B.C. politicians stick close to home as peers in other provinces face backlash for holiday travel

·2 min read

All three provincial political parties in B.C. say none of their members members have travelled unnecessarily outside their regions this holiday season unlike some politicians elsewhere in Canada.

Elected officials in Ottawa, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec have faced consequences for travelling, some of them outside the country, when their governments have asked residents to stay put in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Ontario's Rob Phillips resigned as finance minister after returning from a Caribbean trip he later called a "dumb, dumb mistake."

B.C. Premier John Horgan's office said in an email to CBC News the message has been clear for months that no one in British Columbia should be travelling for recreational or social reasons.

Horgan's office said that most people in B.C. are doing the right thing by staying close to home this holiday season, including politicians.

Maggie MacPherson/CBC
Maggie MacPherson/CBC

David Black, an associate professor with the school of communication at Royal Roads University, said politicians who travel against the advice of health officials are creating poor optics.

"That leaves the public with a sour taste because everybody, the political class and ordinary Canadians have been asked to be on their best behaviour, to commit to getting us through this pandemic in ways that cannot ultimately be legislated."

He said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has laid "a very strong kind of moral foundation" for how people should behave in the pandemic in B.C. He says other provinces may have missed the opportunity to do this.

North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma tweeted Saturday that Health Minister Adrian Dix "drilled into us the importance of personally modelling the behaviour we were asking of the public."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was forced to play catch up with an after-the-fact message to his caucus and cabinet on Friday to not travel unless it's for government business.

Days earlier, it was revealed that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard had taken a vacation to Hawaii. Since then, it's come to light that a total of five of his colleagues travelled this holiday season on vacations.

Horgan set the tone for his party earlier in the month when he cancelled plans to gather with his son and daughter-in-law at Christmas after realizing that went against advice from his top health officials.

B.C. is hoping the efforts residents have made to stay close to home over the past two weeks will pay dividends in early 2021.

Health officials announced 683 new cases in the province and eight new deaths on Dec. 31 in the 160th and final COVID-19 update of 2020. There were 7,803 active cases in the province, with 374 people in hospital and 76 in intensive care.

A total of 901 people in B.C. lost their lives to COVID-19 in the year 2020.