Despite his own government’s insistence that Ontarians stay home and refrain from non-essential travel, Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips admits he travelled outside of Canada for personal reasons in December, before the provincewide lockdown was announced.
“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,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
His office later confirmed that Phillips and his wife departed on December 13.
On its website, the federal government advises all Canadians to “avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada and all travel on cruise ships outside Canada until further notice.”
Ontario health officials have also urged all citizens to avoid non-essential travel as it deals with record numbers of infections and soaring deaths amid a second-wave of the virus.
Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, wouldn’t comment specifically on Phillips’ travels but said the messaging remains clear and unchanged.
“The public health advice has been and continues to be not to travel outside of the country unless it’s absolutely essential.”
In his statement, Phillips would only say that “had I been aware then of the eventual Dec. 26th provincewide shutdown, we would have cancelled the trip.”
Phillips’ office confirms that he has not yet returned to Canada and will quarantine for 14 days when he does.
Early last week, the Ford government announced that the rest of Ontario would join Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton into a lockdown starting on Boxing Day, in an effort to bring soaring COVID-19 cases under control.