- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 31, 2020

Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips apologized Thursday after it was revealed he was secretly vacationing in St. Barts while urging others to stay home and to make “sacrifices” over the holidays.

Mr. Phillips donned a sweater and sat in front of a crackling fire on Christmas Eve, talking about the “challenging holiday season” that has been “a bit different” than in the past. Turns out, the Ajax MMP was in sunny St. Barts that day, where he had been enjoying 75-degree weather since Dec. 13.

“As we all make sacrifices this #Christmas, remember that some of our fellow citizens won’t even be home for Christmas dinner over Zoom,” he tweeted that day. “Thousands of front line heroes will be at work, looking out for us.”

Mr. Phillips, a Progressive Conservative, apologized at Pearson airport upon his return Thursday, five days after his province was placed on strict lockdown.

“It was a significant error in judgment — a dumb, dumb mistake, I apologize for it, I regret it,” he told CP24.

Other tweets that were sent by Mr. Phillips’ account during his vacation included pictures of him visiting with Canadian business owners and mental health leaders. One photo tweeted Dec. 17 showed him standing with a plate of pancakes and a bottle of Canadian maple syrup in front of what appeared to be his home.

Mr. Phillips said he didn’t mean to deceive people on his whereabouts and explained he created the tweeted content ahead of time.

“Most politicians reprogram and pre-record a lot of their social media content,” Mr. Phillips told the CBC. “I did that to promote Ajax businesses, to promote the COVID-19 supports that we have for small businesses across the province and to wish my constituents a holiday greeting.”

“That said, I understand in the circumstances why it seemed insincere. I apologize for that,” he added.

Mr. Phillips said he wouldn’t have gone on the trip if he had known Ontario would be placed on lockdown Saturday.

Still, the federal government has been warning Canadians to avoid non-essential travel since early November, CP24 reported.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday he wasn’t told about Mr. Phillips’ trip ahead of time.

“There can’t be rules for elected people and non-elected people,” Mr. Ford said at Trillium Health in Mississauga, the CBC reported. “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.”

Mr. Ford said he and Mr. Phillips, who must now self-isolate until Jan. 13, will have a “very tough conversation” about Mr. Phillips’ future in the cabinet.

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