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Ontario Government And COVID-19: Two Different Sets Of Rules

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Doug Ford, Rod Phillips And Ivana Yelich: Some Explaining To Do

Social media has been alive and well for some time with the sounds of people complaining about the different sets of rules that the Ontario government has appeared to establish as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Ontario residents are furious and rightfully so about news that Ontario's finance minister and the Ford government's own director of media relations left the province for the holidays.

Finance minister Rod Phillips is reportedly in St. Bart's for Christmas vacation while media relations director Ivana Yelich has apparently returned to Saskatchewan due to "family circumstances," she told the Star. Yelich declined further comment to the newspaper while Ford immediately ordered Phillips, who's been out of the country since December 13, 2020, to return to Canada.

While I do understand the issue of "family circumstances" can come up at any point and that a pandemic won't necessarily hold off a family situation - whether it be medical in nature or not - now is certainly not the best time to travel out of province. I certainly hope all is well with Yelich and her family if the "circumstances" that led her to travel out of province in a time when interprovincial and international travel is not recommended were serious; she is a former high school student of mine from the days where I taught in Saskatchewan and I have always liked her, and I wish her well. Interestingly, though, Yelich did tweet on Dec. 24, 2020, that Toronto Public Health had said that 4.5 percent of COVID-19 cases in the region were linked to situations where travel was involved.

However, Phillips should certainly be chastised and probably fired for leaving for St. Barts in spite of warnings that have been airing since November 2020 that people should stay put during the Christmas holiday instead of gathering with family. While it's absolutely lovely that he wanted to take his wife on a getaway and that he continued to work from his resort room, now is most definitely not the time to be a part of the jet-set. He said in his statement, which is available on Twitter, that had he known of the then-impending Dec. 26, 2020 lockdown, his trip would have been cancelled.

"Had I been aware then of the eventual December 26 province-wide shutdown, we would have cancelled the trip,” Phillips said, according to the New Hamburg Independent.

It's not as though COVID-19 was recently announced as being a problem, nor are we in a situation where the government announcing more stringent measures to control the spread of COVID-19 is suddenly surprising. Certainly, I am not privy to Phillips' personal schedule, nor do I care to be. However, it would seem to me that planning something such as a trip to a resort location such as St. Barts would involve more than last-minute planning, and certainly, travel restrictions aren't something that have been recently announced either.

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For Phillips to go ahead and plan this trip smacks of willful blindness to the circumstances or a sense of "I'm doing it anyhow." Perhaps he thinks he's magically bulletproof from any and all effects of the virus, even though he would not have even received the first dose of the vaccine at his Dec. 13, 2020 departure.

What, pray tell, is the Ford government doing about any of this?

The equivalent of nothing. Ford basically has said the equivalent of "don't let it happen again," which is reminiscent of when Sam Oosterhoff, parliamentary assistant to Minster of Education Stephen Lecce, hosted a party with dozens in attendance and he was photographed standing close to individuals and unmasked.

People are wondering why there are those who are not taking the situation with COVID-19 seriously. Perhaps we need to look at the government response thus far. I realize that a global pandemic is really something that none of us has really dealt with in modern times, and we're making rules as we go along in order to suit what's happening, but if you're going to say that travel is not recommended and one of your workers travels for reasons that are not essential, there needs to be appropriate sanctions. A slap on the wrist, in this case, is not going to cut it.

So, Premier Ford, the ball is in your court. What are you going to do about it?


Lorelei Cohen from Canada on December 30, 2020:

The worst part of this event is his deception via videos depicting him at home participating in local events. If he had not tried so hard to deceive people he might have got through this scandal with nothing but a reprimand. He went just way to far beyond just a vacation lol.

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