Rod Phillips resigns as Ontario Finance Minister after secret St. Barts vacation
Beleaguered politician Rod Phillips has resigned from his post as Ontario Finance Minister, according to Premier Doug Ford, after being caught in St. Barts amid a pandemic while actively encouraging his constituents to stay home for the holidays — and then trying to hide his vacation through a series of sneaky social media posts.
"Today, following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario's minister of finance," Ford said in a statement released Thursday afternoon, just hours after Phillips had returned home to Canada at the Premier's request.
"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."
Ford has asked current President of the Treasury Board Peter Bethlenfalvy to step into the role and deliver his government's 2021 budget as planned.
"This appointment 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," said Ford.
NEW: Finance Minister Rod Phillips has resigned following backlash over his trip out of the country during the holidays. Statement from Premier Ford: pic.twitter.com/F5DsTPflYo— Cynthia Mulligan (@CityCynthia) December 31, 2020
While he will no longer serve as Ontario's Minister of Finance, Phillips revealed statement of his own this afternoon that he intends to stay on as the MPP for Ajax.
"Today I submitted my resignation as Ontario's Minister of Finance. Travelling over the holidays was the wrong decision and I once again offer my unreserved apology," reads the statement, issued not long after Ford's.
"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. I know that important work will continue and I wish Minister Bethlenfalvy all the best as he takes on this additional resoinsiblly."
Phillips went on to thank his family, staff and Ministry of Finance officials before declaring that he looks forward "to focusing my efforts on continuing to serve the people of Ajax as their Member of Parliament."
UPDATE: Rod Phillips statement following resignation— Lucas Meyer (@meyer_lucas) December 31, 2020
“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.”#onpoli #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/1DuBIqSwfC
Earlier on Thursday, after arriving at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, Phillips told reporters that he would like to keep his job as Minister of Finance, but that he accepted the decision was ultimately up to Ford.
"Obviously, I made a significant error in judgment, and I will be accountable for that," said Phillips during a press conference at the airport.
"I do not make any excuses for the fact that I travelled when we shouldn't have travelled."
The public was far from satisfied, and again took up issue with Phillips' definition of "mistake," especially given that he'd pre-programmed a series of social media posts to make it look like he had never left Ontario.
I’m sorry - I STILL can’t get over the level of deception from @RodPhillips01 to PRE-CELEBRATE and PRE-PHOTOGRAPH #NationalMapleSyrupDay. A holiday he did NOT celebrate last year. The man LEGIT Googled obscure holidays, made pancakes, and put on a lumberjack shirt to sell a lie. https://t.co/Akf7sG3avJ pic.twitter.com/jMzC5Lxfcq— Ryan Imgrund (@imgrund) December 30, 2020
As we all now know, the politician did leave Ontario for a tropical vacation with his wife on Dec. 13, despite the federal government's warnings against all non-essential travel and his own government's repeated pleas for people to stay home amid the pandemic.
Unacceptable as members of the public felt the act of traveling was itself, they were further incensed to learn that Phillips had been tweeting the entire time as though he were spending the holidays at home in Ontario, complete with fireside videos and photos of himself visiting local stores.
Phillips even went so far as to superimpose himself wearing a sweater against a Queen's Park background during a government video call on December 16.
It was 30 C in St. Barts that day, according to Accuweather.
Little did Phillips know at the time that his sweaty discomfort would eventually be held up as an example of rich white men playing by their own rules.
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