Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Rod Phillips resigns from Doug Ford’s cabinet, will not seek re-election

In a major pre-election blow to Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, long-term care minister Rod Phillips is retiring from politics.

Phillips, a key cabinet minister who has represented Ajax since 2018, announced on Friday that he would not run in the June 2 election.

Phillips, 56, said: “I have spoken with Premier Ford and the chairman of the Ontario PC Party, Brian Patterson, to inform him of his decision not to seek re-election and to step down as Ajax’s MPP next month.” can go.” a written statement.

“This will allow the Premier to appoint a successor to continue the important work of the Ministry of Long-Term Care. It also ensures that the PC Party has the necessary time to nominate a candidate at Ajax and prepare for the provincial election, “They said.

“I have always considered public service a privilege and an honor to serve as MPP for Ajax and in three cabinet departments. That said, my professional life has been spent in the business world and I am looking forward to returning to the private sector. I hope

His surprise departure is a political blow for Ford, which could have a close election coming just 20 weeks before opinion polls.

Feather Twitter, the premier thanked Phillips for “his tireless work representing the people of Ajax and advancing important and needed reforms to Ontario’s long-term care system.”

“I want to wish him and Lydia all the best in their next chapter. I have no doubt that there are great things ahead for Rod,” Ford said.

For his part, Phillips praised the premier’s “strong leadership … in what is undoubtedly the biggest challenge of our lives, the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

“He has always put what is best for the people of Ontario first. I am confident that the people of Ontario will re-elect his government in the upcoming election.”

Since taking over the ministry of long-term care last June, Phillips has been credited with helping to improve the pandemic-ravaged nursing home of Ontario, which was hit hard by the first waves of COVID-19. But about half of all nursing homes are currently battling outbreaks as the infectious Omicron variant spreads.

Joining with ministry inspectors on surprise inspections of homes, he implemented a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees and drastically increased operating budgets and infrastructure investments in an area long neglected by successive governments of all political stripes. ensured.

“Our work together has been the most meaningful in my time as Minister for the Crown,” Phillips said of the long-term care sector.

“Together we have protected residents with the toughest legislation and best enforcement in the country, moving forward with the largest long-term care manufacturing program ever in Canada and training and recruiting thousands of new, front-line health care workers. While continuing to do everything possible to immunize and protect residents and staff through this latest wave of the global pandemic.”

But NDP MPP Sara Singh (Brampton Center) said Phillips’ resignation shows Ford’s government is in disarray.

“Outbreaks and staff shortages are on the rise again in long-term care homes, putting residents at risk. This is not the first time the government has changed long-term care ministers when residents were in the midst of a crisis,” said Singh, referring to former minister Merily Fullerton.

Phillips made headlines in December 2020 when he went on vacation to the Caribbean island of St. Barts, when the federal government was urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel.

Even though the premier’s office was aware of the Christmas visit, he resigned as finance minister to relieve Ford of further political embarrassment.

But his absence from the executive council coincided with some of the most chaotic months of the pandemic, culminating in a two-day cabinet meeting last April, when ministers called for police spot checks and closure of playgrounds to stem the spread of COVID-19. decided. 19.

Those controversial moves were abandoned the next day amid huge outcry from Ontarians and directly angered Ford contributing to a reshuffle of his cabinet weeks later and handing over the challenging long-term care file to Phillips.

A successful business leader before entering elected politics, Phillips served as president of Postmedia, the parent company of National Post and the Toronto Sun, and in 2011 was appointed president and CEO of the Ontario Lotteries and Gaming by Liberal Premier Dalton McGinty. went.

In 2014, he succeeded Toronto Mayor John Tory as president of the nonpartisan CivicAction Urban Affairs organization. He also served as Mayor Mel Lastman’s chief of staff following the integration of Old City Toronto with North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, York and East York in 1998.

Long touted as a potential successor to Ford as the Progressive Conservative leader, Phillips’ retirement shocks the political landscape as ministers begin to jockey for positions in a future leadership contest.

Robert Benzie Starr is Queens Park’s bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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