POLITICS
01/03/2021 12:34 EST | Updated 01/14/2021 09:31 EST

Here’s A List Of Canadian Politicians Caught Travelling Over Holidays

More than a dozen officials travelled to warmer destinations in December.

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Alberta MLA Pat Rehn posted this photo to Facebook during a family vacation in Mexico on Dec. 24, 2020.

More than a dozen elected officials and political staffers travelled abroad over the Christmas break while public health officials pleaded with Canadians to remain home as COVID-19 cases surged.

A growing number of federal and provincial politicians from across the country have come under fire for crossing borders to tend to California homes, for example, or take a break from busy legislative seasons.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of Canadians have forgone such luxuries. Air travel is down 90 per cent, according to federal officials

While most public officials who took personal trips have apologized, the public is not impressed. #ResignKenney was trending over the weekend in response to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney initially refusing to discipline party members and senior staffers.

On Monday, Kenney changed course and accepted resignations from MLAs, who’d travelled, from committee and cabinet positions.

“Millions of Albertans have made real sacrifices over the past 10 months to keep each other safe,” the premier posted to Facebook. “They are right to be angry about people in positions of leadership vacationing outside of the country.” 

Here’s a roundup of officials who travelled this holiday season.

Alberta

A slew of politicians admitted they travelled to warmer places for Christmas as the province had implemented lockdown measures. 

Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and Calgary MLA Jeremy Nixon were in Hawaii. 

“In hindsight all I can do is apologize,” said Allard at a news conference. She had vacationed with her husband and daughter. “I was looking to honour a tradition with my family, respecting the guidelines.” 

Press secretaries Michael Forian and Eliza Snider also appear to have travelled there, posting photos to now-deleted social media accounts. 

Kenney’s Chief of Staff Jamie Huckabay returned from the United Kingdom despite a flight ban by travelling through the U.S. 

MLA Jason Stephan was in Arizona and said on Facebook he supports people choosing for themselves whether or not they travel. 

His colleagues Pat Rehn and Tanya Fir apologized for going to Mexico and the U.S., respectively. MLA Tany Yao also went to Mexico.

Bowing to public pressure, Kenney accepted Allard’s resignation as minister of municipal affairs and Huckabay as chief of staff on Monday. Nixon stepped down as parliamentary secretary for civil society and Stephen from the treasury board. They along with Fir, Rehn and Yao lost their committee responsibilities. 

“By travelling abroad over the holidays, these individuals demonstrated extremely poor judgement,” Kenney said in the statement. 

Calgary Conservative MP Ron Liepert flew to his California home twice during the pandemic, in March and December, CTV News reported. His office told CTV he had to “deal with essential house maintenance issues.”

In mid-January, Alberta Sen. Scott Tannas, the leader of the Canadian Senators Group, said he travelled to Hawaii over the holidays and was still there, but would be returning to Canada shortly. 

Saskatchewan

Provincial Highways Minister Joe Hargrave went to California with his wife to finalize a home sale, and will return in January after quarantining there for 14 days. He apologized for travelling during the pandemic, calling the decision an “error in judgement.” 

Premier Scott Moe was aware of the trip and initially did not remove Hargrave from his cabinet position, despite calls from the opposition NDP. 

“To just decide to instead ignore the rules and abuse his power as a minister and decide to do what he felt like doing when everybody else is asked to be making sacrifices — it’s just wrong,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili at a news conference.

On Monday, the government announced in a statement that Moe accepted Hargrave’s resignation from cabinet.

Manitoba

Senate Conservative Leader Don Plett, from Manitoba, travelled to Mexico for personal reasons, the Globe and Mail reported. Upon arriving on Dec. 28, Plett changed his mind about his decision to travel and made plans to return home as soon as possible. He flew back to Canada on Dec. 31.

Manitoba MP Niki Ashton travelled to Greece over the holidays to visit her grandmother. 

The federal New Democrats removed Ashton, a prominent caucus member and former leadership hopeful, from her cabinet critic positions over the trip. She did not inform leader Jagmeet Singh about her plans, although she reached out to Canadian officials for best practices, the party said in a statement. 

Ontario

Ontario MPP Rod Phillipsresigned last week from his cabinet position as finance minister after vacationing in St. Barts. 

He and his wife departed for the Caribbean on Dec. 13. Premier Doug Ford told reporters he learned about the trip shortly after Phillips arrived, but did not ask him to return to Ontario. 

 Watch: Rod Phillips returns to Toronto from St. Barts. Story continues below.

Leading up to the holidays, Phillips’ Twitter account showed him visiting businesses in his home riding of Ajax, posing outside his house for National Maple Syrup Day, and asking Canadians to make sacrifices over Christmas to control the pandemic.  

All the while, Phillips was abroad despite public health recommendations.  

Liberal MP Kamal Khera travelled to Seattle on Dec. 23 to attend a small memorial service for her uncle and father, who had both died earlier in the year.

Khera announced on Sunday she was stepping down from her role as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international development.

Conservative MP David Sweet travelled to the United States for what the opposition leader’s office described as a “property issue.” A statement from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s office said Sweet “then decided to stay in the U.S. for leisure” without notifying his party whip.

Following the revelation of his pandemic-timed international travel, Sweet confirmed Monday that he resigned from his role as chair of the House of Commons’ committee on access to information, privacy and ethics. He added he would not be seeking re-election in the riding of Flamborough–Glanbrook.

Sen. Vern White, from Ontario, admitted to travelling to Finland in December, where he’s currently quarantining with his family. He said he travelled there to visit his spouse’s parents.

Quebec

Montreal Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi visited Delaware to visit his wife’s ill grandfather in December. He is stepping down from his committee roles. 

“I recognize that travel during this period, when so many are limiting interactions with loved ones was an error in judgment,” Zuberi said on Twitter. “I apologize to my constituents for the disappointment I may have caused.”

Pierre Arcand, a Liberal member of Quebec’s national assembly, took a trip to Barbados with his wife, while the province was in lockdown and despite party leader Dominique Anglade attempting to discourage him from doing so. 

Coalition Avenir Québec MNA Youri Chassin travelled to Peru to be with his spouse, reported Radio-Canada. It had been a year since he’d seen his husband, who is in the process of immigrating to Canada but has faced barriers due to the pandemic.

Quebec Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais went to Florida to attend to a property. 

With files from the Canadian Press and Zi-Ann Lum.

UPDATE - 7 p.m. ET: This story has be updated to include information about MPs Kamal Khera and Sameer Zuberi’s travel.

UPDATE - Jan. 4, 2021: This story has been updated with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s announcement about the resignation a cabinet minister and key staffer, news about Sen. Don Plett’s trip to Mexico, and the development that Saskatchewan minister Joe Hargrave has resigned. News of Conservative MP David Sweet’s travel to the U.S. “for leisure” has also been added.

UPDATE - Jan. 7, 2021: This story has been updated with Sen. Vern White’s confirmation he is in Finland with his family. 

UPDATE - Jan. 14, 2021: This story has been updated to include senators Jean-Guy Dagenais and Scott Tannas’s travel.

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