A few ill-timed weeks in the sun have cost Rod Phillips his job as Ontario’s finance minister.
Premier Doug Ford announced on Thursday that he has accepted Phillips’ resignation.
“Today, following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario’s Minister of Finance,” Ford wrote 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.”
Phillips released a statement after news of his resignation broke. “Today I submitted my resignation as Ontario’s Minister of Finance,” he said. “Travelling over the holidays was the wrong decision, and I once again offer my unreserved apology.”
“Ensuring Ontario emerges from COVID-19 in a strong position was my priority as the Minister of Finance, and it should be the government’s priority going forward.”
Phillips added: “I look forward to focusing my efforts on continuing to serve the people of Ajax as their Member of Provincial Parliament.”
Ford said minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, currently the President of the Treasury Board, will assume the role of minister of finance and deliver the government’s 2021 budget.
“This appointment will help ensure economic stability in the months ahead, as we support Ontario families, workers and businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we chart our path to long-term economic recovery,” Ford said.
Phillips returned to Toronto from St. Barts — where he has been since Dec. 13 — on Thursday morning.
Upon his arrival at Pearson International Airport, Phillips said he “unreservedly” apologized for his decision to travel during the holidays.
“I know that I disappointed a lot of people, I hope people appreciate I disappointed no one more than myself,” he said in a brief statement.
“I know that people are understandably angry about the situation. I do hope to be able to regain their confidence in the days, weeks and months ahead.”
Phillips said earlier this week he chose to go ahead with the trip not knowing the province would be placed under lockdown on Boxing Day, and that he regretted the decision.
After his statement, Phillips was asked about his decision to travel, to which he replied:
“I made a significant error in judgment and I will be accountable for that. I do not make any excuses for the fact that I travelled when we shouldn’t have travelled.”
Ford said Wednesday he wasn’t told about the trip ahead of time, but did learn about it shortly after it began, and should have demanded Phillips return immediately.
When asked why he didn’t tell Ford of his trip right away, Phillips said, “Premier Ford has far more important things to do than worry about the travel of his ministers or the people who work for him.”
“The blame is mine and the blame is mine alone.”