Ontario’s finance minister left Canada for a personal trip after posting a message online about making “sacrifices” for the holiday.
Health officials in Ontario have been emphasizing the importance for individuals to not take non-essential trips as the case count continues to climb in the province and in the country.
Finance Minister Rod Phillips said the trip was planned sometime ago before he left in early December.
“Immediately following the end of the Legislative Session, which occurred on December 8th, my wife and I departed on a previously planned personal trip outside of the country,” he said in a statement.
“Had I been aware then of the eventual December 26th Province wide shutdown, we would have canceled the trip.”
Phillips said he has continued his work daily as the Minister of Finance and MPP for Ajax and has participated in “dozens of digital Ministry, constituency and cabinet committee calls and meetings.”
“We will continue to observe public health directives, including the 14-day quarantine.”
On Christmas Eve, Phillips tweeted a message to frontline workers thanking them for the “sacrifices” they made during the holiday season.
It was unknown during this time that he was on vacation.
As we all make sacrifices this #Christmas, remember that some of our fellow citizens won’t even be home for Christmas dinner over Zoom.
Thousands of front line heroes will be at work, looking out for us.
Who is the special hero in your life you want to thank?
— Rod Phillips (@RodPhillips01) December 24, 2020
On December 26, Ontario entered a province-wide lockdown. The measures will be in effect in northern Ontario for 14 days and in the southern part of the province for 28 days. The time-limited restrictions will be evaluated throughout their implementation, rather than when they are set to expire.
During a press conference on Tuesday with health officials, when asked about Phillips’ departure from the country, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Barbra Yaffe, said that she could not specifically comment on the minister’s actions.
However, she emphasized that public health advice remains the same for individuals to not travel for non-essential reasons.
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NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh said Doug Ford can’t grant Phillips “a free pass” for his choice to leave the country for “a vacation in December while instructing everyone else to stay inside their home.”
“Doug Ford let Sam Oosterhoff off the hook when he held a big family shindig. Ford let himself off the hook for gathering with family when he told the rest of us we can’t. These guys just think the rules don’t apply to them,” said Singh in a statement.
She added that “everyday folks” have not been able to see family members and have missed milestones following the protocols, unlike “Doug Ford insiders,” who are “whooping it up, even vacationing in the tropics.”