It wasn’t a trip to the sun-drenched Caribbean, but Thornhill MPP Gila Martow is facing criticism for spending part of the Christmas holiday at her family cottage about 130 kilometres away near Peterborough amid the Ontario COVID-19 crisis.
Last week, Ajax MPP Rod Phillips resigned his position as Ontario finance minister, the second most powerful job in the cabinet. Phillips had flown to St. Barts and had kept his trip a secret until word got out. Premier Doug Ford ordered Phillips to come home after the story broke.
“It was a significant error in judgment, a dumb, dumb mistake,” Phillips admitted as he spoke to the media at Pearson International Airport on his return.
The whereabouts of politicians in a pandemic has become a source of potential embarrassment since Doug Ford and the cabinet ordered a province-wide lockdown beginning Dec. 26 in an effort to reduce growing numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Martow, a two-term MPP and now a candidate for the federal nomination in the same riding — a race being hotly contested — declined to be interviewed about her Christmas travel, choosing to provide a statement to reporters instead.
“Shortly before Christmas, my family and I visited our family property in Selwyn, Ont., where our family has deep roots in the community for over two decades,” Martow wrote.
“My 28-year old son, who is part owner and regularly uses the property, then went up on New Year’s Eve with his social bubble. I was not part of this group nor did I organize this get-together,” the statement continued.
Their son shared the cottage with seven of his friends, Martow told the Peterborough Examiner, some of whom are his roommates, Marlow added.
Under the public health orders, it’s forbidden to gather indoors with those you don’t live with.
“I do take exception to her son and his seven friends coming up for New Year’s Eve together,” said Gerry Herron, a local councillor in Selwyn Township.
“The optics are terrible at this point,” Herron said, referring to the Phillips case.
Martow, an optometrist by training, said in the statement that “as medical professionals, my husband and I take adherence to health and safety protocols very seriously.”
But Martow didn’t heed Premier Ford’s public plea to stay close to home going into the Christmas season.
In a public service video, Ford implored Ontarians not to travel unless for work, medical appointments or when it was necessary.
“Every time you take a trip it puts people in jeopardy,” Ford says in the video. “Please stay at home when you can.”
Replying to a question by text about whether she shopped at local stores while in Selwyn, Martow was very specific.
“I bought up two full coolers. My husband picked up a few groceries once. I picked up takeout once. I made chicken and beef fajitas,” she wrote.
On another night, the family dined on “kosher chicken wings” purchased from a store in Thornhill.
“My husband made lots of pancakes with chocolate chips!” Martow texted.
Outside Martow’s constituency office, Ron Tauer pulled up to a Global News crew to offer his opinion about Martow’s decision to travel at this time.
“It erodes our trust in our politicians,” Tauer said. “We’re supposed to have a democracy, these are our leaders, this is a crisis.”
“Obviously they think they’re in some untouchable category of eliteness that the rest of us don’t share.”
— With files from Alan CarterView link »