Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he went against COVID-19 guidelines and his own public statements to visit his cottage on Easter Sunday because he had to check the property's plumbing.
Ford said on April 8 that he wouldn't visit his Muskoka property over the holiday weekend and asked Ontarians to do the same. But days later on April 12, he took an early drive north alone, spending less than an hour at the cottage and not making any stops there or back, the premier's office confirmed Friday.
"Any criticism toward me is fair," Ford said.
News of the cottage visit was first reported by the National Post on Thursday night. Although the premier didn't apologize Friday, he did say he was concerned because the Muskoka property's plumbing had an issue a few years ago that made a "terrible mess" and caused thousands of dollars worth of damage.
"My team told me I got the morning off," he said. "It was the first time I'd had off in two months ... I was back before noon."
On April 8, Ford urged cottagers not to visit their seasonal properties to avoid spreading the virus to small communities with fewer medical resources. "There's no one that loves my cottage more than I do, but I'm not going to my cottage," he said.
On Monday, however, Ford publicly mulled the idea of relaxing that advice before the Victoria Day weekend, saying it's difficult to ask cottagers who pay taxes on their seasonal properties to stay home. The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, has advised people to avoid non-essential travel, including to cottages, but hasn't made the guidance mandatory.
After a phone call with cottage-country mayors Wednesday, Ford walked back his previous statements and asked the public to stay home and avoid their cottages. If anyone must go, they should bring their own supplies and continue to practise physical distancing, he added.
"My message to people is, if you have to go to the cottage and check on things, bring your own supplies and just follow the rules,” Ford said Thursday.
"There will be plenty of long weekends to come."
Ford said Friday that he probably won't return to his cottage for several months. "I won't have time," he said.