As winter descended on Canada and the number of coronavirus cases rose, officials pleaded with residents to stay home for the Christmas holidays.
But a number of politicians at the federal or provincial level have admitted to taking vacations outside of the country, sparking outrage across the country and raising fears that their behavior could undermine confidence in Canada’s fight against the pandemic.
Ontario’s finance minister resigned last week after taking a secret Caribbean vacation in St Barts and trying to cover his tracks on social media.
Since then, however, more national and provincial legislators have confessed to violating travel advice.
In Alberta, the province with the highest rate of active cases of coronavirus – at least eight members The ruling United Conservative Party (UCP) and senior advisers have admitted to traveling abroad.
Tracy Allard, minister of municipal affairs and key official responsible for launching the Covid-19 vaccine in the province, faces calls to resign after a family trip to Hawaii.
Allard has since apologized for the trip, but over the weekend, frustrated residents hung a plastic necklace outside the door of his constituency office, with a sign reading: “Welcome back, #AlohaAllard “.
Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney has so far resisted punishing party members or staff for travel, telling reporters that there is “no public health order or legal barrier” excluding holidays, in spite of government courier that Albertans avoid all non-essential travel.
His own chief of staff, Jamie Huckabay, visited the UK during the holidays and returned via the US because flights between the UK and Canada were suspended due to the variant of the Covid strain first detected in the United Kingdom.
Over the weekend, #ResignKenney was trending in Canada as political opponents on the left took advantage of Kenney’s refusal to dole out punishments.
“This is a complete leadership failure,” said New Democracy (NDP) leader Rachel Notley.
Even center-right newspapers they have condemned the first Minister.
“The moral authority and credibility that the Kenney government must exercise to convince Albertans to abide by public health recommendations is now severely diminished by the apparent double standards followed by UCP politicians and employees,” he said. an editorial in the Edmonton Journal.
More generally, violating the rules without consequences runs the risk of undermining the sense of collective action in the fight against the virus, said political scientist Lori Turnbull.
“Does the government really believe its own messages? Do you think it is okay to travel? Don’t you think the guidelines are worth following? “She said.” It is not about a person using bad judgment. It is a systemic lack of adherence to the guidelines that the government itself is issuing. “
At the federal level, two Liberal parliamentary secretaries, Kamal Khera and Sameer Zuberi, have walked away from their duties after attending memorials for family members or visiting sick relatives.
Niki Ashton, a member of the NDP, has shed her critical roles in parliament after traveling to Greece to visit her ailing grandmother without telling the leader, Jagmeet Singh.
But even traveling out of compassion can send the wrong message when residents have made personal sacrifices during the pandemic, Turnbull said.
“There are people who live close to relatives and who have not been able to be with them when they die. Being separated from each other has been one of the most disturbing and miserable parts of this pandemic, ”he said. “For many, they feel that politicians are breaking this rule, but we cannot.”
As the federal government warns that an increase in new cases is likely after the Christmas and New Year celebrations, Turnbull warned that there could be long-term political consequences.
“Being in an elected position is a privileged position. He has that position, but it is not his. That office is connected to democracy … and you have to be very, very careful, because your actions can have lasting consequences. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism