Municipalities of Sask. president Barnhart's travel to Hawaii during pandemic sparks calls for resignation

·2 min read

Colleagues of Gordon Barnhart, mayor of Saltcoats, Sask., and president of Municipalities of Saskatchewan (MoS), are expressing outrage after finding out Barnhart travelled to Hawaii during the pandemic.

This news comes on the heels of Joe Hargrave, MLA for Prince Albert Carlton, recently resigning from his two ministerial roles. Hargrave faced significant public backlash after he made a trip to Palm Springs, Cali., in December sell a vacation home.

The province has repeatedly told the public to stay home in order to control the spread of COVID-19, particularly during the holidays.

MoS, formerly known as SUMA, is an advocacy group for municipalities making up about 70 per cent of the population in the province.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said Barnhart — a former lieutenant-governor of Sask. — should resign as MoS president.

CBC
CBC

Dionne said the province has made it very clear that people should not be travelling. He said Barnhart's visit to Hawaii is hypocritical because MoS has repeatedly put out messaging to the public not to travel.

"That's why I believe that he has to do the right thing and step down," said Dionne.

Darren Hill, Saskatoon city councillor and MoS board member, said the board had not been made aware of Barnhart's plans to travel. Hill has previously run against Barnhart for the MoS presidency and lost.

Hill said the organization does not know how long Barnhart has been in Hawaii for.

"[It's your responsibility] when you're in a position of leadership to demonstrate and lead by example. And the restrictions that have been put in place in terms of travel and gatherings are for a reason," Hill said.

"To be out of Canada during this time when [avoiding] non-essential travel has been recommended and is the norm across the country ... I think it is just inexcusable."

Matthew Garand/CBC
Matthew Garand/CBC

Politicians across Canada are taking criticism for travelling during the pandemic. In Alberta, six MLAs — including one cabinet minister — and Premier Jason Kenney's chief of staff have resigned from positions due to travelling during the pandemic.

Rod Phillips resigned as Ontario's finance minister last week following a trip to the Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy, known as St. Barts.

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton lost her critic roles after a trip to Greece to visit a sick family member.

Liberal MPs Kamal Khera and Sameer Zuberi resigned from government roles for travelling.

"Premier Moe has taken this very seriously that his team needs to lead by example. And there were repercussions for Minister Hargrave with respect to his actions, just as there were in Alberta and Quebec and Ontario," Hill said.

CBC has reached out to Barnhart for comment, but has not received a response.

Hill said the MoS board will meet to discuss Barnhart's travel. The meeting is expected to take place on Friday morning.