Several Politicians Lose Positions After Travelling Abroad During Lockdown

Peter Bethlenfalvi takes oath at new Ontario finance minister.

OTTAWA: Several politicians have been held to account for traveling out of Canada on vacation or for personal reasons while the government and the political class have been exhorting Canadians to stay at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

In Alberta, there was a huge outcry after politicians violated their own declarations and preaching on COVID-19 protocols to travel abroad.

Municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard flew to Hawaii and explained it later as a ‘family tradition.’

She also posted video messages which gave the impression that she was sending them from within Alberta. These tweets were later deleted.

Premier Jason Kenny’s chief of staff Jamie Huckabay, who visited the United Kingdom over the holidays, was also asked to resign. Kenny announced in a Facebook post that he had also accepted the resignations of MLA Jeremy Nixon who travelled to Hawaii in December, as parliamentary secretary for civil society, along with MLA Jason Stephan, who visited Arizona, from the Treasury Board.

They, along with MLAs Tanya Fir, Pat Rehn and Tany Yao, have lost their legislature committee responsibilities.

At the federal level, Brampton West Liberal MP Kamal Khera has stepped down as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Development while another Liberal MP from Pierrefonds—Dollard MP Sameer Zuberi lost multiple committee roles after admitting to traveling overseas.

In a tweet, Kamal Khera posted a statement that she had traveled to Seattle to on Dec. 23 to attend a private memorial for her late uncle, then returning on Dec.31 while the statement from Zuberi said that he recently traveled to see his wife’s ailing grandfather in Delaware, and had also returned on Dec. 31.

Last Thursday, Ontario Finance Minister Rod Philips resigned after returning from a two-week vacation in the island to St. Barts in the Caribbean.

On Friday, federal NDP removed MP Niki Ashton from her critic’s roles after she traveled to see her sick grandmother in Greece.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has appointed Peter Bethlenfalvi as the new finance minister. Bethlenfalvi tweeted: “I’m honored to be sworn in as Ontario’s Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board.

“I remain dedicated to working hard to support families, workers, & small businesses as we tackle the #COVID19 pandemic & work towards Ontario’s recovery.”

Another three Liberal MPs were also found to have traveled abroad in 2020, though had either done so in the summer or fall when COVID-19 restrictions were loosened.

The Liberal government whip said his office was aware of and had approved the three trips taken in the summer, but did not know of or had not greenlighted the recent trips by Khera and Zuberi.

In Ontario, on Wednesday, Dr. Tom Stewart resigned from the Health Coordination Table after it was revealed that he vacationed in the Caribbean over the holidays. Dr. Stewart is also President & CEO of St Joseph’s Health System and CEO of Niagara Health.

In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi admitted on Wednesday that his chief of staff jetted off to Hawaii while the rest of the city was under pandemic lockdown.

Nenshi also offered an apology for not telling Devery Corbin not to go on the holiday. He also said that another office staffer traveled to Hawaii but neither will face any sanctions.

In Ottawa, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said that MP David Sweet has resigned as chair of the House of Commons’ ethics committee after he travelled to the United States to deal with a “property issue” but stayed on for leisure.


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