Doug Ford acknowledges he knew finance minister was away before news broke of Caribbean vacation

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is acknowledging he knew his finance minister, Rod Phillips, was outside Canada before the news of Phillips’s Caribbean vacation began making headlines Tuesday. 

Phillips, Ford said, never told him he was leaving.

“I did call him shortly after he arrived and I asked him and he said he was away,” Ford told reporters Wednesday.

“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.” 

The premier now says a “very tough conversation” is in store when Phillips returns from his trip taken while Ontarians were urged to hunker down amid rising cases of COVID-19.

WATCH | Ford admits he should have asked finance minister to return from Caribbean sooner:

Premier Doug Ford addressed questions about finance minister Rod Phillips’s Caribbean trip during lockdown. 3:07

Phillips has been on vacation in Saint Barthélemy, a Caribbean island known popularly as St. Barts. He is on his way back to Canada and is scheduled to arrive in the country on Thursday, Ford said.

Phillips apologized Tuesday evening for leaving the country on Dec. 13 for a personal trip even as health officials pleaded with Ontarians to only venture outside of their homes for essential purposes.

Ford spoke publicly on the issue for the first time at Trillium Health in Mississauga, where staff are preparing to distribute Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to Peel Public Health.

“There can’t be rules for elected people and non-elected people,” Ford told reporters.

“I can tell you I’m very upset. I’m very frustrated with the situation. I stand out here every single day and tell people to stay at home,” he said.

“It’s unacceptable and we’re going to have a very tough conversation when he gets back.”

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