Manitoba MLA vacationed in the west as his own government discouraged travel
James Teitsma travelled to Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia from Dec. 21-30
A Progressive Conservative MLA travelled outside the province in December while his government is urging people to stay in their homes.
Radisson MLA James Teitsma went to Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia with members of his immediate household using their personal vehicle from Dec. 21-30, the PC caucus confirmed Monday.
His office said he was on a family vacation with members of his household, and they stayed in rental accommodations and did not gather or socialize with anyone outside their immediate household.
Manitobans are legally allowed to travel outside the province, but the government has strongly advised against it.
The government said last week that no cabinet ministers travelled outside the province while Manitoba has been under red restrictions on the province's pandemic response system.
Some politicians have faced consequences for deciding to travel while citizens are being encouraged to stay home — and the fallout led to resignations of cabinet ministers in Alberta and Ontario. Manitoba MP Niki Ashton was stripped of her NDP critic role after travelling to Greece to see a sick relative.
The governing Progressive Conservatives say Teitsma was their only MLA to leave the province during the present partial lockdown.
The provincial NDP and Liberals say none of their MLAs travelled outside the province during this time.
Meanwhile, the government also confirmed that its top civil servant, David McLaughlin, travelled to Ottawa over the holidays to spend time with his family.
"The assertion that the clerk of executive council was on vacation is false and it would be grossly inaccurate for such a narrative to be propagated," said Blake Robert, director of media relations and issues management for the government.
"The clerk returned to his immediate family's home in Ontario and, for the last two weeks of December, was working remotely — just as thousands of Manitobans have been for months. The work of government does not stop over the holidays."
Travel 'enforces a negative stereotype'
Paul Thomas, University of Manitoba professor emeritus of political studies, is among the many Canadians upset over politicians travelling over the holidays.
He notes there are shades of grey, such as Ashton visiting her sick grandmother, and only a small number of all elected officials have been caught travelling. But rule makers flouting their own guidelines and advice does not look good, Thomas said.
"It reinforces a negative stereotype of a lot of politicians," he said.
"We used to hold politicians in fairly high-esteem... and as result of that, we're not tolerant of illegal lapses, or even unethical lapses, because our standards and expectations have changed. We expect them to be role models, and especially role models with respect to rules that they helped to write."
While the politicians have not technically broken the law, there was a lack of social responsibility, he added.
Over the years, there has been a growing lack of trust in elected officials, Thomas said.
So politicians travelling — after telling their constituents not to — does not help that.
With files from Sam Samson