2 more UCP MLAs confirm they travelled out of province in December — find out where your MLA was

·4 min read

Two more UCP MLAs have confirmed to CBC News that they left Alberta during December despite their government's warnings against non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the total to nine.

The information comes after CBC News asked the UCP and NDP caucuses where each member was and published a full list — including the names of those who initially didn't say.

  • Check out where your MLA was and see the full list for the province in the table at the bottom of this story.

Two UCP legislators' whereabouts — Miranda Rosin, the MLA for Banff-Kananaskis, and Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat — remained unconfirmed as of Wednesday morning, despite a dozen requests made by CBC News to the UCP caucus, the constituency offices and directly to the officials over the span of a week.

After this story was published Wednesday, a UCP spokesperson confirmed to CBC News that Rosin went to visit family in Saskatchewan for Christmas. A few hours later, Barnes confirmed he spent one night in Saskatchewan for business earlier in December.

The revelation that some United Conservative Party MLAs and a cabinet minister had eschewed advisories from all levels of government against non-essential travel and hit the beaches didn't sit well with many Albertans — including other UCP MLAs — who were under a ban on mingling outside their households and the many thousands of businesses that were shut down or severely curtailed.

Despite a public outcry that led to the resignations of then Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and of Premier Jason Kenney's chief of staff, and the demotion of five other UCP MLAs, there was still no public accounting of where the remainder spent the holiday break by two weeks after the first vacation was confirmed.

In the absence of that complete accounting, CBC News asked the parties where each member was during the holiday season and followed up with individual MLAs.

MLAs Rosin, Barnes respond

Statements were issued Wednesday on behalf of both Rosin and Barnes.

"Both Alberta and Saskatchewan permitted individuals who live alone to join another household for Christmas," a spokeperson for the UCP caucus said of Rosin's travel.

"Those who had responsibilities removed travelled abroad — not to a neighbouring province with matching policies while following public health guidelines."

In a last-minute change announced Dec. 22, Alberta modified its rules to allow people who live alone to attend one single gathering in another's home between Dec. 23 and 28.

Barnes said Wednesday that, while he remained in Alberta for the holidays, he travelled to Saskatchewan in December for business.

"On Dec. 14, 2020, I drove alone into Saskatchewan to meet with two business associates, individually. I returned the next morning, always observing social distancing, and the hygiene protocols and health guidelines of each province," he wrote.

He also reiterated his request for regionally-specific public health measures, saying, "We must focus on the vulnerable, protecting them, while keeping our economy functioning and families able to take care of their needs."

Kenney came under fire both over the UCP travel and his initial response, saying he wouldn't penalize anyone and claiming responsibility for not being clear enough in saying the UCP cabinet and caucus should heed the government's own travel advisories.

The premier expressed regret for the controversy, saying caucus discipline would be stricter going forward, and if anyone left the country, they would be punished. This week, emails sent by the Speaker and deputy Speaker of the legislature revealed criticism of the premier's response.

'The story hasn't ended'

Many elected officials posted statements on social media or responded to constituents' queries about where they spent the holidays.

The vast majority say they stayed in their ridings for Christmas and New Year's, following public health guidance.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said none of her MLAs left Alberta. Neither the premier's office nor the UCP caucus responded to requests for a full list of where their members were.

"The story hasn't ended," said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University. "We're still talking about it and there's been new developments almost every day."

Bratt added that Kenney's challenge now is to pivot from damage control to focusing on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

"He could have put this to bed New Year's Day," Bratt said. "This would not have had the legs that it did had the premier taken the action on January 1st that he did on January 4th."

See where all the MLAs were

Here's a list of which MLAs are confirmed to have travelled and which say they were home in their ridings. Some mobile users may find the last MLAs on each page of the chart aren't showing due to a technical glitch and can see the full listing here.)