Ontario’s finance minister resigns after Caribbean holiday

Rod Phillips

Ontario’s Finance Minister Rod Phillips resigned last Thursday after public outrage over a Caribbean vacation he took last month  in violation of his own government’s coronavirus travel warnings.

Phillips admitted last  week that he travelled to the French island of St Barts on December 13 last, after the legislative session ended.

Federal and provincial leaders across Canada have urged the public to avoid non-essential travel because of the pandemic.

“Following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario’s Minister of Finance,”  Premier Doug Ford said in a statement last week.

“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.”

Ford said he has asked Peter Bethlenfalvy to step into the finance minister’s role and deliver the government’s 2021 budget in addition to his current role as president of the province’s Treasury Board.

Phillips served as Ontario’s minister of the environment before becoming finance minister as part of a 2019 cabinet reshuffle.

He returned to Canada last Thursday and apologised for his actions.

Ontario began a lockdown on December 26 last to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Phillips was one of several Canadian politicians who travelled outside the country over the holiday season despite increasing COVID-19 restrictions

Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade asked Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Pierre Arcand and his wife to return home as soon as possible after they were spotted vacationing in the Glitter Bay region of Barbados.

Arcand, the former interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party and MNA for Mount Royal-Outremont, said he “regrets” his decision to take the vacation during the pandemic but emphasized that he took all necessary precautions, including two COVID-19 tests on Dec. 22 and Dec. 27.

And Manitoba MP Niki Ashton  was stripped from her cabinet critic roles after she travelled abroad to visit her ailing grandmother in Greece.

“After spending Christmas alone with our family at home in MB, now I am with my ailing grandmother, my γιαγιά, in Greece,” Ashton confirmed in a tweet  last Friday.

Although Ashton had “reached out to Canadian officials for best practices,” neither leader Jagmeet Singh nor the party’s whip were notified, the NDP said in a statement on Friday. The NDP said they sympathized with Ashton’s situation, “millions of Canadians are following public health guidelines, even when it made it impossible to visit sick or aging relatives.”

“Canadians, rightfully, expect their elected representatives to lead by example,” the statement read.