Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips has resigned from his key role in cabinet over his secret vacation to a luxurious Caribbean island as the COVID-19 pandemic ran rampant in the province.
“Today, following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario’s Minister of Finance,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement Thursday.
“At a time when the people of Ontario have sacrificed so much, today’s resignation is a demonstration that our government takes seriously our obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard,” he said.
Phillips and his wife had left Canada on December 13, following the end of the legislative session, and travelled to the Caribbean island of St. Bart’s.
Although Phillips didn’t violate any federal or provincial travel restrictions, he nonetheless apologized for making the trip.
“It was a significant error in judgment – a dumb, dumb mistake, I apologize for it, I regret it.”
CTV News is reporting that Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy has been tapped to take over as minister of finance.
He will be the Ford government’s third finance minister in as many years.
In keeping with the common practice of politicians everywhere to pre-load social media messages, Phillips’ office released a number of social media posts during the time he was away.
He has come under criticism for attempting to mislead the public into believing that he was actually still in Canada.
“I understand why some people believe that is the case but it is not – many politicians, in fact most politicians pre-plan and pre-load messages on social media,” Phillips responded.
Ford said Wednesday he wasn’t told about the trip ahead of time, but did learn about it shortly after it began, and should have demanded Phillips return immediately.
Ford has said it’s “unacceptable” for any public official to ignore the province’s COVID-19 guidelines, which urge residents to avoid non-essential travel.
Phillips departed Canada prior to Ford’s December 21 announcement of a province-wide lockdown which began on December 26.
Ken Grafton is the Western Standards Ottawa Bureau Chief. He can be reached at email@example.com
BREAKING: Omicron found in Alberta
On Monday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced 156 Albertans self-quarantining after returning from travel in a country that had been hit with Omicron.
The tentacles of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have reached Alberta.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said an Albertan returning home from Nigeria, via the Netherlands, has tested positive for Omicron.
Hinshaw said they tested positive a week ago and the person, who traveled alone, is now self-quarantining.
She said medical officials are trying to “delay” the spread of the variant until more research is done.
But Hinshaw refused to say where the traveller lives over fear it would identify them.
Hinshaw also urged people not to take out their frustrations against the family of the infected person nor the countries that are under an Omicron watch.
And she said people shouldn’t “think of this as a reset to Ground Zero.”
In her daily update, Hinshaw said in the last 24 hours, health officials have found 238 new cases of coronavirus. There are 434 people in the hospital with 81 in ICU. Another six people are reported to have succumbed to the virus.
Six confirmed cases of the variant of concern have now been confirmed in Canada so far.
Earlier in the day, Canada added Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt to its Omicron travel ban.
On Friday, the government put restrictions on travellers from South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
“Obviously we’re watching very, very closely the situation with Omicron,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on his way into the cabinet meeting.
“There may be more we need to do and we’ll be looking at it very carefully.”
More to come…
Unvaxxed grounded in Canada
As of November 30, travellers will no longer be allowed to submit a negative test result in place of proof of vaccination to board a plane or train in Canada.
As of Tuesday, Canadian travellers over the age of 12 will no longer be able to fly or travel by train in Canada without proof of vaccination.
The policy was originally set to come into effect on October 30, however, the federal government announced it would grant a grace period to unvaccinated travellers allowing for a negative COVID-19 test to be provided within 72 hours of the trip.
The new travel restrictions for the unvaccinated come on the heels of the emergence of a new variant of concern (VOC) dubbed Omicron by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Cases involving the new variant, originally detected in South Africa, have been found in other countries including five cases within Canada.
Although there is not much known about the new variant at this time, the WHO confirmed scientists around the world are working to determine how the highly-mutated variant will affect transmissibility and severity of illness in the population.
Canada, along with other nations, closed its boards and expanded its screening protocols to travellers arriving from affected areas in southern Africa.
The Canadian airline industry welcomed the vaccine mandates when they were announced in October. Air Canada and West Jet have both confirmed they will be asking all travellers to produce proof of vaccination before boarding their carriers as of Tuesday.
While health measures such as masking and screening will still be required, no measures for quarantining individual travellers have been put in place with the exception of those who have travelled through or arrived from southern Africa.
“If you indicate to your airline or railway company that you’re eligible to board, but fail to provide proof of vaccination or valid COVID-19 test result, you won’t be allowed to travel and could face penalties or fines,” the government indicated in a statement.
The Canadian government is also warning permanent residents abroad to expect to provide vaccine passports to return home.
The rules don’t apply to commuter trains.
The Government of Canada has created a “reliable way to show proof of your COVID-19 vaccination history when travelling internationally and within Canada,” states the government’s website. The document is verified once uploaded to ArriveCAN upon returning to the country.
The website warns travellers are not guaranteed entry to another country with the documents and suggests checking the rules of your destination country and the countries you travel through.
“Today, Canada passed a sad milestone in its history,” said Matt Slatter, a pilot with a major Canadian airline and a founder of Free 2 Fly, a hub that has “Canadian aviation professionals standing with passengers in defence of freedom.”
“No longer can it hold itself as a beacon of freedom and liberal values.”
The Free 2 Fly website encourages passengers and airline workers who “feel strongly that the ability to travel should not be linked to vaccination status,” to sign up and join their movement.
“With the advent of mandates requiring all aviation and rail passengers to be vaccinated, Canada is now effectively a two-tier society,” said Slatter.
“On one tier, compliant citizens are afforded many of the rights they once enjoyed in a free society. While the other tier is essentially relegated to their own localities, with limited exception.
“History suggests this style of governance will only lead to more tragedy and heartbreak. The cure is inevitably worse than the disease. Will Canada learn from the mistakes of the past?”
Currently, there are just under 38,000 signed up on the Free 2 Fly site. One of the goals of the group is to “wage a legal campaign to block, and/or overturn, all vaccination mandates.”
Melanie Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
CRTC trying to hang up on spoof calls
Caller ID spoofing occurs when callers hide or misrepresent their identity by displaying fictitious or altered phone numbers when making calls.
All those calls from the taxman and Canadian Border Services officials threatening to arrest you could soon be coming to an end thanks to new regulations from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
“Many Canadians are now able to determine which calls can be trusted thanks to a new technology aimed at combating spoofed calls named STIR/SHAKEN. Caller ID spoofing is frequently used in nuisance and fraudulent calls to mask the identity of the caller,” said the CRTC in a release.
“As of today, telecommunications service providers will certify whether a caller’s identity can be trusted by verifying the caller ID information for Internet Protocol-based voice calls. This new technology will help reduce the frequency and impact of caller ID spoofing. As service providers continue to upgrade their IP networks and offer compatible phones to their customers, more and more Canadians will be able to see the effects of STIR/SHAKEN.”
It’s believed up to 25% of all calls in Canada are scams.
The CRTC said Caller ID spoofing occurs when callers hide or misrepresent their identity by displaying fictitious or altered phone numbers when making calls.
“This new caller ID technology will empower Canadians to determine which calls are legitimate and worth answering, and which need to be treated with caution. As more providers upgrade their networks, STIR/SHAKEN will undoubtedly reduce spoofing and help Canadians regain peace of mind when answering phone calls,” said Ian Scott, CRTC CEO.
BREAKING: Omicron found in Alberta
WATCH LIVE: Hinshaw to update Albertans on Omicron at 2 p.m.
Unvaxxed grounded in Canada
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