Do as I say, not as I do.
That’s the resounding message from a growing number of Canadian political figures in hot water this week for international travel, despite COVID-19 guidelines against it.
After it was revealed that Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips was vacationing in St. Barts over the winter holiday — despite sharing social media messages about the importance of making sacrifices to prevent the spread of the virus — the minister resigned from cabinet.
It turns out Phillips was far from the only official to preach the importance of staying home and staying safe while jetting off to a tropical locale. A slew of other officials across Canada have resigned or been demoted this week following tropical vacations despite their own governments and parties advising against non-essential travel.
Like Phillips, many preached the benefit of sticking close to home or following government guidelines amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, then failed to do that themselves.
‘A double standard’
Conservative Sen. Don Plett travelled to Mexico at the end of December. But in a Christmas video, Plett urged Canadians to celebrate Christmas differently this year.
“For many of us, Christmas is a time when we are used to gathering with family and friends, reconnecting and enjoying one another’s company,” he says in the video. “But this year, the pandemic has forced us to change some of those traditions since we cannot travel or gather as we normally would.”
Back in April, Plett also critiqued the “double standards” of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spending Easter in Quebec.
“While the rest of Cdns are asked to stay home and find different ways to spend #Easter without their loved ones, we once again, are gobsmacked by the fact the PM doesn’t think the rules apply to him,” Plett wrote in April.
Despite noting that others are advised not to travel, Plett himself vacationed internationally to Mexico over the holiday break.
According to a senate spokesperson, he returned home shortly after arriving.
“Senator Plett travelled to Mexico on December 28th, upon arrival he reflected on his decision to travel and immediately made arrangements to return home on December 31st,” a Senate spokesperson confirmed.
Other officials who travelled abroad shared vague statements about things being “different” this year despite taking their own sunny vacations.
On Dec. 25, Conservative MP David Sweet shared a video message on his Facebook page noting that celebrations look “different this year.”
“While celebrations may look a little different this year, it is still a truly magical time of celebration where we can pause, reflect and cherish time with our loved ones, even if we aren’t in the same room,” Sweet says in the video.
Sweet travelled to the U.S. over the holidays and decided to remain for “personal leisure.”
In a year-end interview, former Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard said that this year has meant having to give up things she took for granted.
“I certainly won’t take for granted a Thanksgiving dinner with family in the future. Things that we’ve always had, seeing them not be available in 2020 has really made me re-evaluate what matters the most,” she said. “I hope that some people will really see some value for themselves in this year as well.”
One thing Allard did not give up, however, was her family’s annual Christmas holiday in Hawaii.
“We have been going to Hawaii for most of the past 17 years since our youngest child was born,” she said Friday after news of the trip surfaced. “Many Albertans chose to forego dearly-held traditions this Christmas with family in order to follow public health recommendations and guidelines. I know my actions seem dismissive of the frustration and grief that many have experienced. For that, I am truly and deeply sorry.”
NDP MLA Kathleen Ganley called Allard’s travel “massively hypocritical.”
In addition to timely holiday messages, many political officials caught travelling over the winter holidays were vocal throughout the previous months of the pandemic on staying close to home.
In July, Alberta MLA Tanya Fir starred in a video alongside Premier Jason Kenney encouraging Albertans to take up “staycations” during the pandemic and support the province’s tourism sector.
“While travel outside of the province is not recommended at this time, [it’s a] great opportunity for Albertans to visit sites and destinations in their own backyard that they may not have thought of before,” Fir says in the video.
The restrictions Fir describes have not changed. Albertans are still advised to avoid non-essential travel.
Fir travelled to Las Vegas over the winter break. She was stripped of her legislature committee responsibilities on Monday as a result.
Other Alberta MLAs caught travelling, including Pat Rehn, Jason Stephan, Jeremy Nixon and Tany Yao have broadly been supportive of the government’s COVID-19 measures and guidelines, which have repeatedly included advisories against travel, and actively promoted them on their social media accounts.
In light of this week’s revelations, those posts don’t look so great now. You know what they say hindsight is 20/20 – and maybe even 2021.