Ontario cabinet minister Rod Phillips to resign, not run in next election

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Rod Phillips watches as health workers deliver baked goods and coffee at Humber River Hospital in Toronto on November 5, 2020.Nathan Dennett / The Canadian Press

Ontario’s long-term care minister, Rod Phillips, is stepping down and leaving politics, even as a huge wave of the COVID-19 outbreak again threatens vulnerable residents of the province’s nursing homes, where Nearly 4,000 have died of the virus.


The sudden departure, announced late Friday on social-media platform Twitter, comes just a year after Mr Phillips, 56 – once a contender for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party – was forced to step down as finance . After ministering he defied epidemiological guidelines and holidayed on the Caribbean island of St. Barts.

He was brought back to cabinet in June and spearheaded new legislation to reform long-term care homes, which were ravaged by COVID-19, and where some residents faced appalling conditions and neglect. Was.

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On Friday, with more new virus outbreaks and death tolls hitting the province’s homes than ever before, he said he told Premier Doug Ford and PC Party chairman Brian Patterson that he was resigning and formerly Ajax. Will give up his post as MPP for Toronto, next month, ahead of the general election in June.

He said the departure would allow Ford to appoint a new minister and pick a new PC candidate for the ride. Mr Phillips, who did not respond to a request for comment, said in his Twitter statement that he would be exploring new opportunities in the private sector.

“I want to recognize Premier Ford’s strong leadership. Through what is undoubtedly the biggest challenge of our lives, the global COVID-19 pandemic, they have always put first what is best for the people of Ontario,” Mr. Phillips said in his statement. I am confident that the Ontarians will re-elect their government in the upcoming election.

During his brief stint as long-term care minister, Mr. Phillips oversaw a massive program to begin construction of new homes and refurbish the province’s old facilities.

Mr Phillips announced his departure just as the Omicron version of the coronavirus plunged the chronically under-staffed long-term care sector into crisis again. According to Ontario’s latest situation report, 411 of the province’s 626 households are battling an active outbreak of COVID-19.

“It’s the highest number ever, and we haven’t even reached the peak,” Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at University Health Network and Sinai Health System in Toronto, said in an interview. “The resignation of one of the government’s smartest ministers to deal with this file is the final letdown on a day that Ontario has never seen care homes for so long in the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The highly contagious Omicron variant has sickened 2,140 residents of long-term care and 3,830 staff members. Since mid-December, 64 residents have died of COVID-19, bringing the total to 3,893.

Several other MPPs have said they plan not to run again. Such announcements usually come in the months preceding the provincial campaign. Unlike Mr. Phillips, most remain in their ride until they are replaced.

The Premier Office issued a statement on Twitter thanking Phillips for his “tireless work” as an MPP and minister of long-term care. Spokespersons for the premier did not respond to questions about who would replace Mr Phillips in the portfolio.

Mr Ford’s office announced late Friday that his Government House leader and minister of legislative affairs, Paul Calandra, would also take over the long-term care portfolio.

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said Mr. Phillips’ departure as long-term care minister amid another COVID-19 crisis “is a sign of a complete renunciation of leadership and pure anarchy in Ford’s Conservative Party.” He added that Ontarians “felt abandoned by Doug Ford and his government, and the sudden departure of Minister Phillips is another example.”

NDP deputy leader and long-term care critic Sara Singh said Omicron’s rise was putting residents at risk just as Mr Phillips decided to leave, given that he was employed during the pandemic.

“This is not the first time the government has replaced long-term care ministers, when residents were in the midst of a crisis, and people are concerned that seniors will again fall through the cracks while the Ford government is in disarray,” Ms Singh said in a statement. In.

Several advocacy groups led by the Ontario Health Coalition on Friday called on the government to launch emergency measures, including deploying teams from the Canadian Armed Forces, to help long-term care homes as well as hospitals, a critical and growing to address the staffing crisis.

Mr Phillips, who dropped out of the 2018 leadership contest and endorsed Ford rival Carolyn Mulroney, was chief of staff for Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman in the early 2000s, an aide to former PC cabinet minister Elizabeth Witmer and then PC Was a campaign ally for the leader. John Tory’s 2007 provincial election bid. A former CEO of Schepel-FGI (now Morneau Schapel), he was appointed President and CEO of Ontario Lotteries and Gaming Corp in 2011 and later served as President of Postmedia. He was first selected as PC MPP for Ajax in 2018.

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