Ontario finance minister on holiday trip outside Canada as health officials urge people to stay home

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips travelled outside of the country for a personal vacation recently, his office said Tuesday.

Toronto’s NEWSTALK1010 radio station reported the trip was taken after the legislative session ended earlier this month and said it appears to contravene recent pleas by Premier Doug Ford for people to stay home over the holidays.

In a statement on Tuesday, Phillips said the trip was “previously planned.”

“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,” Phillips wrote in the four-paragraph statement.

“Had I been aware then of the eventual December 26th provincewide shutdown, we would have cancelled the trip.

“I have continued my work daily as the Minister of Finance and MPP for Ajax including dozens of digital ministry, constituency and cabinet committee calls and meetings.

“We will continue to observe public health directives, including the 14-day quarantine,” Phillips added.

His office has told CBC News that Phillips left for the trip on Dec. 13 and is still out of the country, adding that he will be in quarantine after his return.

Meanwhile, Emily Hogeveen, senior communications adviser and press secretary in the minister’s office, clarified a Dec. 15 tweet on the minister’s account, which appeared to suggest he was in Durham Region on that date.

In the tweet, Phillips said it was a pleasure to join his colleagues and “some of Durham’s mental health leaders” in announcing over $1.6 million in funding to support mental health and addictions services expansion in Durham.

But Hogeveen said the photo was taken previously and posted to accompany the news of mental health funding for Durham, as it depicts the Durham MPPs. 

“The minister has made no public appearances or outings,” Hogeveen wrote in an email to CBC news.

Warning against non-essential travel

On Tuesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada advised people against non-essential travel and reminded all travellers returning to Canada that contravening the mandatory quarantine can lead to severe penalties.

The agency said restrictions are changing quickly and may be imposed by countries with little warning.

“Those who choose to travel may be forced to remain outside of Canada longer than expected,” the agency said in a news release.

Travel restrictions and border measures have been in place in Canada since March.

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