Toronto

Member of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination task force resigns after travel outside country

A member of Ontario's COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force has resigned after she travelled outside of Canada in December, the premier's office says.

Premier Doug Ford accepted Linda Hasenfratz's resignation on Tuesday

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corporation, has resigned as a member of Ontario's COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force after she travelled outside of the country in December. (Western University)

A member of Ontario's COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force has resigned after she travelled outside of Canada in December, the premier's office says.

Premier Doug Ford accepted the resignation of Linda Hasenfratz on Tuesday.

Ivana Yelich, spokesperson for the premier, said in a statement on Tuesday that Hasenfratz has apologized for her decision to travel.

"Thanks to the efforts of all Ontarians, we are starting to see early signs of progress in bending the curve," Yelich said.

"Now is not the time to let up. We continue to urge everyone to stay home."

The premier's office released no other details about Hasenfratz's travel.

The federal government has advised Canadians since the start of the pandemic to avoid non-essential travel outside of the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Hasenfratz is the CEO of Linamar Corporation, a Canadian company that manufactures and supplies products to automotive and industrial markets. It is the country's second-largest automobile parts manufacturer.

In a description after Hasenfratz was named to the task force, the Ontario government said: "Leading the global advanced manufacturing company for almost 20 years, she has significant lean manufacturing, process development and logistics expertise in creating solutions for the automotive and industrial sectors."

Hasenfratz is chancellor of Western University in London, Ont. Her term as chancellor began on July 1, 2019. According to the university, she became CEO of Linamar in 2002, after she had worked there for 12 years. (J.P. Moczulski/Reuters)

Retired general Rick Hillier is chair of the task force, which had nine members until Hasenfratz resigned.

The government said the task force provides advice and recommendations on the rollout of Ontario's COVID-19 immunization program. 

It is focused on delivery, logistics, administration and clinical guidance, as well as on public education and outreach, the province said. Members of the task force include experts in logistics and distribution, bioethics, behavioural science, vaccines, vulnerable populations and IT infrastructure.

Hasenfratz is also chancellor of Western University in London, Ont. Her term began on July 1, 2019. According to the university, she became CEO of Linamar in 2002, after she had worked there for 12 years.

"Hasenfratz is a member of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame and worked as part of a group of executives from Canada, the United States and Mexico to advise on key recommendations regarding enhancement of the NAFTA region," the university says on its website.

"She has been widely recognized for contributions to Canadian business and for her commitments to the community." 

Resignation follows handful of others due to travel

Hasenfratz's resignation follows a handful of others in Ontario due to foreign travel.

Earlier this month, Dr. Tom Stewart resigned from a group of experts that help guide the provincial government's response to COVID-19 after travelling to the Dominican Republic over the holidays.

At the time, Stewart said he regretted the non-essential travel and recognized that everyone should be avoiding non-essential trips.

Stewart later stepped down as chief executive officer of the Niagara Health System and the St. Joseph's Health System in Hamilton.

Rod Phillips, pictured at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Dec. 31, resigned as Ontario's finance minister after it was revealed that he went to the Caribbean island of St. Barts over the holidays. (CBC)

Last week, Dr. Paul Woods, the CEO of a hospital network in London, Ont., was ousted from his post after concerns were raised about his international travel during the pandemic.

Woods travelled to the United States five times since March, including during the December holidays, the London Health Sciences Centre said. He has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Last month, Rod Phillips, Ontario's former finance minister, resigned from his post after it was revealed he travelled to the Caribbean island of St. Barts for a December vacation.

International travel by politicians and government appointees to COVID-19 panels became a sore point last year after residents were urged to stay at home as much as possible to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Toronto entered the Ontario government's grey lockdown zone on Nov. 23, and all of Ontario was locked down on Dec. 26. Ontario is now under a stay-at-home order and a second provincial state of emergency.

With files from Muriel Draaisma, The Canadian Press

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