National Post (Latest Edition)
Head of Radio-canada spent month in Miami
ottawa • The head of Radio-canada, the French arm of Canada’s public broadcaster, spent nearly the entire month of December working and vacationing in Miami, despite public health advice strongly discouraging travel, the National Post has learned.
Michel Bissonnette, Cbc/radio-canada’s executive vice-president of French Services and the public broadcaster’s second-in-command, went to his condo — located right on Miami beach according to public state records — on Dec. 2 to “tend to business regarding this property,” Radio-canada spokesman Marc Pichette confirmed by email Wednesday.
“He stayed in Miami from Dec. 2 to 27. He worked from there from Dec.2 to 17 and was on vacation for the rest of his stay,” Pichette said.
The trip occurred despite a Canadian government advisory that’s been in place since March 14, 2020, that says, “Canadian citizens and permanent residents are advised to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice to limit the spread of COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself, your family and those most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in our communities is to choose to stay in Canada.”
Kim Trynacity, CBC branch president of the Canadian Media Guild, said the trip showed a lack of judgment.
“Cbc/radio Canada’s own policies strongly recommend against personal travel to risk countries during the pandemic. Regardless of their reasons, senior leaders who travel to a sunny destination during a widely observed holiday instead of staying at home, show poor judgment and a lack of respect for the many employees for whom they are supposed to be setting an example.”
On the day Bissonnette arrived in Florida, Miami-dade County reported 9,890 new COVID-19 cases according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (compared to 6,306 new cases in all of Canada). By Dec. 24, the county was averaging over 11,000 new daily cases.
Florida currently ranks third in total COVID-19 cases per U.S. state since the beginning of the pandemic (1.48 million), behind only California (2.7 million) and Texas (two million).
During his time in Miami, Radio-canada said Bissonnette followed both CBC/ SRC’S internal policies as well as “provincial health requirements.”
“For all the time he was in Miami, he never went to any restaurant or any retail store. Upon his return, he quarantined for 14 days,” said Pichette’s email.
Pichette also said that this was the only time the head of CBC’S French services went to Miami since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
Neither Pichette nor Bissonnette responded to questions about if the senior Cbc/radio-canada executive visited anyone while in Florida.
In the weeks before Bissonnette left for Miami partly to vacation, Canadian authorities repeatedly and clearly warned against all non-essential travel abroad.
“The advice from Global Affairs is very clear. It’s on the website. Everyone can take a look. It was just updated and reaffirmed last week. There is clear advice to all Canadians not to undertake any non-essential travel,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Nov. 23, 2020.
“What I’m doing right now is telling people not to go out if you don’t have to, not to travel if you don’t have to, that for the coming weeks, we need to flatten this curve,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians during a press conference a few days earlier.
On the same day, Health Minister Patty Hajdu pleaded with Canadians considering non-essential travel to rethink.
“This wave is undeniably harder. We are all tired. We are all lonely, and we all want our lives back. But we can’t give up now,” Hajdu pleaded. “Think about the choices that you’re making carefully, because lives actually depend on it. Is my travel essential?”
Bissonnette is not the first Cbc/radio-canada senior executive to have travelled outside the country during the pandemic.
On Dec. 11, CANADALAND reported that CBC president and CEO Catherine Tait travelled back and forth multiple times between her residence in Brooklyn, N.Y., and her other home in Ottawa.
The report stated that Tait lived in the U.S. in order to take care of her husband.
“Catherine Tait has worked from New York twice this year while she cared for her husband as he underwent medical treatment,” CBC spokesperson Leon Mar told National Post in December.
“Ms. Tait did so with the knowledge and full support of the Board of Directors.”
In a following report in Montreal-based newspaper Le Devoir, Syndicat des communications de Radio-canada union president Pierre Tousignant lambasted Tait’s choice to spend part of the last year in Brooklyn.
“There is something extraordinaire and very questionable in that decision,” he told Le Devoir.
Other public figures have recently been heavily criticized for travel abroad during the Christmas break.
Ontario’s Finance Minister Rod Phillips was forced to resign recently after media reported he’d spent time vacationing on the Caribbean island of St. Barts.
Tracy Allard, Alberta’s municipal affairs minister, also stepped down from her post in early January after media reported she had spent part of the Christmas break vacationing in Hawaii.
In May, Ontario Premier Doug Ford also apologized after admitting he’d travelled to his Muskoka cottage to “check on his plumbing,” despite begging Ontarians to avoid going to their cottage during the long weekend.