Ontario Finance Minister Resigns Over Caribbean Vacation Outrage

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Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips stepped down from the position amid public outrage that he was vacationing in the Caribbean over the holidays, despite travel restrictions.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the resignation in an emailed statement, calling it “a demonstration that our government takes seriously our obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard.” President of the Treasury Board Peter Bethlenfalvy will replace Phillips as minister of finance to oversee the province’s C$900 billion ($705 billion) economy.

Ontario Finance Minister Resigns Over Caribbean Vacation Outrage

Revelations that Phillips was on vacation in plush Saint Barthelemy first surfaced on Tuesday, becoming front-page news across the country and prompting Ford to call on his finance minister to return home immediately. The trip was particularly egregious given his government has shut down large parts of the province and restricted social gatherings over the holidays to stem a recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

Provincial health officials have also been advising citizens not to vacation abroad.

“Travelling over the holidays was the wrong decision, and I once again offer my unreserved apology,” Phillips said in an emailed statement.

Ford claims Phillips never told him he was leaving the country, but the Ontario premier acknowledged he did eventually discover his finance minister was vacationing in the Caribbean. Fueling public anger are pre-recorded messages released on Twitter that gave the impression Phillips was still in the country.

For Phillips, it’s a dramatic fall from grace. He’s a neophyte politician and has been Ontario’s finance minister for just 18 months, releasing his first budget only last month.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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