Growing list of Canadian politicians caught travelling abroad despite pandemic

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

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

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.

On Wednesday, CTV News Edmonton reported that Michael Forian, press secretary for Alberta’s Education Minister, was spotted in a photo with another staffer seemingly vacationing in Hawaii for Christmas.

In photos shared on Instagram, Forian appeared to be a beach with his arm around a woman tagged as Eliza Snider, press secretary for the minister of advanced education. Forian later deleted his two social media accounts after receiving online backlash to the photos.

It is unclear when the photos were taken and neither the premier’s office nor press secretary for the education ministry responded to CTV News Edmonton’s request for comment.

Kenney however, 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.”

Late Friday, CTV Calgary confirmed Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon was also vacationing in Hawaii. He will be returning on the “earliest available flight” after being told to return home, according to the premier’s office.

Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir also issued a public apology Friday after travelling to the U.S. to visit her sister. “I have since returned and will abide by the Premier’s new travel directive. I sincerely apologize for this situation wholeheartedly,” she wrote on Facebook.

On Saturday, CTV Calgary confirmed that Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan travelled to the U.S. and is “returning to Alberta in line with the premier’s directive.”

Stephan stood by his decision to travel abroad in a statement on Facebook.

“I support individuals and families having the freedom to choose for themselves whether they travel or not, provided they are respectful of others in doing so. International travel, in and of itself, does not negatively impact Alberta’s COVID curve if it is done responsibly,” he wrote.

“I do not consider myself an exception to health guidelines. I have never asked Albertans to do things that I myself would not do – and that includes not travelling.”

Alberta Conservative MP Ron Liepert’s office also confirmed to CTV News that he travelled twice since March, once during the current parliamentary break, to Palm Desert, Calif., to deal with “essential house maintenance issues.”

“There has been no non-essential travel and he has complied with all public health guidance, including the Alberta border testing program, each time he has travelled,” read a statement issued to CTV News

MANITOBA

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.

QUEBEC

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

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. 

View original article here Source