The holiday season was far different than usual this year, just like most things since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Canada in March.
With case numbers growing throughout the winter season, Canadians were encouraged to do everything within their power to have a safe holiday.
That meant keeping gatherings to single households, ensuring distancing and mask use when in public settings, shopping local and not heading to larger centers, and not travelling. The vast majority of Canadians kept their holidays Covid safe by staying local and with direct family.
Despite the guidance from both the provincial and federal governments encouraging people to stay home for the holidays, a handful of politicians at both levels were found to have not listened to their own advice.
It wasn’t just one poor choice, it was several which caused backlash from Canadians and resignations from some of the culprits and others to step down from certain roles.
Politicians known to have travelled abroad for non-business purposes:
Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips (Progressive Conservative).
Saskatchewan Highways Minister Joe Hargrave (Saskatchewan Party).
Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard (United Conservative).
Chief of Staff to Premier of Alberta Jamie Huckabay.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Don Plett (Conservative).
Ontario Senator Vern White (Conservative).
Manitoba MP Niki Ashton (NDP).
Ontario MP Kamal Khera (Liberal).
Ontario MP David Sweet (Conservative).
Quebec MP Sameer Zuberi (Liberal).
Quebec MP Lyne Bessette (Liberal).
Quebec MP Alexandra Mendes (Liberal).
Quebec MP Patricia Lattanzio (Liberal).
Alberta MP Ron Liepart (Conservative).
Quebec MNA Pierre Arcand (Liberal)
Quebec MNA Youri Chassin (Coalition Avenir Québec)
Alberta MLA Jeremy Nixon (United Conservative).
Alberta MLA Pat Rehn (United Conservative).
Alberta MLA Tanya Fir (United Conservative).
Alberta MLA Jason Stephan (United Conservative).
Alberta MLA Tany Yao (United Conservative).
Souris-Moose Mountain MP Dr. Robert Kitchen spent his holidays at home with his wife, unable to see his granddaughter open gifts on Christmas as he followed health recommendations.
He’s unsure why someone representing Canadians would tell them to do one thing and do another themselves.
“I can’t speak for other people’s decisions,” said Kitchen. “One likes to think that when we’re sitting here saying we’ve got to be wary of things then we need to make certain that we’re recognizing those things as well and adhering to them.”
Kitchen says every situation is different and whether or not the politicians who made the decision to travel should resign comes down to an understanding of the importance of ethics in politics.
“In some ways it’s a question of what they thought ethically they needed to do,” he said. “Ultimately, I guess the question is whether or not it’s an ethics violation. We have a prime minister who has been found guilty twice on ethical charges and has not paid any type of penalty for it, and more than likely there’s a third one coming.
“Again, one would like to think people would call for that same type of strict adherence if that was the case.
“It’s tough to say, some have stepped down from positions—whether they’re federal or provincial, they’ve stepped down from roles that they’ve done. I think that in each case the individuals have to determine where they stand on it ethically.”
Although Kitchen believes his constituents are doing their best to adhere to all health and safety protocols and kept safe over the holidays, he worries about the inconsistencies and lack of guidance from the top throughout the pandemic—it’s been taxing on people who are trying their best to do what they must, he says.
“Obviously this has been going on since around this time last year,” he said. “When I look at things from this time a year ago, I was just brought up to snuff on it because at that point in time I was the acting health critic.
“There were things coming across my table at that point and obviously since that time there’s been lots of changes and obviously lots of concerns because you hear someone say one thing and then we have a government that says this and then a week later they change it and so on and so forth.
“It’s challenging for everybody and very much so for people when they’re trying to hear from the government or from health care on what they should be doing.
“It makes it very challenging for people when they’re hearing different things. Things were easier during the summer time because people were out and about more which gave for more opportunity to social distance and keep away from people whereas when the winter comes you don’t have that opportunity.
“People are closer together during the winter time and obviously concerns along those lines lead people to follow the rules with hand washing and increased cleaning.
“Those are things that in my years of practice I’ve watched patients come in with all sorts of aches and pains because they weren’t practicing proper health and hygiene.
“Those are concerns, ultimately whenever I look at things and even in my role now, I take the same approach as I did in practice. I base it on the knowledge I know, the information provided to me by health professionals, and follow that information and make certain that I don’t jump on the very first thing.
“I need to make certain that I’ve researched it enough and consider a number of different factors before jumping out and making some sort of statement.
“Sometimes that doesn’t happen, people hear the first thing and run on that as opposed to listening to some of the information that will come, and some may refute certain information and some may support. So you have to make that diagnosis based on having the proper information.”
Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator