Premier Doug Ford has replaced MPP Rod Phillips as finance Minister. Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy has been tapped to take over the portfolio. The premier released a statement that read, “Today, following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario’s Minister of Finance. At a time when the prople 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.”
The resignation appeared inevitable as the public backlash over Phillips decision to travel to the luxury resort of St. Barts grew through yesterday and had not abated as Phillips arrived back in Canada this morning. He issued an apology to media as he entered the arrivals lounge at Pearson Airport and told reporters he knew he would have to regain the trust” of Ontarians. In addition to taking the trip in violation of the government’s own holiday advice, what angered most who commented was the efforts Phillips made to conceal his actual location with a series of tweets that created the impression that Phillips was in Canada when he was not.
The fiasco was also starting to stick to Ford who revealed yesterday that he didn’t know about the trip in advance, but found out a couple of days after Phillip had traveled to the resort and spoke with him on the phone. “He never told anyone he was leaving. He never told me he was leaving. I did call him shortly after he arrived and I talked to him and asked where he was. He said he was away, said it wouldn’t be an issue. My mistake, and I take full responsibility. At that time, I should have said get your backside back into Ontario and I didn’t do that,” Ford told reporters. Ford’s admission left critics to charge that Ford only took action after Phillips was caught.
Phillips was seen as a star in the Ford Cabinet, so much so, that his name was mentioned as a possible successor to Ford back before the pandemic when Ford was languishing in the polls. His prominent supporters included Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.