Two more UCP MLAs returning to Alberta from trips abroad

Pat Rehn, the MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, posted a statement on Facebook Saturday confirming he is on his way back to Alberta from a trip to Mexico.

Pat Rehn is apologizing for a trip to Mexico, while Jeremy Nixon was in Hawaii

Pat Rehn, the MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, posted a statement on Facebook Saturday confirming he is on his way back to Alberta from a trip to Mexico. (Facebook)

Two more Alberta MLAs are returning home from holiday trips abroad. 

Pat Rehn, the MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, posted a statement on Facebook Saturday confirming he is on his way back to Alberta from a trip to Mexico.

"Residents in our riding have done a tremendous job reducing the spread of COVID-19. We must all work together to get past this pandemic and get back to normal life," Rehn said.

"Given this, I apologize for the fact that I recently took a previously planned family trip, following a busy legislative session. I am returning home to Alberta and will ensure I follow the premier's new travel directive."

A photo posted to Rehn's Facebook account on Dec. 24 shows Rehn wearing a T-shirt in a cave, with tropical plants in the background.

Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South, is also returning from a trip to Arizona. In an emailed statement Saturday, Stephan said he flew to Phoenix on Dec. 31. He said he bought the ticket in October. 

"I support individuals and families having the freedom to choose for themselves whether they travel or not, provided they are respectful of others in doing so," Stephan wrote. "International travel, in and of itself, does not negatively impact Alberta's COVID curve if it is done responsibly."

Global Affairs Canada has advised Canadians against non-essential travel out of the country until further notice. The Alberta government's COVID-19 travel restrictions page restates the federal advisory against non-essential travel.

All international travellers must isolate for 14 days upon returning to the province unless they are participating in the international border testing pilot.

Stephan said he does not consider himself an exception to health guidelines.

"I have never asked Albertans to do things that I myself would not do — and that includes not travelling," he wrote. "I am returning home right away as requested by the premier. Upon returning, I will be complying with all isolation requirements."

He said he regrets if his actions contributed to "contention" in society.

At least five provincial representatives left Canada for holidays

Rehn and Stephan bring the total number of UCP MLAs confirmed to have left Canada for holiday vacations abroad to five. 

A spokesperson for the Alberta NDP said no NDP MLAs left the country during the holidays.

Christine Myatt, press secretary to Premier Jason Kenney, also confirmed that Matt Wolf, the premier's executive director of issues management, travelled to Saskatchewan for the holidays to stay with his parents. 

"Like many Albertans, he is originally from Saskatchewan and moved to Alberta after high school. He travelled via car by himself," Myatt said. 

"Both Alberta and Saskatchewan put in place matching guidelines that allow individuals like Mr. Wolf, who live alone, to join one household for the holidays."

She said Wolf and his parents spent the holidays by themselves.

"This is no different than if Mr. Wolf joined another household in Alberta for Christmas. Mr. Wolf did not enter another building other than his parents' home while he was on holidays," she said.

'Lapse in judgment'

On Friday, Kenney held a press conference and ordered MLAs not to leave the country unless it's for government business after news that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard had travelled to Hawaii for vacation.

Allard apologized, calling the trip a "lapse in judgment." 

Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard announcing the COVID teams program on Dec. 15. She has apologized for taking a trip to Hawaii. 'I definitely made the wrong decision,' she said. (Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)

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."

Kenney said Allard was the only cabinet minister who left the country. The premier also confirmed Friday that Jamie Huckabay, his chief of staff, had travelled to Britain last month.

Kenney said Saturday that he takes responsibility for not being clear about travel rules. 

CBC News has also 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.

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.

With files from Andrew Jeffrey and Janice Johnston

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