Finance Minister Rod Phillips issued an apology Tuesday evening for his personal trip outside Canada earlier this month. Phillips left for holidays as health officials were pleading with Ontarians to stay home.
“I deeply regret travelling over the holidays. It was a mistake and I apologize,” Phillips said in a statement.
The minister remains out of the country. Phillips said he will return to the province immediately and begin a 14-day quarantine.
Phillips said he and his wife left to St. Barts on Dec. 13 following the end of the fall sitting of the legislature on Dec. 8.
Premier Doug Ford expressed disappointment in the decision by Phillips to go on a holiday abroad, especially when Ontarians have been asked to make sacrifices.
“I have let the minister know that his decision to travel is completely unacceptable and that it will not be tolerated again — by him or any member of our cabinet and caucus. I have also told the minister I need him back in the country immediately,” Ford said in a statement.
“The only way we will beat COVID-19 is by following the advice provided by our public health experts. Public officials are no exception.”
NDP deputy leader Sarah Singh said the premier can’t let Phillips off the hook for going on vacation away from Canada while instructing everyone else to stay home.
“Doug Ford let Sam Oosterhoff off the hook when he held a big family shindig. Ford let himself off the hook for gathering with family when he told the rest of us we can’t,” Singh wrote in the statement. “These guys just think the rules don’t apply to them.”
Oosterhoff, who represents Niagara, came under fire in October over social media pictures of himself and others at a banquet hall where nobody wore a mask.
He apologized for his actions and faced no punishment from the premier.
As health officials and the premier urged people to stay home to combat COVID-19, finance minister Rod Phillips took a trip outside Canada for personal reasons.
The minister’s office confirmed Phillips and his wife left Canada on Dec. 13, just days after the fall sitting of the legislature ended.
Phillips said in a statement that the trip had been “previously planned.”
“Immediately following the end of the legislative session, which occurred on December 8th, my wife and I departed on a previously planned personal trip outside of the country,” he said in a statement.
“Had I been aware then of the eventual December 26th provincewide shutdown, we would have cancelled the trip.”
Phillips’ office also confirmed he remains out the country and will go into 14-day quarantine when he returns.
It has not been revealed where he is.
In a Christmas Eve tweet, Phillips made it very clear the holidays would be very different from years past.
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
Premier Ford has not commented about the minister’s trip.