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Sunday, January 16

Rod Phillips resigns from Doug Ford’s cabinet, will not seek re-election on June 2

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In a major pre-election setback for Prime Minister 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 will not stand in the June 2 election.

“I have spoken with Prime Minister Ford and Brian Patterson, chairman of the Ontario PC Party, to inform them of my decision not to seek re-election and to resign next month as MPP for Ajax,” Phillips, 56, said in a statement. written.

“This will allow the Prime Minister 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 in Ajax and prepare for the provincial elections,” he said.

“I have always considered public service a privilege and it has been an honor to serve as Ajax’s MPP and in three cabinet portfolios. That said, my professional life has developed in the business world and I am looking forward to returning to the private sector”.

His surprise departure is a political blow for Ford, coming just 20 weeks earlier than expected. public opinion polls suggest it could be a close election.

But Phillips praised the prime minister’s “strong leadership … through what is arguably the greatest challenge of our lifetimes, the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“He has always put what is best for the people of Ontario first. I remain confident that Ontarians will re-elect their government in the next election,” he said.

Since taking over the embattled Ministry of Long-Term Care last June, Phillips has been credited with helping improve Ontario’s pandemic-ravaged nursing homes, which suffered badly in the first waves of COVID-19.

As well as joining ministry inspectors in surprise house checks, he implemented a compulsory vaccination policy for all staff and secured considerable increases in operating budgets and infrastructure investments in an area long neglected by successive governments across the globe. political trends.

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

“Together we have protected residents with the strongest legislation and best enforcement in the country, advanced the largest long-term care creation program ever in Canada, and invested in training and hiring tens of thousands of new members. of frontline health care personnel. All while continuing to do everything possible to vaccinate and protect residents and staff during this latest wave of the global pandemic.”

Phillips made headlines in December 2020 when he vacationed on the Caribbean island of St. Barts at a time when the federal government was urging people to avoid non-essential travel.

In spite of the prime minister’s office was aware Christmas trip, he resigned as finance minister upon his return to spare Ford any political embarrassment.

But his absence from the executive council coincided with some of the most chaotic months of the Tory pandemic, culminating in a marathon two-day cabinet meeting last April when ministers decided to impose police checks and close playgrounds to curb the spread of COVID-19. 19

Those controversial moves were dropped the next day amid a massive outcry from Ontarians and directly contributed to a disgruntled Ford changing his cabinet weeks later and handing Phillips the challenging long-term care dossier.

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

In 2014, he succeeded Toronto Mayor John Tory as president of the nonpartisan urban affairs organization CivicAction. He also served as Mayor Mel Lastman’s chief of staff after the 1998 merger of Old Town Toronto with North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, York and East York.

Long touted as a possible successor to Ford as leader of the Progressive Conservatives, Phillips’ retirement shakes up the political landscape as ministers begin jockeying for position in a future leadership contest.

Robert Benzie is the bureau chief for Star’s Queen’s Park and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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