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Coronavirus: Doug Ford visited cottage despite pleas for Ontario residents to stay home

WATCH ABOVE: On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford addressed the recent controversy incurred when he visited his cottage over the Easter long weekend. Ford said that he only drove up alone to check on the house, since in the past there have been issues with broken pipes, and returned home shortly after.

Despite calls for Ontario residents to stay at home amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it turns out Premier Doug Ford briefly visited his cottage.

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Government sources confirmed to Global News on Thursday that Ford went to his Muskoka cottage over the Easter long weekend despite making a plea for people to not travel out of major urban centres.

“Please, this long weekend, do not go to your cottage. We can’t stress that enough,” Ford told reporters during an April news conference.

READ MORE: Premier Doug Ford urges city residents to stay out of cottage country on Easter weekend

At the time, he said he would not be visiting his cottage to avoid putting a “burden” on cottage country and urged others to do the same.

“There’s no one that loves the cottage more than I do, but I’m not going to my cottage,” Ford said.

“They don’t have as many acute care beds as we do in the city. We don’t want to put that burden on the people up in cottage country. So please, just stay at home.”

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Sources with knowledge of the trip said Ford had to “check on the plumbing” at his summer residence, which is currently under renovation.

His office declined to comment about the story when asked Thursday evening, but Ford was asked about it in his daily press conference on Friday.

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He confirmed that he did visit his cottage to check the plumbing on Easter morning.

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“On Sunday morning of Easter, my team told me I got the morning off and it was the first time I got off in, I don’t know, two months. And it was weighing on me because a couple years ago we had burst pipes — a terrible mess, thousands of dollars of damage and that night I was thinking about it.”

Ford said he left for the cottage at 6:30 a.m., checked the plumbing, and was back at home before noon.

“That’s what happened. I probably won’t be going up there for another couple months,” Ford said. “I won’t have time, but that’s what happened.”

READ MORE: Premier Doug Ford pleads for city residents to avoid rural cottages, properties

He said any criticism towards him is fair as everyone has their own opinions.

On Wednesday afternoon, Ford had a call with cottage country mayors who said they didn’t want to see an influx of visitors over the Victoria Day long weekend and urged seasonal residents to stay home.

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“When you go up north, if you want to check on the plumbing on your cottage or heat, seeing what’s going on up there — this isn’t going to be the typical May 24 weekend,” he said on Thursday.

“I’m asking you, please don’t bring a whole whack of people up. It’s not the party weekend that it’s been in the past.”

READ MORE: Can I visit my Ontario cottage on the May long weekend?

Ford said there will be plenty of long weekends to come, but people who do travel to their cottages should continue public health measures such as not holding gatherings, practising physical distancing and avoiding non-essential travel.

He said earlier this week that there was only so long he could “hold the big gates back” if people travelled only to their cottages, brought their own food and didn’t go into town.

— With files from Ryan Rocca, Mark Giunta and The Canadian Press

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