Ontario Premier Doug Ford briefly visited cottage after asking residents not to
Ford ‘drove alone’ to cottage to ‘check on the plumbing,' his office says
Ontario Premier Doug Ford went to his cottage briefly last month, days after asking the province's residents to stay away from theirs.
Ivana Yelich, spokesperson for Ford's office, confirmed Friday that on the morning of April 12, the premier "drove alone to his family property up north to check on the plumbing as the property is under construction and has been over the past two years," she said in an email.
"He spent less than an hour there and on his travel he didn't stop anywhere and he didn't interact with anyone."
Days before, on April 8, Ford had asked residents not to visit their cottages during Easter weekend due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the strain visitors could put on rural health-care systems.
He said he had recently spoken with cottage country mayors, who were "begging us to get the message out" to stay away.
"There's no one that loves my cottage more than I do, but I'm not going to my cottage," Ford said during the news conference.
"We're going to make sure that we listen to the protocol that the chief medical officer has requested."
At his daily COVID-19 news conference on Friday, Ford said Easter Sunday was the first morning he wasn't working in about two months, and he was worried about his cottage because some pipes had burst there a couple of years ago and did a lot of damage.
"I just got ready and hopped in the pickup truck myself at 6:30 in the morning," Ford said. Everything was OK there, he said, so he got back in his truck and drove home.
"I was back by noon," Ford said.
'Hard to hold back people' on long weekend, premier says
Earlier this week, Ford had signalled the possibility of eased COVID-19 restrictions in time for the Victoria Day long weekend, and said it would be "hard to hold back people going to their cottages."
But after a joint call with cottage country mayors on Wednesday, the premier asked would-be visitors to stay home — and for any cottage owners who do head north to ensure they practice physical distancing.
"We are still battling a terrible virus, so we are asking seasonal residents travelling to their cottages to practice the same public health measures as usual, including no public gatherings, avoiding nonessential travel as much as possible, and continue to practice social distancing," Ford said in a statement Thursday.
"Cottage country residents are known for their hospitality and normally they would be welcoming tourists with open arms right now. This year, however, they are asking visitors to help them fight the spread of COVID-19 and hold-off travelling to these regions until it is safe to do so."
In an interview with CBC News earlier this week, Phil Harding, mayor of the Township of Muskoka Lakes, said that unless people "have" to go, they should stay away from their seasonal homes.
"Essential travel is the only travel that should be happening. Non-essential travelling should be limited."
Ford isn't the only politician who is being asked questions about how he spent that long weekend: in mid-April, federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were also on the defensive for their weekend travel.