By The Canadian Press on January 6, 2021.
Several politicians have admitted to leaving the country over the December holiday period, even as their constituents hunkered down at home, following public health guidance meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Here’s a look at some of the lawmakers, as well as a chief of staff and a health official, who took trips abroad despite public health appeals to avoid non-essential travel.
The federal New Democrats stripped the veteran member of Parliament of her cabinet critic positions after she travelled to Greece to visit her seriously ill grandmother.
The party released a statement on Jan. 1 saying Greek officials, who currently only permit visitors to enter the country if they can prove their trip is essential, approved Ashton’s visit.
The party said Ashton, who represents the riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, reached out to Canadian officials for “best practices,” but did not notify leader Jagmeet Singh or the party whip of her travel plans.
The statement said party members sympathize with Ashton’s situation, but noted millions of Canadians stuck to public health guidelines under similarly pressing circumstances.
The former Conservative cabinet minister and MP who broke ranks to form his own political party is among the Canadians who have travelled to the U.S. during the pandemic.
Bernier, who leads the libertarian People’s Party of Canada, went to Florida in November with his wife for a vacation.
A spokesman said Tuesday that the two were in quarantine for the full 14 days required when they returned.
In recent days, Bernier has used social media to berate the politicians who have been caught flouting public health warnings and heading abroad, accusing them of being hypocrites.
But Bernier notes he never agreed with the travel restriction in the first place. He says the fault of the other politicians is that they publicly supported restrictions – then broke them.
The federal Liberal MP announced Sunday she was stepping down from her role as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international development after travelling to Seattle over the holidays.
The MP representing the Ontario riding of Brampton West says she flew to Seattle on Dec. 23 to attend a small memorial service for her uncle and father, who died within weeks of each other earlier in the year.
Khera has been back in Canada since the end of December.
The Conservative leader in the Senate took a personal trip to Mexico shortly after Christmas, even though party Leader Erin O’Toole asked all caucus members to refrain from international travel over the holidays.
Whether Plett will face any penalty for travelling briefly to Mexico remains to be seen. His fate rests with his fellow Conservative senators, who elect their Senate leader.
A spokesperson said the senator travelled to Mexico on Dec. 28.
Upon his arrival, the spokesperson said Plett “reflected on his decision to travel” and immediately made arrangements to return home to Manitoba on Dec. 31.
Conservative MP David Sweet resigned as chair of the House of Commons ethics committee after travelling to the U.S. over the holidays.
The office of Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Monday that Sweet was one of two Tory MPs who were given approval by the party’s whip to undertake “essential travel” to the United States.
Sweet, who represents the Hamilton-area riding of Flamborough-Glanbrook, travelled south of the border for an unspecified “property issue.” But O’Toole’s office said Sweet then decided to stay “for leisure” without informing the whip.
The Liberal member of Parliament announced Sunday that he would step down from his committee roles after travelling to Delaware to be with his wife’s ill grandfather.
Zuberi, who represents the Montreal riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard, said in a statement posted to Twitter that the trip was an “error in judgment.”
He said he returned to Canada on New Year’s Eve and is abiding by the mandatory two-week quarantine.
A Hawaiian vacation from Alberta’s municipal affairs minister touched off not only a new directive from the province’s premier, but a spate of other revelations about holiday excursions by several of her cohorts in the United Conservative government.
Shortly after Allard’s trip came to light, Premier Jason Kenney issued a directive summoning caucus members and senior staff back to the province.
Allard held a New Year’s Day news conference in which she apologized for taking the trip, describing the Hawaiian vacation as a long-standing family tradition.
In a Facebook post Monday, Premier Jason Kenney said he accepted Allard’s resignation.
Kenney initially said Allard and other party members who went abroad would not face sanctions as they did not violate any firm rules.
But on Monday, he cracked down on members of his government’s caucus and on staff who travelled out of the country during the holidays.
The MLA apologized on social media after it was revealed she travelled to the U.S. to visit her sister.
