TORONTO — An expanding list of Canadian politicians are in hot water after being caught vacationing or travelling abroad amid a worsening COVID-19 pandemic at home.
Current federal public health guidance says to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada, something Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and health authorities have repeatedly reiterated in public briefings.
Here is a quick rundown of the politicians involved thus far:
Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips resigned after news emerged that he vacationed in the Caribbean island of St. Barts, although his social media presence made it seem otherwise. His office released tweets and Instagram posts of the minister while he was away – making it appear he was in Ontario all along.
When confronted at Toronto’s Pearson Airport Thursday, Phillips called it a “dumb mistake.”
Public anger was also aimed at Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford – despite his public condemnation of Phillips’ decision – as it became clear Ford knew about the vacation two weeks ago.
“At that time I should have said ‘get your backside back into Ontario’ and I didn’t do that,” Ford said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has declined to discipline members of his government for travelling abroad as it emerged staff like MLA Pat Rehn travelled to Mexico and Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard was vacationing in Hawaii.
Two education ministry press secretaries were also vacationing in Hawaii after photos surfaced of them on a beach. They have since deleted their social media accounts.
Kenney confirmed that his own chief of staff, James Huckabay, travelled to the U.K. and came back via the United States on Boxing Day.
Allard’s Instagram account posted a video of her delivering a holiday message in front of a Christmas tree at the Alberta Legislature Building while she was away from Dec. 19 to Dec. 29 – a move she denies was to cover-up her location.
Rehn’s Facebook photos of him in a Mexican cave wishing people a merry Christmas were shared widely online, along with other posts urging Albertans to stay home and save lives.
Kenney said he has since issued a directive orderings staff not to travel abroad.
But Kenney’s stance on why he’s not disciplining member of his government – insinuating that guidelines were “unclear,” is being met with derision.
“This idea that people were unaware of what the travel rules were – it’s not like there’s ambiguity in November or early December, its been the same set of rules since March,” said political science professor at Mount Royal University Duane Bratt on CTV’s News Channel Friday.
“That’s a long period of time. It doesn’t meet the smell test. And the problem is when you’ve got a government preaching personal responsibility, and then you see people in Hawaii…posting pictures of themselves, like there wasn’t a problem,” Bratt said.
“People knew what the rules were. People knew what they weren’t supposed to do.”
The NDP said Friday that MP Niki Ashton travelled abroad to visit an ailing family member in Greece, which Ashton later confirmed in a tweet.
NDP leadership said they were not aware of the trip and that Ashton had not informed them of her intentions before she left.
The party stated in the release that while they were “sympathetic” to Ashton’s plight, that she would be removed from her shadow cabinet critic roles moving forward.
Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand and his wife are planning their flight home to Quebec after being spotted in Barbados’ Glitter Bay region. Quebec’s Liberal leader Dominique Anglade said she tried to talk him out of the trip but was unsuccessful.
Arcand maintains he and his wife got tested for COVID-19 before they left from Quebec and again when arriving in Barbados. He now says he “regrets” the decision.
CAQ MNA Youri Chassin was also caught internationally visiting his husband in Peru. His party released a statement said his trip was planned in order to wrap up immigration procedures for his spouse, who he had not seen in a year.
Saskatchewan Party MLA Joe Hargrave’s trip to Palm Springs, Calif. was made public on Wednesday, which he said was to finalize a sale of personal property.
Calling his trip an “error in judgement,” Hargrave apologized and said he had informed Premier Scott Moe of his travel plans. His wife is also on the trip.
The couple plans to return to Canada after their self-isolation period in California ends on Jan. 5.
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