Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Ontario's then-finance minister Rod Phillips in a video posted to his Twitter account on Dec. 24, 2020. Mr. Phillips faced criticism for vacationing in the Caribbean despite officials urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Twitter

Doug Ford says no one in his office told him that Rod Phillips would be leaving the country, even as newly released e-mails show the Ontario Premier’s top staffers were aware the former finance minister would be away and unavailable in person for five weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Responding to a story in The Globe and Mail, Mr. Ford said Friday he only found out that Mr. Phillips had travelled to the luxury Caribbean island of St. Barts after the former cabinet minister had already left Canada. But e-mails, released by the Ontario Liberals, show that Mr. Ford’s senior staff members, including chief of staff James Wallace, were informed that Mr. Phillips would be away from Toronto and unavailable more than a week before he departed for St. Barts.

“I can tell you no one told me that he’s leaving the country,” Mr. Ford said at a news conference in the backyard of his late mother’s home, where he is self-isolating after a COVID-19 exposure.

Story continues below advertisement

The Premier suggested on Friday his office didn’t keep track of the whereabouts of the 71 members of the Progressive Conservative caucus, even as his government was pleading with Ontarians to stay home and not gather for the holidays. “On Christmas, everyone decides to either go to the cottage, maybe travel, but no one ever told me,” he said.

Mr. Ford has said he knew Mr. Phillips was out of the country two weeks before his St. Barts trip became public on Dec. 29, and regretted not calling him home sooner. Mr. Phillips returned to Canada and resigned from cabinet on Jan. 1. He remains a Progressive Conservative MPP for the Toronto-area riding of Ajax.

“He paid for that mistake. He was the finance minister. He’s no longer the finance minister,” Mr. Ford said.

Asked whether Mr. Phillips might return to cabinet at some point, the Premier did not rule it out. “I don’t discuss any cabinet moves with anyone,” he said.

Mr. Phillips declined an interview request on Friday. On Thursday, he told The Globe the decision to travel to St. Barts was his own and called it “a serious error in judgment.”

Both the Liberals and NDP said it’s not plausible that Mr. Phillips could have left the country without informing Mr. Ford and his office. Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca called it a “pattern of deceit,” while the Ontario NDP accused the Premier of lying about what he knew.

The newly released documents show an e-mail from Mr. Phillips’s former chief of staff, Andrew Sidnell, with the subject line “Minister Phillips Away,” sent on Dec. 4 to Mr. Wallace and Simone Daniels, Mr. Ford’s deputy chief of staff. Mr. Sidnell said his boss “will not be in Toronto and not available in person between the dates of December 12th and January 19th.”

Story continues below advertisement

“He will be completely available via teleconference, teams, zoom, etc. and will still be attending cabinet meetings virtually. I think he will let the Premier know directly as well,” Mr. Sidnell wrote. Mr. Phillips departed for the island on Dec. 13.

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies