Politicians vacationing abroad during pandemic have hit a nerve

No members of cabinet, including the Premier, and no caucus members have travelled outside of the country, according to the B.C. government and provincial political parties.

It comes as a growing number of provincial and federal politicians, as well as government officials, in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec face scrutiny for vacationing abroad, including to Caribbean destinations such as St. Barts and Barbados. This while Canadians were advised to curb the spread of COVID-19 by limiting non-essential activities and holiday gatherings.

“I think all politicians and community leaders have a responsibility to lead by example. Although there has been some talk about whether or not there’s absolute prohibition on (international) travel, I think it’s been relatively clear that the very best public health advice is to remain with our immediate household,” said Don Davies, member of parliament for Vancouver Kingsway and the NDP critic for health.

In Alberta, Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative MP Ron Liepart travelled to Palm Desert, where he owns a home. In Manitoba, NDP MP Niki Ashton travelled to Greece to visit her sick grandmother.

Former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips resigned last week after returning from St. Barts, where he had been on vacation. In Quebec, Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand had been in Barbados.

At least five United Conservative Party MLAs in Alberta, including municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard, who vacationed in Hawaii, and MLA Pat Rehn, who was in Mexico, have been travelling for personal vacations.

Premier Jason Kenney has said any UCP MLAs and staffers who were abroad during the holidays are now en route back, acknowledging his chief of staff travelled to the U.K. and two press secretaries were in Hawaii.

A B.C. government spokesperson confirmed no similarly-ranked, senior B.C. government officials travelled outside of the country.

“It’s been a topic of conversation among friends and family,” said Port Coquitlam mayor Brad West.

He added that his tweet about not being surprised by the number of elected officials “caught far from home” hit a strong nerve.

Some people have been unable to visit family members, especially those who are sick or in hospital, so the justifications that have been offered by some politicians, such as having to make repairs on a property or keep up an annual tradition, feel like “flimsy, BS excuses,” said West.

“There’s a moment of clarity for Canadians to see that too many of our politicians think the rules are for other people.”

“I think the whole process of restricting our movements has been very painful for a lot of people and a lot of people have sacrificed enormously in a very personal and emotional way,” said Davies. “So when they see other people not conform, not share in that sacrifice, I think it quite understandably leads to well-grounded resentments.”

North Vancouver-Lonsdale NDP MLA and Minister of State for Infrastructure Bowinn Ma tweeted “from the very beginning of our pandemic response, Health Minister Adrian Dix drilled into us the importance of personally modelling the behaviour we were asking of the public.”

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