National Post (Latest Edition)
THE GROWING COST OF A WINTER VACATION
Rough landing for high-flying politicians
OT TAWA • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Monday demoted seven MLAS and party staff who travelled abroad during COVID-19 lockdowns, part of an effort to tamp down anger over politicians who have defied the same restrictions they impose on the public.
Kenney faced intense criticism over the weekend for declining to punish members of his United Conservative Party who flouted Alberta’s recommendation against international travel.
The premier on Jan. 1 said he was “not happy” after reports emerged of at least seven party staff and MLAS, including former municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard, who had taken trips abroad even as the province was telling residents to avoid all non- essential travel.
Meanwhile, Saskatchewan Highways Minister Joe Hargrave resigned from his cabinet position on Monday.
Hargrave claimed a December trip to Palm Springs was chiefly so he could sell his house there and drive his possessions back to Canada. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said he was aware of the trip and had approved the travel.
And federal Conservative MP David Sweet on Monday was also forced to resign from his position as chair of the House ethics committee after reports emerged that he had travelled to the U. S. over the holidays.
The reports are the latest in a series of provincial and federal politicians who have been forced to apologize or resign from their posts following outrage from Canadians who have limited contact with loved ones due to lockdowns.
Kenney gave into pressure from critics on Monday, stripping several high- level staff and MLAS of their titles.
Allard, who travelled to Hawaii to be with family, will remain in the UCP caucus but resigned as municipal affairs minister. Kenney’s chief of staff Jamie Huckabay, who travelled to the U.K., quit after being asked to step down.
MLA Jeremy Nixon ( Calgary- Klein) resigned as Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Society and Jason Stephan ( Red Deer- South) stepped down from Treasury Board. Tanya Fir ( Calgary- Peigan), Pat Rehn (Lesser Slave Lake) and Tany Yao ( Fort Mcmurray-wood Buffalo) were stripped of their committee duties.
Alberta NDP Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman said Kenney had “tried to weasel out of his responsibility” last week when he declined to discipline those who had travelled abroad. She said government officials travelling at this time was the “height of arrogance and hypocrisy” and called those decisions an insult to people who have remained in lockdown for months.
“While they made grave personal sacrifices in order to help protect our communities and one another from COVID-19, UCP ministers, MLAS and staff went to the beach,” she said. “Working on your tan or your golf game isn’t essential right now,” she said.
Several high- level politicians, mostly at the provincial level, have been asked to resign for indulging in holiday travel in recent weeks, sometimes after posting online content calling on residents to abide by social distancing measures.
In July, Tanya Fir had appeared with Kenney in a video calling on Albertans to plan a “staycation” rather than travelling abroad, partly as a way to stimulate the local economy.
Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips was asked to resign by the premier last week, after visiting a Caribbean island while at the same time posting photos of himself on Twitter with constituents in the Toronto suburb of Ajax.
Liberal MPS including Sameer Zuberi ( Pierrefonds- Dollard) and Kamal Khera (Brampton West) both stepped down from their parliamentary positions after taking trips over the holidays to the U. S. Three other Liberal MPS also travelled abroad for personal reasons earlier this summer.