Sean Casey, whose Saint John council seat was declared vacant this week after he missed four meetings, says he had to get away from the city because he was suffering from depression.
Casey said he's been travelling in Mexico since early January, and he made the trip for his mental health.
His social isolation, autism and depression had become too much, Casey said as he answered questions from CBC News over Facebook Messenger.
He's said he's spoken to psychiatrists and gone to mental health services, but this was not enough.
"I haven't found anything that's helped, and I didn't expect to find anything that would."
Didn't get permission
Council declared Casey's Ward 2 seat vacant on Monday night after he missed four meetings in a row without permission.
Mayor Don Darling said councillors had no other choice but to declare the vacancy because the rules are set under the provincial Local Governance Act
In Saint John, Casey lived with his father, Larry Casey, who is worried about him.
"He's been going to a counsellor to try to get help because he's depressed and in a bad way," the father said.
Casey said his son ran for council in hopes of connecting with people, because his autism makes it hard to communicate.
"I thought this would be good for him, being in a position like that, where a person that can't make friends, can't communicate, just stuck in the house all day, if he could get out and this would help them open up," he said.
"I think it's all getting to him, coming to a head, with having no friends, nobody to hang with, it's just getting to him."
But serving on city council did help, the father said.
Reminded of travel warnings
Darling said that when Casey sent council an email saying he'll be gone from Jan. 3 to Feb. 13, he replied urging Casey to heed the travel warnings.
"I certainly wanted to be on the record that, you know, first of all, if you're travelling in the midst of all of this, that's not advisable and that you will be responsible for any of the implications," Darling said. "The councillor acknowledged that he understood that."
If he had come back on Feb. 13, Casey would have missed only three meetings. But because he is still in Mexico he missed the fourth on Feb. 22.
Darling said getting the email from Sean Casey that he would be away was surprising.
"This is … certainly not normal circumstances to have somebody, you know, get up and leave."
Darling said Casey did not indicate he's been ill and did not ask for permission to miss the council meeting.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has been urging people to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the government has not outright banned international travel.
Despite the federal caution, Casey said he feels virus measures in airports have been adequate to protect him.
"I'm not very social, so I don't go out and party every night so that has probably helped," he said. "The COVID precautions have worked for me."
Casey said he's gone to Bogota in Colombia, and Tijuana, Mexico City and Cancun in Mexico.
"The trip hasn't gone to plan," he said. "I was not planning on going to that many places."
He didn't say when he plans to come back to Canada, but he doesn't plan to run for council in the May municipal elections.