared other tweets which suggested he was in Ontario including a tweet on December 17 enjoying Canadian maple syrup and another on Christmas Eve visiting local businesses.
He had been ordered to return to Ontario where Premier Doug Ford said he was going to have a ‘very tough conversation’ with Phillips on Thursday.
Ford said: ‘Today, following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario’s minister of finance.’ Oppositions parties and the health officials had been calling for Phillips to be fired from Cabinet.
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Rod Phillips shared a video of himself drinking eggnog in a sweater in front of a fireplace with a gingerbread house and a little Christmas tree He thanks Ontarians staying home
Phillips also shared other tweets which suggested he was in Ontario including a tweet on December 17 enjoying Canadian maple syrup and another on Christmas Eve visiting local businesses
Phillips suggested he had been out visiting local businesses while he was actually in St Barts
Ford had claimed Phillips ‘never told anyone’ he was leaving but Ford said he knew Phillips was out of the country ‘shortly after he arrived.’ ‘I should have said `Get your backside back into Ontario´ and I didn´t do that,’ Ford said.
Phillips said in a statement he ‘deeply’ regretted traveling and cut short his vacation.
He said: ‘It was a mistake and I apologise. I left on a personally paid-for trip to St Barts on 13 December following the end of the legislative session.’
He told reporters at Pearson Airport Thursday, that he he had made ‘a dumb, dumb mistake’ but did not intend to resign.
‘I know that people are understandably angry about the situation, and I do hope to be able to regain their confidence in the days and weeks and months ahead,’ he added.
Phillips had tweeted: ‘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!’
Ontario began a province-wide lockdown on December 26 and Ford has been blaming travelers for bringing the new coronavirus to the province.
Canada´s national government and the Ontario government have both repeatedly asked Canadians not to travel abroad during the pandemic.
Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips, pictured. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he ordered Phillips to end a Caribbean vacation, saying he is ‘extremely disappointed’ the official went abroad as the government urged people to avoid nonessential travel because of the pandemic
Phillips was actually enjoying a Caribbean vacation at the time on the French island of St. Barts, a popular spot for the rich and famous
‘This is a devastating blow to the government and Ford personally because, as he has admitted, he knew that Phillips was in St. Bart´s and did not upbraid and order him back immediately.
Ford only did so once the news of Phillips´s absence became public yesterday,’ said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.
Wiseman said Phillips should resign. ‘That would be the honorable thing to do but honor is in short supply these days in the political world,’ he said.
The Ford government already was being criticized for halting vaccination operations over the holidays and for delaying the provincewide lockdown until the day after Christmas.
Ontario set a new daily record for cases on Wednesday with 2,923, with just over one-third of them in the country´s largest city of Toronto.
Rod Phillips Twitter account had suggested he was in snowbound Ontario for weeks but the truth has since surfaced that he’s been in sunny St. Barts since December 13
‘Ford is also suffering from the slow roll-out of the vaccine, the slowest in Canada,’ Wiseman said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national government, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that passengers must have a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days before they arrive in Canada. More details are expected to be released on Thursday.
Canada already requires those entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days and it has already banned all flights from the United Kingdom because of the new variant of COVID-19 spreading there.