Across Canada, December was a month of canceled reunions with friends and family and vacations alone. Holidays to escape the snow and freezing rain were called off when Covid-19 cases spiked again.
The message across the country had been clear: A shared sense of solidarity and sacrifice was necessary to combat the coronavirus.
But for the past two weeks, the country has been convulsed by fury and disbelief as more than a dozen politicians, political advisers and public health personalities have admitted to getting on a plane for a tropical vacation over winter break.
“It is incredibly insulting to front-line workers, to people suffering the loss of loved ones and to those who cannot see their families, whether or not they are in the hospital,” said an ICU nurse from the province of Alberta. “It is deaf to those who have lost their jobs, to companies or to those who struggle to put food on their table.”
While the outrage is unlikely to bring down a federal or provincial government, the outburst of anger speaks of growing frustration with the country’s political leadership, experts say.
“The public is livid. Many of them just see blatant hypocrisy and find it morally reprehensible, “said Nelson Wiseman, professor of political science at the University of Toronto. “It fuels cynicism and reduces public trust, not just in politicians, but in institutions.”
The scandal began last week when it emerged that then-Ontario Provincial Finance Minister Rod Phillips had not only traded the gray skies of Ajax, Ontario for the white sand beaches of St Bart, but also posted messages. on social media apparently designed to hide his whereabouts. in a christmas greeting video Posted when already in the Caribbean, Philips sat by a roaring fire, sipping eggnog as he thanked his constituents for their “sacrifice.”
Amid a backlash, Phillips returned to Ontario and resigned.
But new revelations kept coming that politicians from across the political spectrum had taken an ill-advised vacation.
In Saskatchewan, the provincial highways minister said his trip to California It was critical to finalizing a real estate transaction, even though her home wasn’t even listed when she traveled.
Conservative US Senator Don Pletts posted a video acknowledging the pandemic “has forced us to change some of those traditions, since we cannot travel and meet as we normally would.” Days later, he went on vacation to Mexico.
And in Alberta, the province with the one of the worst rates case growth – eight provincial leaders and personnel admitted to travel abroad.
The province’s municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard, a key figure in the launch of the Covid-19 vaccines, has apologized for taking a family trip to Hawaii despite her own government’s recommendations against travel. She and four other people resigned or were stripped of their legislative duties this week.
Justin Trudeau acknowledged that officials had ignored the same advice they had given the public. Two of his parliamentary secretaries resigned after traveling out of the country for family reasons.
“All Canadians were so disappointed to see so many examples of people who should have known how to do things that put us all at risk,” the prime minister said.
But for some communities, expressions of contrition have not gone far enough. In the town of Slave Lake, Alberta, the mayor and six city councilors asked their representative at the regional assembly, Pat Rehn, to resign after he posted a Christmas message from Mexico.
“It is no secret that the people of this Region have lost faith in their ability to do their job,” the group said. said a letter to Rehn.
Even health officials have been caught up in the scandal. This week, both the CEO of an Ontario hospital and head from a university school of public health admitted that they traveled to sunny destinations.
“Clearly, there was no political calculation behind this, because they didn’t believe they were caught,” Wiseman said.
In a country where winter weather can last for nearly six months, the tropical fates of criminals twisted the knife for many Canadians.
“We are winter people, but we feel better when there is no winter,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada. [politicians] They were going through the layers down, not up, look, while the average person is stuck at home. “
The scandals have drawn near-universal condemnation from the pandemic-weary public, but have been particularly damaging to healthcare workers, especially those in the worst-hit provinces.
“It is infuriating to have [politicians] hiding behind deceptive Christmas messages that seem to show solidarity with working people when in reality they are not concerned about their unethical and dangerous behavior, ”said the ICU nurse in Alberta, which has one of the highest infection rates in the country. “We expect more and deserve more respect than this.”
Another nurse in the province said news of the trips came as morale in hospitals hit rock bottom after months of “suffering and death.”
“We have been disappointed so often that this feels exactly like what we would expect from our leadership,” he said. “His practice of personal exceptionalism is honestly just a slap in the face, but we’re too busy trying to keep people alive to participate.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism