Conservative MP. Senate leader travelled outside country over holidays

·2 min read

OTTAWA — Conservative MP David Sweet has resigned as chair of the House of Commons ethics committee after travelling to the United States over the holidays.

Sweet's resignation Monday followed the revelation that the Conservative leader in the Senate, Don Plett, took a personal trip to Mexico shortly after Christmas.

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole asked all caucus members to refrain from international travel over the holidays. But his office said Monday that Sweet and Calgary MP Ron Liepert were given approval by the party's whip to undertake "essential travel" to the United States.

Liepert's travel related to "emergency repair" to property he owns in California.

Sweet also travelled to the United States for an unspecified "property issue." But, the leader's office said, Sweet then decided to stay in the U.S. "for leisure" without informing the whip.

Consequently, "Mr. O'Toole has accepted his resignation as committee chair."

Whether Plett will face any penalty for travelling briefly to Mexico remains to be seen.

His fate rests with his fellow Conservative senators, who elect their Senate leader.

A spokesperson said the senator travelled to Mexico on Dec. 28.

Upon his arrival, the spokesperson said Plett "reflected on his decision to travel" and immediately made arrangements to return home to Manitoba on Dec. 31.

Plett's arrival in Mexico would have coincided with the furor that erupted over the Dec. 29 revelation that Ontario's finance minister, Rod Phillips, was vacationing on the Caribbean island of St. Barts. Phillips resigned several days later.

Plett is now quarantining for 14 days as required by Manitoba public health protocols.

His spokesperson said this was Plett's only trip outside the country since last March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first swept across Canada.

O'Toole's office said no other Conservative MPs have left the country since O'Toole became leader last August. It is not clear whether any other Conservative senators may have travelled outside the country.

Sweet and Plett are just the latest among a number of federal and provincial politicians to get into hot water for travelling outside the country at a time when ordinary Canadians are being advised to stay home and avoid any non-essential travel in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.

New Democrat MP Niki Ashton was stripped last week of her critic role after travelling to Greece to see her seriously ill grandmother.

On Sunday, Liberal MP Kamal Khera resigned as a parliamentary secretary after travelling without her party whip's knowledge to the U.S. for a small memorial service for her father and uncle.

Montreal Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi similarly gave up his role on Commons committees after travelling to the U.S. to visit his wife's sick grandfather.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2021.

The Canadian Press