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Ontario's finance minister apologizes after getting caught spending holidays outside Canada

Last Updated Dec 30, 2020 at 10:35 am PST

Rod Phillips during his Christmas message shared on Twitter. (Courtesy Twitter/@RodPhillips01)
Summary

Ontario's finance minister says he regrets his Caribbean vacation during the pandemic

Rod Phillips admits he left the country on December 13 for St. Barts

Tweets made from his account while Phillips has been away made it seem like he was in Canada

TORONTO (NEWS 1130) — Ontario’s finance minister is trying to get on a plane back to Canada after word got out that he’s been spending the holidays on a Caribbean Island despite the pandemic, sparking a wave of criticism.

In his most recent statement, Rod Phillips admits he left the country on Dec. 13 for St. Barts — a trip he now calls a mistake.

“I deeply regret travelling over the holidays. It was a mistake and I apologize,” the statement, put out late Tuesday, reads. “I left on a personally paid trip to St. Barts on Dec. 13 following the end of the Legislative session. I am making arrangements to return to Ontario immediately and will begin a 14-day quarantine as soon as I arrive.”

The statement came after Ontario Premier Doug Ford condemned Phillips for leaving the country and told him to come back home.

“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,” Ford said. “I have also told the minister I need him back in the country immediately.”

RELATED: Quebec Liberal vacationing down south called home by party leader as criticism mounts

Initially, Phillips tried to justify the vacation, with an earlier statement saying the trip was previously planned and that he’s still been working while away without revealing where he had gone.

“Immediately following the end of the Legislative session, which occurred on Dec. 8, my wife and I departed on a previously planned personal trip outside of the country. Had I been aware then of the eventual Dec/ 26 provincewide shutdown, we would have cancelled the trip,” said the first statement. “I have continued my work daily as the Minister of Finance and MPP for Ajax including dozens of digital ministry, constituency and cabinet committee calls and meetings.”

Phillips’ vacation comes at a time his own government has been urging people to avoid non-essential travel because of the pandemic and the revelation that he’s been spending the holidays down south has many people fuming.

Tweets made from his account while he’s been away, which make it seem like he’s been in the country, are also drawing the ire of people across the country.

One tweet in particular, put out on Christmas Eve, has many people talking on social media. It features a video showing Phillips sitting by a fireplace in what appears to be a living room as he wishes his constituents a Merry Christmas.

“Now I know that this Christmas is a bit different than Christmases in the past. We’re meeting virtually and online and not able to be in person with as many family and friends as we’d like to,” Phillips says in the video as light Christmas music plays in the background.

Phillips has not yet addressed his Twitter activity.

Questions are also being raised about whether Ford knew Phillips had left the country. In a statement, the Premier’s office says Ford wasn’t aware of Phillips’ trip and did not approve it.