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Ontario high-profile cabinet minister Rod Phillips resigns, will not seek re-election

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Ontario’s high-profile cabinet minister Rod Phillips announced Friday that he will resign at the end of next month and will not seek re-election.

The long-term care minister said the timing of his announcement would allow Prime Minister Doug Ford to appoint someone else to head the ministry, which is currently overseeing a sector in crisis.

“I have always considered public service a privilege and it has been an honor to serve as MPP for Ajax and in the three cabinet portfolios,” Phillips wrote in his statement.

“Having said that, my professional life has passed into the business world and I can’t wait to return to the private sector.”

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Jeff Yurek to resign, not seek fourth term as MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London

Ford thanked Phillips for what he called his tireless work on long-term care, including overseeing the creation of more homes, recruiting more nurses and personal support staff, and passing new long-term care legislation.

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“These initiatives will have a lasting impact as they improve the lives of long-term care residents and their families,” Ford said in a statement.

Phillips served as environment minister for the first year of the Ford government. He was subsequently appointed finance minister, but resigned from that position in December 2020, hours after returning from a controversial two-week trip to St. Petersburg. Barts, despite public health rules against travel at the time.

Ford brought him to the cabinet last year as long-term care minister.

Phillips will leave his post as the long-term care sector faces major challenges. More than 50 percent of long-term care homes were experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19 as of Friday, and more staff had confirmed infections than at any other point of the pandemic.

Vaccinations mean fewer people are dying than in previous waves of infections, but the Omicron variant is resulting in severe staff shortages across the province, leading to calls for military help as homes try to recruit workers.

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Phillips entered public life in 2017 when former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown recruited him to become the Conservative candidate for Ajax.

He briefly considered running for party leadership after Brown resigned in early 2018, but instead backed Caroline Mulroney, who eventually lost to Ford.

Phillips won a seat in the legislature later that year and as environment minister he oversaw the dismantling of the climate change plan to curb and trade the previous liberal government and publicly led Ford’s fight against the federal carbon tax.

Prior to entering politics, Phillips was CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Games Corporation and chairman of the Postmedia newspaper publisher.

He also served as chief of staff to former Conservative Progressive Labor Minister Elizabeth Witmer and former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman.

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Phillips’ announcement comes a week after another member of the parliamentary group – Jeff Yurek, who was ousted from the cabinet last year – also said he would resign next month and not seek re-election in June.

Several other members of the parliamentary group have also announced that they will not seek re-election, but will stay until then.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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