The Canadian politicians who have travelled abroad amid COVID-19

Jan 4 2021, 7:33 pm

A number of Canadian politicians have travelled internationally in recent weeks, even as COVID-19 cases soared across the country.

The Canadian government is currently advising citizens and permanent residents to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the country “until further notice” to help limit the spread of coronavirus.

“The best way to protect yourself, your family and those most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in our communities is to choose to stay in Canada,” the government said.

Despite the official government statement, which has been in place since March 14, 2020, some government staff have continued to travel internationally.

Ontario’s finance minister, Rod Phillips, took a personal vacation to St. Barts in early December. He said he left prior to the announcement of the provincial lockdown.

Phillips resigned from his position on December 31 but will continue to serve as MPP for Ajax.

Kamal Khera, Member of Parliament for Brampton West and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, travelled to Seattle, Washington, on December 23.

She was in the United States for a private memorial for her uncle, she said.

Khera announced on January 3 that she would step aside from her parliamentary role.

“I have and will always continue to follow all public health guidelines,” Khera said.

In Alberta, Pat Rehn apologized on social media for taking a “previously planned family trip.” Rehn is the MLA for Lesser Slave Lake.

A photo was posted to his Facebook account on December 24, allegedly taken in a cave in Mexico. The photo has since been deleted.

“Residents in our riding have done a tremendous job reducing the spread of COVID-19. We must all work together to get past this pandemic and get back to normal life,” Rehn wrote in the January 2 apology.

Tracy Allard, Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, took a family vacation to Hawaii “before Christmas,” Premier Jason Kenney confirmed at a news conference.

Kenney said he became aware of Allard’s travel on December 29, at which point he told her to return to the province. Allard arrived back on December 31, he said.

The premier also confirmed that “a few” MLAs, political staff members, and senior government officials have travelled abroad in recent weeks.

“I believe that these individuals acted in what they believed to be good faith, have complied with the legal requirements, including the COVID public health orders,” Kenney said.

“But for those of us in leadership, I acknowledge that is not good enough. We should be here at home, plain and simple, if we carry a position of public trust.”

Kenney has since issued a directive to Albertian cabinet ministers, MLAs, political staff, and senior executives in the public service that they not leave Canada for the “foreseeable future,” unless it’s required for government business.

In Manitoba, MP Niki Ashton tweeted on January 1 that she was in Greece to visit her ill grandmother. Ashton represents the riding of Churchill—Keewatinook Aski.

In a statement issued the same day, the NDP announced that Ashton would be removed from her shadow critic roles.

The NDP said that although Ashton had “reached out to Canadian officials for best practices,” she had not informed party leader Jagmeet Singh of her trip before departing.

“While we are sympathetic to Ms. Ashton’s situation and understand her need to be with her family, millions of Canadians are following public health guidelines, even when it made it impossible for them to visit sick or aging relatives,” the NDP leader said.

“Canadians, rightfully, expect their elected representatives to lead by example.”

In Quebec, MP Sameer Zuberi tweeted on January 3 that he had travelled to Delaware at the end of December to visit his wife’s grandmother, whose health had deteriorated.

Zuberi, who represents the Pierrefonds—Dollard riding, called the trip an “error in judgement” and announced that he would be withdrawing from the duties on the parliamentary committees where he had sat.

Alexandra Mendes, MP for Brossard-Saint-Lambert, also took to social media to reveal an international trip.

The Quebec politician said that she and her husband had gone to Portugal in July. Her mother-in-law had died in May, and the trip was made to deal with “legal elements” of her estate.

Mendes said she had advised the Whip and the Speaker’s office of the House of Commons prior to her departure, and that she and her husband had both completed a 14-day quarantine when they returned to Canada.

Patricia Lattanzio released a statement on January 3 regarding travel abroad. She is the MP for St-Léonard-St-Michel.

Lattanzio said that she had taken an “essential and necessary” trip to Ireland in September. The purpose of the trip was to help one of her daughters move for school.

“I have respected all health requirements in effect in all jurisdictions,” Lattanzio said, noting that she had completed a two-week quarantine upon her return to Canada.

Lyne Bessette, the MP for Quebec’s Brome—Missisquoi riding, announced on Facebook that she had travelled to Mexico in mid-August.

Bessette said her parents had been in Mexico when the pandemic hit in March and had to return to Canada without their belongings. She said she made the trip on their behalf to retrieve their “vehicle, mobile home, and personal belongings.”

The MP said that while driving back to Canada, she made a stop in Massachusetts to finalize the sale of her home.

“Throughout this essential trip, I complied with all applicable health regulations and wore a mask at all times when required,” Bessette said.

To date, there have been 601,663 COVID-19 cases in Canada and 15,865 virus-related deaths.

Daily Hive has contacted other politicians who have allegedly travelled internationally in recent weeks, and this story will be updated accordingly.

Zoe DemarcoZoe Demarco

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