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WATCH: Premier says he's been pleading with Prime Minister Trudeau to tighten border measures

Reporters grill Ford over former finance minister Rod Phillips leaving the country last December

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he has been pleading with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to tighten border restrictions in order to prevent COVID-19 variants of concern from entering the country.

Speaking during a press conference Friday while in isolation due to a COVID-19 exposure, the premier said more needs to be done to prevent a potential fourth wave of the virus.

"Not enough is being done to keep these deadly variants out of Canada," said Ford. "Last week the new Indian variant was reported here in Ontario and it didn't swim here I can tell you that. We learned yesterday that 90 per cent of average daily cases this week are variants of concern."

Border restrictions and airports fall under federal jurisdiction, leaving the premier with little power outside of lobbying the Prime Minister for increased safety measures.

"I can assure you, if I had the power I would close down Pearson Airport immediately," said Ford. "I would shut down the land border crossings to only those who are absolutely essential because I would do everything in my power to stop a vaccine-resistant variant from getting into our country and bringing a fourth wave with it."

Ford was on a conference call with Prime Minister Trudeau and other premiers last night, where he says he pleaded with Trudeau to do more at the nation's airports, including mandatory pre-departure testing for those flying into Ontario from other provinces.

"Most importantly, close the massive loopholes at our land borders with the United States by bringing in a mandatory hotel quarantine for those major land crossings," said Ford. "Too many people are exploiting these weak measures at our land border to get around the hotel quarantine."

Ford was questioned by reporters about his handling of the matter involving former finance minister Rod Phillips, who left the country in December for vacation. Ford's top staff members had knowledge that Phillips would be away for as many as five weeks in early December, but the minister was still able to leave Canada, seemingly without the knowledge of the premier.

When asked how this was able to occur and why no red flags were raised, Ford maintained that no one told him where Phillips was going.

"Well we have 72 members at Christmas, everyone either decides maybe to go to a cottage or travel, no one ever told me that he's leaving the country," said Ford. "When I found out I addressed it with the media and if there's one area that I wish I could have changed is when he called me I should've told him to get back. It was shortly thereafter when I called him again I asked him to come back and he paid for that mistake."

Phillips' trip overseas occurred at a time when the premier was asking Ontarians not to gather over Christmas holidays and Ford was questioned how it was possible for a minister in his cabinet to leave the country without the premier knowing.

Ford again stated that Phillips made a mistake and reiterated that he wasn't aware that his former finance minister would be leaving the country.

"He didn't say in that letter that he was travelling anywhere and I didn't see that," said Ford. "He paid for that mistake, he was the finance minister, he's no longer the finance minister."

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