Alberta Mirror

Albertans right to be angry over politicians’ vacations: health minister

EDMONTON — Two Alberta cabinet ministers say they’ve been getting an earful from constituents about their colleagues jetting off to tropical locales contrary to public-health guidelines — and that they’re right to be angry.  

Premier Jason Kenney announced on social media Monday that municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard had resigned over her trip to Hawaii and that five backbenchers had been stripped of responsibilities over their jaunts to sunny destinations. 

Kenney had earlier said the six legislature members would not be punished because what they did was technically within the rules.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Tuesday that Alberta’s United Conservative government was elected on a promise of “hard work and humility.”

“Some folks on our team forgot about that last part.”

Shandro said he last left the province over the Labour Day weekend for a trip to British Columbia.

“It is going to take us time to be able to earn back that trust, to earn back the credibility and show people that humility is still important for our team, our caucus, our party and this government.”

Transportation Minister Ric McIver, who is handling Allard’s municipal affairs portfolio on an interim basis, said Albertans have every right to expect a high standard of conduct from MLAs. 

“I am hearing from Albertans who are angry. Sometimes they’re yelling. Sometimes they’re using hard language,” said McIver, who last travelled outside the province in November to visit his ailing mother in Ontario.

“I’m not asking people to stop yelling. I’m just saying we’re getting the message. We’re committed to doing better.”

The town council for Slave Lake posted a letter Tuesday calling for the resignation of area legislature member Pat Rehn, who travelled to Mexico over the holidays. 

The letter listed various grievances against Rehn, including that he missed meetings while focusing his time on running a business in Texas.

“What continues to be even more frustrating than trying to get you, our MLA, to spend time in this region is we can’t even get you to stay in the country.”

Rehn responded on Twitter and said he plans to continue representing the Lesser Slave Lake constituency.

“Recently, I made some poor choices around travel, for which I have taken full responsibility. It’s disappointing to see some municipal officials seizing on this to try and sow political division at this difficult time.”

Meanwhile, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was aware that his chief of staff and an administrative assistant in his office individually travelled to Hawaii during the Christmas break.

“I also believe that they made a decision that they thought was right, and fair and within the rules,” Nenshi said.

“I had a lot going on, and I really wish I pushed back hard on this. I deeply regret that I didn’t do that.”

He said since the staffers are not politicians, he will not be taking any further action against them.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, said she understands the anger, but also urged compassion.

“Albertans are really sick and tired of COVID and sometimes that leads to lapses in judgment,” she said.

“So I would just ask Albertans to take a deep breath and continue to look toward that common goal of getting through COVID together.”

On Tuesday, Alberta reported 843 new cases of COVID-19 over the past day. About 8.2 per cent of tests in that time came back positive.  

There were 26 more deaths reported in the province, one of which was a continuing-care home worker in the Edmonton area, the second Alberta health-care worker to die from the novel coronavirus, the province said.

There were also 919 people in hospital with the virus, with 140 of them in intensive care.

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary with files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2021.  

The Canadian Press

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