The representative for the riding of Calgary-Peigan commended Alberta residents for their adherence to public health protocols in the face of the pandemic.
She said in a Facebook post that she apologized “wholeheartedly” for not doing the same and pledged to abide by Kenney’s new directive.
Fir is one of three MLAs who lost their legislature committee responsibilities Monday.
The premier’s chief of staff travelled to the United Kingdom with his family before Christmas, but changed his travel plans and returned home on Boxing Day after learning of the COVID-19 variant in the U.K.
He said he also asked his chief of staff, Jamie Huckabay, to step down after a trip to the United Kingdom last month.
Kenney said Monday that he asked Huckabay to step down.
The MLA for the riding of Calgary-Klein also opted to jet off to Hawaii over the Christmas break.
Nixon said in a Facebook post that he would “work hard” to regain constituents’ trust, adding he followed public health guidelines while abroad.
On Monday, he lost his position as parliamentary secretary for civil society.
The MLA for Lesser Slave Lake spent part of the weekend returning from a “previously planned family trip” to Mexico.
He, too, apologized for his travels via Facebook and lost his legislature committee responsibilities.
The MLA for Red Deer-South struck a different tone in his Facebook post in which he disclosed a recent trip to Phoenix, Ariz.
Stephan said he felt he was in compliance with public health guidelines and noted he had never asked other provincial residents to forego travel.
But Stephan said he would return home in accordance with Kenney’s directive.
“There is already too much contention in our society and I regret if my actions have contributed to that,” he wrote.
The premier said Monday that he accepted Stephan’s resignation from the Treasury Board.
The MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo was also vacationing in Mexico.
He has lost his spot Monday on the legislature committee.
When Rod Phillips jetted off for a sunny Caribbean vacation on Dec. 13, he touched off a political storm that engulfed him when he returned home to Ontario.
Phillips resigned as the province’s finance minister on Dec. 31, hours after returning from a two-week trip in St. Barts.
Phillips, who will remain a member of the provincial legislature, called the decision a “significant error in judgment.”
His apology did little to assuage criticism against Premier Doug Ford for not taking action when he first learned of the cabinet minister’s travels shortly after Phillips left for warmer climates.
Dr. Tom Stewart
The physician and chief executive officer of the Niagara Health System and the St. Joseph’s Health System travelled to the Dominican Republic over the holidays.
Late Tuesday, the ministry said it has accepted Stewart’s resignation from groups that advise the province about COVID-19.
Brian Guest, senior vice-president at St. Joseph’s, said Stewart was on approved vacation from Dec. 18 to Jan. 5.
In a statement, Stewart acknowledges the trip and urged people to avoid unnecessary travel.
“I regret this non-essential travel and I’m sorry,” Stewart said. “I recognize everyone should be avoiding non-essential travel now, including me.”
The former interim head of Quebec’s Liberal party expressed regret last month over his decision to vacation in Barbados with his wife.
Dominique Anglade, who currently heads the party, said she asked Arcand to return to Canada after word of his Caribbean travels got out.
Anglade told a Quebec radio station that she had known Arcand planned to leave and had tried to discourage him from doing so.
Arcand apologized for making the trip in his Dec. 29 statement.
The member of the governing Coalition Avenir Quebec is currently in Peru visiting his husband, who he said he has not seen in about a year.
Chassin said in an interview that his trip is not a vacation and that he does not believe it contradicts the Quebec government’s message of the need to follow public health guidelines.
He said he got permission from the government whip and Premier Francois Legault’s office before leaving.
Saskatchewan’s highways minister resigned Monday after he travelled to California in late December to sell a vacation home and move back his belongings.
Hargrave apologized for taking the trip, which he says the premier knew about beforehand.
His resignation comes after the Opposition NDP circulated a real estate listing for Hargrave’s home, showing it went up for sale after he left Saskatchewan.
The party accused Hargrave of lying and providing a “bogus story” about needing to travel to California over Christmas.
Hargrave will remain in the Saskatchewan Party caucus as the legislature member for Prince Albert Carlton.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2021.