Ontario, Canada is in Covid lockdown. Its finance minister just got busted holidaying in St Barts

In a video posted on Twitter on Christmas Eve, the finance minister of Canada’s most populous province was shown sitting by a fireplace in a sweater with a gingerbread house and a little Christmas tree, drinking eggnog.

“I want to thank every one of you for what we are doing to protect our most vulnerable,” Rod Phillips said about Ontarians staying home and avoiding non-essential travel because of the pandemic over the Christmas holidays.

Except that Phillips was enjoying a Caribbean holiday at the time on the French island of St Barts, a popular spot for the rich and famous. His Twitter account had suggested he was in snowbound Ontario for weeks, but the truth has since surfaced that he’s been in St Barts since December 13.

Now Phillips has been ordered to return to Ontario where Premier Doug Ford said he’s going to have a “very tough conversation” with Phillips tomorrow. Opposition parties and health officials are calling for Phillips to be fired from Cabinet.

Ford claimed Phillips “never told anyone” he was leaving, but Ford said he knew Phillips was out of the country “shortly after he arrived”.

“I should have said ‘Get your backside back into Ontario’ and I didn’t do that,” Ford said.

Phillips said in a statement he “deeply” regretted travelling and cut short his holiday.

Ontario began a province-wide lockdown on December 26 and Ford has been blaming travellers for bringing the new coronavirus to the province. Canada’s national government and the Ontario government have both repeatedly asked Canadians not to travel abroad during the pandemic.

“This is a devastating blow to the government and Ford personally because, as he has admitted, he knew that Phillips was in St Bart’s and did not upbraid and order him back immediately. Ford only did so once the news of Phillips’s absence became public yesterday,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.

Wiseman said Phillips should resign. “That would be the honourable thing to do but honour is in short supply these days in the political world,” he said.

The Ford government already was being criticised for halting vaccination operations over the holidays and for delaying the province-wide lockdown until the day after Christmas.

Ontario set a new daily record for cases today with 2923, with just over one-third of them in the country’s largest city of Toronto.

“Ford is also suffering from the slow roll-out of the vaccine, the slowest in Canada,” Wiseman said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national government, meanwhile, announced today that passengers must have a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days before they arrive in Canada. More details are expected to be released tomorrow.

Canada already requires those entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days and has banned all flights from the United Kingdom because of the new variant of Covid-19 spreading there.

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