A number of politicians and political staffers across the country are facing backlash after venturing abroad during the holiday season, despite explicit public health orders urging the public to avoid non-essential travel.
Many of the politicians whose vacations have become public knowledge in recent weeks have since issued apologies for their behaviour, while some have even resigned from their positions in response to the considerable criticism coming from Canadians.
The Cabinet ministers, MLAs, city councillors and even health officials in question each had their own reasons for travelling.
Saskatchewan’s Provincial Highway Minister Joe Hargrave went to California to finalize a home sale. While Hargrave was not initially removed from Cabinet for his actions, the government later accepted his resignation. West Vancouver city councillor Peter Lambur issued an apology after also travelling to California to visit his six-month-old goddaughter.
Other politicians travelled for more somber reasons. Liberal MP Kamal Khera stepped down as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development after travelling to Seattle to attend her uncle’s funeral. In doing so, she wished “to ensure [her] choices do not distract from the important work of our government to continue battling this pandemic.”
Victoria city councillor Sharmarke Dubow announced his trip to East Africa for the first time since fleeing the 1992 civil war. “I had been planning and saving this trip for years… I saw family members I hadn’t seen in more than three decades.”
Most disappointing though, were those who went for relaxing, tropical getaways during such a precarious time for the country. Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard resigned after taking a family trip to Hawaii. Allard says she “was looking to honour a tradition with [her] family, respecting the guidelines”
Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Rod Phillips also resigned as Finance Minister after vacationing. According to HuffPost, Premier Doug Ford admitted to knowing about Philips trip after he had already departed, but “did not ask him to return to Ontario.”
In response to the surprising amount of politicians whose vacations have come to light, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was “disappointed” by the actions of politicians who “should have known better, doing things that put us all at risk.”
These actions are particularly harmful during a time when public health officials are trying to provide clear messaging about how to keep our communities safe.
Public Health officials are working in real-time in front of us. Not only are they monitoring the virus itself, but also coming up with solutions and getting that information out to the public as soon as they possibly can.
Inevitably though, there are often ambiguities in messaging which the public can see reporters trying to clarify every week during COVID-pressers with Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
As the general public tries to get a hold on what is going on, politicians are exacerbating the confusion and frustration of Canadians who have been staying at home for months on end, while facing added financial and mental health stresses that have compounded during the pandemic.
Much like the politicians we elected to serve us, Canadians have made many sacrifices for months on end by staying home. Since restrictions began, there are individuals who are immunocompromised, who live with the elderly, and many more who cannot take the risk to go to a shopping mall -- let alone a vacation.
Healthcare workers continue to fight around the clock, and frontline workers continue to put themselves at risk because many of them have no other choice. For many, staying at home is not a luxury they can afford.
Politicians of all people are supposed to be aware of what the people they represent are going through. They are supposed to use their influence to lead by example, and to use their privilege to alleviate the stress of their constituents.
They are to be held to a higher standard, because we have entrusted them with the responsibility of solving social problems.
Instead, Canadians are watching individuals they elected using their privilege and positions to blow off some steam at resorts in other countries, with vacations that rely upon frontline workers in other countries to put themselves at risk to ensure they have a good time.
While travelling during this time is irresponsible, there is comfort in seeing politicians being held accountable for their actions. To watch the people in political spaces understand the fault in their ways, apologize, and recognize that there are serious consequences is important to show Canadians the people we elected do not get to live by standards.
Premier Scott Moe remarked, “The issue here is the perception that we have a different set of rules [for politicians]”.
Given the number of politicians across the country who felt comfortable enough to vacation despite claims that “we’re all in this together”-- what else are we to think?