Kenney orders MLAs not to leave Canada unless on government business after minister's vacation
Tracy Allard, who travelled to Hawaii in December, called trip 'lapse in judgment'
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took responsibility for not being clear about travel rules for members of the legislative assembly after news of Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard's Hawaii vacation was revealed. He also ordered Friday that MLAs should not leave the country unless it's for government business.
Allard is now home in Grande Prairie, according to Kenney. He said she was still working and participating in calls while she was on vacation with her family.
He said he wouldn't be sanctioning Allard or others in government who travelled, as they did not break the law, and he said he was not clear with staff about whether or not they should be travelling.
Any United Conservative Party government officials who were abroad during the holidays are now back or on their way back to Alberta, Kenney said. He said he's confident they have all complied with any quarantine or legal requirements everyone must follow if they travel.
"I immediately contacted the minister and asked her to return to Alberta, which she did," Kenney said at a news conference Friday. He said he became aware Allard was in Hawaii on Tuesday.
"Nevertheless, I recognize that those of us in positions of public trust must maintain a higher standard in our personal conduct than is expected of the folks in the general population."
CBC News has confirmed that Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon was also in Hawaii over the holidays. It is not clear when he left or whether he has returned.
A spokesperson for Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, who is Nixon's brother, said he did not travel — that "Minister Nixon has been enjoying the holidays at home with his family."
Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir said on social media Friday night that she had recently been to the United States visiting her sister. In a Facebook post, she said that she has since returned and will abide by the new travel directive.
"I sincerely apologize for this situation wholeheartedly," Fir said.
The premier's press secretary, Christine Myatt, confirmed Fir was in Las Vegas.
At a phone-in news conference Friday afternoon, Allard expressed regret and called her trip a "lapse in judgment."
"There was no malicious intent. However, I caused damage and for that I am truly sorry," she said.
"I'm sorry to the Albertans that trusted me, who feel they can't at this time."
Allard said she has spent Christmas in Hawaii with her family for most of the past 17 years. She also said she felt she was keeping with the current health mandate through the international border testing program, which allows for a shorter quarantine period following a negative COVID-19 test.
"With all that said, however, as a minister of the Crown, I know that I'm held to a higher standard and in retrospect, I definitely made the wrong decision."
The minister said she would continue to support the government and work to regain the trust of her constituents.
Resign, NDP urges
The opposition NDP called for Allard to resign, saying it was "an unforgivable error."
"She vacationed while Albertans have been sitting in their homes through the holidays, following strict public health orders and separated from family and friends while waiting on the vaccine," NDP municipal affairs critic Joe Ceci said in a news release on Thursday.
On Friday, Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said Kenney's refusal to remove the minister was a "complete failure of leadership."
"This is the premier and the UCP government lacking moral judgment, lacking any compassion for the four million people in Alberta who were told they couldn't see their parents and grandparents at Christmas," she said in a news release.
Kenney said he believes caucus members and other staff who travelled over the holidays were acting in "what they believed to be good faith" but reiterated that that was not good enough.
"People are right to be frustrated with that," he said.
He called the trip a "significant error in judgment."
Ontario's finance minister, Rod Phillips, also said he "made a significant error in judgment," and resigned after he returned from a trip to St. Barts on Thursday. Quebec Liberal member Pierre Arcand said earlier in the week he regretted his decision to take a trip with his wife to Barbados.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remained in Canada for the holidays, as confirmed by his spokesperson. Addressing travel rumours, Alex Wellstead said Trudeau is at home with his family.
With files from Janice Johnston, Elise von Scheel and The Canadian Press