Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips sought a tan. He got burned.
On Tuesday night, Premier Doug Ford lambasted Phillips for hopping on a plane to St. Barts with his wife for a weeks-long sojourn, while the majority of Ontarians heeded warnings from health officials to hunker down and avoid non-essential travel.
In a statement, Ford said he was “extremely disappointed” in Phillips, and ordered him to return home immediately.
A day later, Toronto Mayor John Tory weighed in on the sun-kissed debacle.
“Minister Phillips made a mistake, a serious mistake, he’s been chastised by the Premier for that, he admitted his own deep regret for making that mistake,” Tory said Wednesday.
Phillips did apologize, adding that he was on his way home and upon arrival would immediately begin a 14-day quarantine.
“I deeply regret travelling over the holidays,” he wrote, saying he departed on Dec. 13 following the end of the legislative session. “It was a mistake and I apologize.”
Tory seemed willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, while noting the trip was hypocritical and blatantly defied the messaging from health officials.
“It’s a very regrettable series of events,” Tory said. “But I think people who know me know that I stand by my friends when they make mistakes and when they’re in trouble … he’s a human being and he made a mistake and he’ll pay a price for that.”
“It does go against all the messaging we’ve been trying to get out there with respect to people and their activities, and people expect of their leaders that they will govern themselves accordingly, in line with their own advice.”
Phillips’ office also confirmed that the minister travelled to Switzerland for a personal trip in August, and say he quarantined for 14 days following it.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wants Phillips removed from cabinet.
“Everyday folks were separated from aging parents during the holidays,” Horwath said in a statement released Wednesday. “They’ve missed nearly a year of birthdays, first steps or other milestones for grandbabies, nieces and nephews. And they’ve cancelled their dream vacations, destination weddings and trips home,” she said.
“Asking regular people to sacrifice while (Premier Doug) Ford’s insiders live the high life is wrong, and it has to stop.”
Horwath also questioned the sincerity of Ford’s indignation, saying it’s “not believable” that a senior member of cabinet would leave the country for weeks at the height of a health crisis without telling the premier.
If Phillips did in fact keep it a secret, she said, that alone would be a reason to demote him.
With files from The Canadian Press