MLA talks travel scandal, support for tourism industry

·2 min read

Martin Long, UCP MLA for West Yellowhead, emphasized the importance of provincial officials leading by example in light of the travel scandal.

Earlier this month, news broke that some UCP MLAs and government staff had travelled to other countries during the Christmas season despite the province advising Albertans to limit travelling and socializing.

“The premier has said repeatedly it is important that all Albertans follow both the letter and spirit of all public health orders,” Long said in an email.

“That is what I have been committed to, and I hope my constituents understand the importance of doing so. My number one responsibility is to represent the people of West Yellowhead - both in what I say and what I do. That is my main focus, and that is what my constituents expect of me as their elected representative.”

In a Jan. 5 post on Facebook, Long assured his constituents he and his family did not leave the Whitecourt area for the entire holiday season and had not left the province at all since his trip to the east coast for Christmas in 2019, months before the pandemic was declared.

Amid a year “that many of us want to forget,” Long said given the restrictions put in place, it was a great opportunity to explore “Alberta’s extraordinary landscapes.”

One day in Assembly, Long encouraged people to visit Marmot Basin, “a world-renowned ski resort with 91-named runs spread across four mountain faces with 3,000 feet of vertical drop.”

“That being said, our government understands that 2020 was a difficult year for many businesses—including Alberta’s tourism industry,” he added.

“Our government understood the many difficulties that tourism-related businesses were facing (and continue to face), and that is why we extended the abatement of Alberta’s tourism levy for an additional three months; which gives tourism operators $10 million more in available financial resources.”

Long also noted the province’s Small and Medium Enterprise relaunch grant.

“In fact, we recently announced an expansion of the grant to include new businesses that began operating between March 1 and Oct. 31, 2020 to apply for this important support,” he said. “Applications will be open for businesses meeting this criterion on Feb. 4.”

He acknowledged the impact the COVID pandemic has had on the mental health of Albertans, and said the government committed $53 million to mental health and addiction supports.

Serving six months so far as parliamentary secretary for Small Business and Tourism, Long said he’s looking “forward to working with Albertans to ensure our small businesses and tourism sector are both strong for years to come.”

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh