By Justin Seward
After at least a total of eight Alberta UCP MLAs and staff members went on international sunny vacations over the holiday season, many constituents and the opposition party were outraged with those elected provincial representative’s decisions to disobey the recommendation of non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s no question I share Albertans outrage, their confusion as to how it is that the UCP could have not understood what the rules and directives were, when the rest of the province clearly understood them,” said Lethbridge-West MLA and NDP Finance Critic Shannon Phillips.
“I share my fellow Albertans absolute outrage at the lack of common sense and decency. I share their view at the actions of people who are selfish and entitled and to believe themselves to be as separate and apart from the rest of us. In that sense, I am hurt that Albertans have spoken out, that they forced Jason Kenney to reverse course-to abandon his first instinct- which was to make excuses and in fact tell us that travel is encouraged, which is what he said-which is a lie- it is not encouraged. I share my fellow Albertans worries that this will mean that fewer people will take the rule seriously because they do not see people in positions of authority taking them seriously.”
Phillips has heard of the many sacrifices Albertans have taken to try and get through the pandemic.
“I’ve heard all kinds of ways Albertans have made sacrifices and some of them have been very emotional,” she said.
“I want to thank people for reaching out and sharing their stories and tell them their opposition sees them. We see the sacrifice and the work that Albertans have taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I, like most Albertans, would prefer our government focuses on vaccinations and not vacations.”
Premier Jason Kenney has accepted resignation from Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard (Hawaii) for her Minister Municipal of Affairs position, MLA Jeremy Nixon (Hawaii) as Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Society and Jason Stephan (Arizona) from the Treasury Board.
MLAs Tanya Fir(Las Vegas), Pat Rehn (Mexico) and Tany Yao also lost their Legislature committee responsibilities.
The Premier’s chief of staff, Jeremy Huckaby, was asked to resign after travelling to the U.K., while Michael Forian- the press secretary for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange- and Eliza Snider, who is the press secretary for Advanced education Minister Nicolaides Demetrios also travelled out of country.
In a New Year’s Day press conference, Kenney said, “I’ve also become aware that a few MLAS, political staff and higher government officials have travelled abroad in recent weeks.”
“In doing so, I’m assured that they have complied with relevant public health orders and legal requirements. Nevertheless, I recognize that those of us in positions of public trust must maintain a higher standard in our personal conduct and is expected of the folks in the general population, in the general community. And here I take responsibility for not having clarity set out or communicated a policy against international travel for senior decision makers in government. I should have done so.”
Kenney ordered government officials not to leave the country for the foreseeable future, unless it’s for government related business.
The opposition MLA feels the consequences of these actions could be quite dangerous as result of more people disobeying the health orders, when asked about the ways the UCP’s leadership would now be put in question.
“They see that basic common sense and public health advice has been ignored by the UCP,” said Phillips.
“The fact is it’s going to be some months until the vaccine is completely rolled out and we’re going to make sure that we can get our economy back on our feet.”
With the local readers, Phillips would like to say to people that “We want to keep everyone safe. And if folks are over the age of 60, and getting older and older, if they contract this virus, it’s very dangerous.”
“It’s very clear to me that the UCP did not take these precautions seriously because they’re not terribly worried about other people. But let’s leave the selfish, entitled (and) arrogance to them. Meanwhile, ordinary Albertans of good conscience and good character are going to continue to take care of each other.”
Phillips confirmed the NDP Party MLAS did not undertake any international travel over the holidays.
Local UCP MLA Grant Hunter emailed in a statement on Jan. 6 of his response to the travel scandal.
“In the last several days I have heard loud and clear the frustrations of my constituents, upset by the holiday travel of some of my colleagues,” said Hunter.
“Albertans expect their elected politicians to be leaders by example, and that is something I take to heart. This Christmas season, I had a quiet holiday with my wife and our kids, who still live with us. We didn’t get to see our grandkids; we didn’t go anywhere. I know most of my constituents made similar sacrifices.
I got involved in politics to make Alberta a better place for my children and grandchildren. While the last year has been incredibly difficult, there is hope – news that Alberta is a leader in the vaccine rollout is encouraging, and we know there is so much more that we will need to do in 2021 to get our economy firing back on all cylinders. Let me assure you, we remember why you elected us, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure a bright and prosperous future for those we serve.”
Bow Island Mayor Gordon Reynolds did not travel this past holiday season and was disappointed with the situation.
“It shows a certain amount of tone deafness and a lack of leadership,” said Reynolds.
“It sort of discredits the government in terms of the message they’re trying to get out there-the message that Dr. Hinshaw is trying to get out there- and if people aren’t going to listen to her, why should anybody else. I think most people did to varying degrees and did listen to her recommendations. But yeah, pretty disappointing.”