Many politicians go against warning of non-essential travel during the holidays
By Craig Allan, Business Manager
As the end of 2020 came along, many Canadians found themselves not following their usual traditions. This is because health officials and political leaders from around the country were urging their citizens to not gather in groups, or travel for any non-essential reason. However, as Canadians hunkered down for a solitary Christmas, many Canadian politicians were found not practising what their governments were preaching; dozens of politicians from various levels of government were found vacationing outside of Canada’s borders despite the stay-at-home orders.
The avalanche of pandemic travelers began in Ontario, where Ontario MPP and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips was discovered to be vacationing in Saint Barthelemy for the holidays. During this time, Phillips Twitter account was shown to have been writing tweets that made it look like he was still in Ontario. These were pictures and videos recorded before he left that were posted by his staff. After being ordered home by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Phillips resigned from his post as finance minister on December 31.
Phillips’ transgressions led to many other politicians coming out and acknowledging that they too traveled during the pandemic.
Some travel by politicians were for family reasons, like NDP MP Niki Ashton who went to Greece to see her ailing grandmother, and Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi who went to Delaware to see his ailing grandfather-in-law. Despite these reasons, they have received criticism from Canadians, many of whom have forgone travelling to see their ailing family members due to the pandemic. What has led to many of these politicians stepping down from their title roles in government is because they also failed to inform their party leaders that they were leaving the country, such as the case with Ashton and Zuberi’s travels. These demotions are not just ceremonial, as politicians receive a higher salary when taking on minister or critic, committee, and ministerial roles.
Other cases of travel done by politicians were done for less scrupulous reasons. Like Alberta MLA Tracy Allard, who went on a family vacation to Hawaii, stating “We have been going to Hawaii for most of the past 17 years since our youngest child was born,” and Liberal MP Patricia Lattanzio stated that she went to Ireland back in September to help her daughter attending school there move in. The Liberal MP deemed it an “essential and necessary” trip. Their Twitter accounts are filled with comments from angry Canadians bashing their decision to travel, and criticizing them for the hypocrisy of telling Canadians to stay home while they traveled.
Neil McArthur, a director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, said to CBC Saskatchewan that he was “shocked” by the sheer number of politicians coming out saying they had travelled during the pandemic. He points out that this kind of flouting of the rules by people who are supposed to be leaders could cause apathy amongst Canadians and lead to them to travelling abroad for their essential and non-essential activities.
With consequences for travel coming in hard and swift, the demotions are showing that any Canadian politicians who travel outside of the country will not be tolerated during this pandemic. This may cause political leaders to think twice before they fly the friendly skies.