Canada: Ontario finance minister resigns following trip

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Canada (AA) – The Ontario finance minister resigned Thursday after it was revealed that he was on vacation on a Caribbean island while his boss, Premier Doug Ford, begged people to avoid travel because of the pandemic.

When news of the vacation made headlines across Canada, Ford ordered Rod Phillips on Wednesday to return immediately from St. Barts, a small island known for its luxurious hotels. He left for the Caribbean on Dec. 13.

Shortly after his return, Phillips resigned.

“Today, following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario’s Minister of Finance,” Ford said in a statement. “At a time when the people of Ontario have sacrificed so much, today’s resignation is a demonstration that our government takes seriously our obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

Upon his return Phillips apologized for his lapse in judgment.

“It was a significant error in judgment – a dumb, dumb mistake and I apologize for it. I regret it,” he said.

Phillips also said he wanted to remain on as finance minister, but it was too late.

While he was away, his office tweeted and posted on Instagram. In the posts, Phillips thanked health-care workers for their dedication as “we all make sacrifices this Christmas.”

He insisted he was not trying to deceive anyone with the posts.

“I understand why some people believe that is the case, but it is not – many politicians in fact most politicians pre-load messages on social media,” Phillips said.

“I do understand I have angered many people.”

As of Thursday, Ontario had 182,159 cases, with 4,530 deaths and the same day the province set a new record high with 3,328 infections.