VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — They’ve been telling us to stay home for months, but a growing number of Canadian politicians are finding themselves in hot water for failing to heed their own government’s advice.
An MLA in Alberta is the latest caught skipping town over the holidays despite public-health recommendations to avoid non-essential travel to curb the spread of COVID-19. Tracy Allard, the Municipal Affairs Minister, took a vacation to Hawaii last month, the CBC News is reporting, citing sources.
There are now calls for Allard, who is in charge of Alberta’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, to resign. Premier Jason Kenney rejected those calls Friday afternoon.
At least four other Canadian politicians have been busted for leaving the country in recent weeks.
Ontario’s Finance Minister Rod Phillips resigned on Thursday, hours after flying back to Canada from St. Barts. Word got out earlier in the week that he had been on the Caribbean Island since mid-December, even though tweets while he was away made it seem like he was in the country.
In Quebec, Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand is being asked to come back home after it was revealed that he was in Barbados with his wife. The former interim leader of the Quebec Liberals says in a statement he now regrets his decision to make the trip.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, the highways minister is apologizing for travelling to Palm Springs. Joe Hargrave said it was an “essential” trip because he’s selling a home in California but added it was still a mistake to go while so many others make sacrifices during the pandemic. Premier Scott Moe has said he was aware of the trip and Hargave will stay on as minister.
Dr. Allan Tupper, a political science professor at UBC, says leaving town at a time like this is the kind of thing voters won’t forget.
“The public backlash in these things, it’s very difficult to come back from that,” he tells NEWS 1130.
Tupper adds when it comes to Ontario’s Finance Minister, he’s surprised the Premier didn’t fire him.
“It was unwise to leave at all as Minister of Finance. We’ve seen controversies in different countries already, deep controversies about people believing that actions of politicians and other leaders who go away on vacations and clearly violate the lockdown rules and so on to be very, very unpopular by people for good reason,” Tupper says.
But Tupper doesn’t think a bad decision from one politician will necessarily ruin the government’s credibility.
“If it was 15 people gone and nobody else being allowed to go to a restaurant, in Toronto, it wouldn’t make for a very good story,” he says.
NEWS 1130 reached out to all of B.C.’s cabinet ministers, asking them if they left the country at any point during the pandemic.
“We can confirm that no members of Cabinet, including the Premier, or Minister Dix have travelled outside of the country since March 18, 2020,” reads an emailed response from Health Minister Adrian Dix’s office.
“For many months now, we have asked British Columbians and those coming into B.C. to only travel for essential purposes. That remains our position: People should not be travelling for recreation or social reasons right now, and that includes our provincial leaders. We know that most British Columbians are already doing the right thing and we are confident that we will continue to work together to get through this second wave.”
Meantime in federal politics, NDP MP Niki Ashton has been ousted from the party’s shadow cabinet after travelling to Greece to visit her “ailing grandmother.”
Wishing everyone a better year ahead. Bonne année à tous.
After spending Christmas alone with our family at home in MB, now I am with my ailing grandmother, my γιαγιά, in Greece. Χρόνια Πολλά με υγεία.
— Niki Ashton (@nikiashton) January 1, 2021
A statement from the party says travellers entering Greece from Canada must provide the essential nature of their travel. Nevertheless, she is being replaced as shadow critic for public ownership and transport, and deputy critic for women and gender equality.
“While we are sympathetic to Ms. Ashton’s situation and understand her need to be with her family, millions of Canadians are following public health guidelines, even when it made it impossible for them to visit sick or aging relatives,” it reads.
Ashton did not tell Leader Jagmeet Singh, or party Whip Rachel Blaney about her plans, according to the statement.
“While the importance of staying home and doing their best to follow public health advice to protect themselves, their family and their communities was stressed to all MPs, Ms. Ashton deemed it necessary to go see this family member at this time. She reached out to Canadian officials for best practices, and will be following quarantine guidelines.”