Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips returned to Canada from his trip to St. Barts on Thursday morning after facing major criticism over his travel plans during a provincewide shutdown.
Phillips said he “deeply regretted” his decision to travel and that there is nobody to blame but himself.
“Obviously, I made a significant error in judgment, and I will be accountable for that,” Phillips said from Pearson airport in Toronto.
“I do not make any excuses for the fact that I travelled when we shouldn’t have travelled.”
Phillips said he will be speaking with Premier Doug Ford later in the day.
“I understand that my actions have angered a lot of people, and I have to earn back that confidence,” Phillips said.
He told reporters he hopes to regain the confidence of the people of Ontario.
The minister said he will be going to Ajax, Ont., to quarantine for 14 days.
‘I’m very upset’: Premier Ford
Ford is expected to have a “very tough conversation” with his finance minister today over the controversial Caribbean vacation.
Ford said Wednesday he wasn’t told about the trip ahead of time, but he did learn about it shortly after it began and should have demanded Phillips return immediately.
He said it’s “unacceptable” for any public official to ignore the province’s COVID-19 guidelines, which urge residents to avoid non-essential travel.
Phillips apologized Tuesday evening for leaving the country on Dec. 13 for a personal trip even as health officials pleaded with Ontarians to only venture outside of their homes for essential purposes.
He said earlier this week he chose to go ahead with the trip not knowing the province would be placed under lockdown on Boxing Day.
News of Phillips’s holiday trip to the Caribbean — despite the COVID-19 pandemic and his own government’s advice to avoid non-essential travel — has left many questioning how it came about in the first place and sparked calls for his resignation.
On Wednesday, Phillips’s office also told CBC News that the minister had taken a trip to Switzerland in August.
Ford spoke publicly on the issue for the first time yesterday at Trillium Health in Mississauga, Ont., where staff are preparing to distribute Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to Peel Public Health.
“There can’t be rules for elected people and non-elected people,” Ford told reporters.
“I can tell you I’m very upset. I’m very frustrated with the situation. I stand out here every single day and tell people to stay at home.”
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