The government of Alberta asked people to avoid all non-essential travel during the pandemic, including during the holidays. Several United Conservative Party MLAs, and party staffers, elected to travel over the holidays despite recommendations from both the provincial and federal governments to stay home.
Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards thinks it's always important to show leadership by example, "If people are staying put as we've all been asked to do, that's always the best thing, to take that right as far as you can and live by the expectations and show good examples and that's what I've tried to do." Richards spent his holiday with his household and while he had hoped to be able to do things a bit differently he wanted to follow the guidelines set out, "There's lots of ways to enjoy time with your family and we talked a little bit about the idea of Zoom was a good way of doing that or other platforms like that and it's a chance to get to spend that much more quality time with those closest to you."
New Year’s Day, Premier Jason Kenney acknowledged a trip to Hawaii by a member of his cabinet but said sanctions would not be issued to anyone who took holidays abroad, saying he should have issued clearer guidance against travel to members of the government. There have now been at least 9 elected officials confirmed to have travelled to places ranging from British Columbia to Hawaii and Mexico over the holidays, all while telling Albertans to stay home and not visit anyone outside of their immediate household over the holidays. Kenny has since issued a directive requiring all public servants, cabinet ministers, UCP MLAs, political staff and senior executives in public service to stay in Canada for the foreseeable future unless travel is absolutely needed for government-related business. Provincial public-health restrictions were put in place to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections and banned inter-household social gatherings over the holiday season. Here is the list of senior government officials who ignored this and packed their bags to head to the beach among other trips:
Tracy Allard, Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs who travelled to Hawaii on Dec. 19 and returned on New Year’s Eve,
Tanya Fir, Calgary-Peigan MLA who travelled to Las Vegas to visit her sister in December.
Sonya Savage, Alberta’s Minister of Energy left Alberta over the holiday break to check on her property in B.C.
Matt Wolf, the executive director of issues management for the Premier of Alberta, drove to Saskatchewan to spend Christmas with his parents.
Pat Rehn, a backbencher MLA representing Lesser Slave Lake, posted a photo on his public Facebook page on Dec. 24 that appeared was taken in Mexico.
Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan had travelled to Arizona.
Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon travelled to Hawaii in December.
Tany Yao, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA was in Mexico.
Jamie Huckabay, Jason Kenny's chief of staff travelled to the United Kingdom with his family.
Michael Forian and Eliza Snider, UCP government press secretaries for Alberta's Education Minister and the Minister of Advanced Education respectively, were pictured together on a Hawaii beach in a social media post in late December.
Some of these elected officials have returned home to calls for their resignation from their constituents and displays of Christmas trees decorated with Lei and coconuts.
In Ontario Finance Minister Rod Philips took a trip to St. Barts.
Albertans spent the holidays following that example and are not too happy with those in leadership who asked them to sacrifice and didn't follow their own advice. Many a calling for businesses to be able to decide if they can open or not if those making the rules aren't even following them. Expressing their frustration with sentiments like you can't expect people to do something, you yourself aren't willing to as a politician, especially when that means people are losing their jobs, business, and homes. Albertans are also asking Jason Kenny to follow up on a promise made to table legislation that could allow Albertans to remove elected officials from office at any time. The promise was made during a Throne Speech on Feb. 25, 2020. While such legislation has not yet been tabled in Alberta, a committee report from back in October outlined submissions the government received on what it might look like. B.C already has that kind of recall legislation in place for its MLAs. In that province, signatures must be collected from at least 40% of eligible voters in an MLA’s electoral district to trigger a by-election.
Written by Claire Spencer