Staff member in Jeromy Farkas’ office travelled over holidays

CALGARY — Yet another political staffer in Alberta has been found to have travelled over the holiday period while others were in lockdown at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Calgary city councillor and mayoral candidate Jeromy Farkas said Wednesday a junior administrative assistant working in his office travelled outside Alberta. He did not identify the staff member but said they travelled to Colombia.

Farkas said the staffer returned Jan. 4 and will not collect salary during a 14-day quarantine period, which he called a disciplinary measure.

Farkas was the first to file paperwork to run for mayor in the coming October civic election when nominations opened on Tuesday.

The admission comes a day after Mayor Naheed Nenshi said two of his staff members — chief of staff Devery Corbin and an administrative assistant who wasn’t named — travelled to Hawaii independently over the holiday.

Nenshi has said he would not discipline either as they had used a program announced by the province at the end of November, along with Canadian airlines, to encourage Canadians to visit Hawaii.

According to data from the State of Hawaii, 2,069 people travelled from Calgary to Hawaii between Dec. 1 and 31, 2020.

That included:

  • 1,766 travelling for pleasure
  • 132 airline crew
  • 96 visiting friends/family
  • 29 connecting passengers
  • 24 returning residents
  • 8 other business
  • 8 essential workers
  • 5 others
  • 1 intended resident

Of those, 1,533 travelled on WestJet and 511 flew with Air Canada.

The issue came to a head on Friday when Premier Jason Kenney announced there would be no sanctions against MLAs and his chief of of staff after it was revealed several travelled out of province over the holidays, despite repeated calls from government officials in recent months for Albertans to stay home and limit contact with others.

On Monday, Kenney changed course and said he had accepted the resignations of now former municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard, who travelled to Hawaii with her family, and his now former chief of staff Jamie Huckabay, who travelled to the U.K. with family.

A number of MLAs also resigned or were demoted from committee appointments for travelling.

MLA Jeremy Nixon resigned from his role as parliamentary secretary for civil society and MLA Jason Stephan resigned from the treasury board after admitting to travelling over the holidays.

MLAs Tanya Fir, Pat Rehn and Tany Yao have also lost their legislature committee responsibilities. Fir (Calgary-Peigan) visited Las Vegas, Nevada over the holidays while Yao (Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo) and Rehn (Lesser Slave Lake) took separate trips to Mexico.

Ric McIver is serving as the interim municipal affairs minister.

Rules currently in place in Alberta have bars and restaurants closed to dine-in service. Places like gyms and hair salons are also currently closed and both indoor and outdoor gatherings are not allowed. Albertans who live alone were able to attend one holiday gathering between Dec. 23 and 28.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said on Tuesday provincial officials are scheduled to review the current restrictions later this week.

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