Politics

Here are the Canadian politicians facing questions over travel amid COVID-19 restrictions

As Canadians were urged to stay indoors and limit holiday celebrations to members of their households, a growing number of politicians across Canada have admitted to travelling outside the country despite pandemic restrictions.

Island vacations, ailing relatives, property maintenance among reasons for out-of-country trips

Niki Ashton, left, Rod Phillips, centre and Pierre Arcand are among the Canadian politicians facing scrutiny over travelling outside the country despite pandemic restrictions. (Adrian Wyld, Nathan Denette, Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

As Canadians were urged to stay indoors and limit holiday celebrations to members of their households, a growing number of politicians across Canada have admitted to travelling outside the country despite pandemic restrictions. 

Federal and provincial politicians alike have come under fire — or drawn rebuke from their leaders — for choosing to leave Canada as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in parts of the country. 

The federal government has advised Canadians throughout the pandemic to avoid all non-essential travel and introduced new testing requirements this week for those planning to travel by air.

Here are the cases CBC News has confirmed so far.

Federal MPs

Liberal MP Kamal Khera has announced she is stepping down as parliamentary secretary to International Development Minister Karina Gould after revealing she travelled across the border to Seattle to attend a private memorial. 

In a statement shared Sunday on Twitter, Khera said she attended a gathering of fewer than 10 people to mourn the loss of her uncle and father. The Brampton-West MP left Canada after the most recent parliamentary session came to an end and returned home Dec. 31. Khera said her visit was deemed essential but said she is leaving her parliamentary secretary role to ensure her choices "do not distract from the important work of our government." 

Khera contracted COVID-19 back in March and previously volunteered as a nurse at a long-term care facility in Ontario early on in the pandemic.

Liberal MPs Kamal Khera, left, and Sameer Zuberi stepped down from their additional House of Commons and government roles after their international travel during the holidays was disclosed in a statement from the chief government whip's office on Sunday. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press; CBC News)

The office of chief government whip Mark Holland issued a statement Sunday detailing the international travel of five Liberal MPs, including two who left Canada during the holidays.

In addition to discussing Khera's situation, the statement said MP Sameer Zuberi visited his wife's sick grandfather in Delaware on Dec. 18 and returned to Canada on Dec. 31. Zuberi, who represents the Quebec riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard, has stepped down from his roles on parliamentary committees, according to the statement.

"The whip was not previously made aware of their requirement to conduct essential family business during lockdowns in their respective jurisdictions. Both MPs followed all local health and safety advice at all times during their travel," the statement read.

Three Liberal MPs did inform the whip over the summer about trips abroad "that they required to complete essential family affairs," according to the statement.

"MP Alexandra Mendès went to Portugal in July, in August, MP Lyne Bessette went to Mexico, stopping briefly in Massachusetts [and] MP Patricia Lattanzio went to Ireland in September," the statement read.

Conservative MP Ron Liepert, pictured here in 2014, has twice travelled to a home he owns in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Conservative MP David Sweet resigned Jan. 4 from his position as chair of the House of Commons ethics committee over his holiday travel to the U.S.

The office of the MP for the Hamilton-area riding of Flamborough—Glanbrook said Sweet was given permission by the party whip to travel to the United States to deal with an unspecified "property issue" but then decided to stay "for leisure" without informing the whip.

Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative MP Ron Liepert travelled to Palm Desert, Calif., on two occasions since March to address what his office called "essential house maintenance issues." Liepert, who previously served as Alberta's health and wellness minister, owns a home in the city. 

A spokesperson in Liepert's office confirmed Saturday that one of the MP's visits took place during the current parliamentary recess.

"There has been no non-essential travel, and he has complied with all public health guidance, including the Alberta border testing program, each time he has travelled," the spokesperson told CBC News in an email.

In a tweet on Friday evening, NDP MP Niki Ashton said she spent the holidays at home before travelling to Greece to be with her 'ailing grandmother.' (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

NDP MP Niki Ashton was stripped of her critic roles on Friday after sharing that she travelled to Greece to visit her sick grandmother after spending Christmas alone with her family in Manitoba.  

According to a statement from the NDP, Ashton "was allowed entry by Greek officials based on this urgent family situation." Leader Jagmeet Singh was not informed beforehand of Ashton's intent to travel and removed her from her roles in the NDP's shadow cabinet. 

The party said Ashton, who represents the Manitoba riding of Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, is the only member of its caucus who has travelled internationally, while the Bloc Québécois said none of its members have left the country since March of last year.

The Prime Minister's Office confirmed to CBC News on Saturday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent the holidays in the National Capital Region and said no cabinet ministers travelled during that time.

Despite Liepert's trips across the border, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has emphasized that MPs "follow all public health guidance, including travel advisories," his press secretary, Chelsea Tucker, told CBC News on Saturday. "It is our understanding that all members of caucus have."

The Senate

Senate Opposition Leader Don Plett spent part of the Christmas holidays in Mexico despite government advisories against international travel.

In response to questions from CBC News, a Senate spokesperson confirmed Plett "travelled briefly to Mexico on personal travel" and is now in Manitoba following the 14-day quarantine guidelines that apply to international travel.

"Senator Plett travelled to Mexico on December 28th. Upon arrival, he reflected on his decision to travel and immediately made arrangements to return home on December 31st," Karine Leroux said.

"This was his sole trip outside Canada since March 2020."

WATCH | Sen. Don Plett on holiday travel:

Senate Opposition Leader says 'the pandemic has forced us to change' our Christmas traditions

Politics News

2 months ago
1:00
Manitoba Conservative Don Plett released a holiday greeting online in which he remarks on how Canadians' celebrations have changed. 1:00

Alberta

CBC News has learned that Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard took a vacation to Hawaii in December. (Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)

Several UCP members of Alberta's legislature who travelled abroad over the holidays have resigned or been demoted:

  • Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, who travelled to Hawaii over the holidays, resigned as minister of municipal affairs.
  • Jamie Huckabay, who visited the U.K., resigned as Premier Jason Kenney's chief of staff.
  • Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon, who spent time in Hawaii, was stripped of his position as parliamentary secretary for civil society.
  • Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, who left for Arizona on Dec. 31, the day news of Allard's trip became public, was removed from the Treasury Board committee. 
  • Three other MLAs were removed from legislative committees: Calgary-Peigan's Tanya Fir, who travelled to Las Vegas; Tany Yao of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, who visited Mexico; and Lesser Slave Lake's Pat Rehn, who also travelled to Mexico. 

WATCH | Alberta ER doctor calls politicians' travel during pandemic a 'slap in the face':

Alberta emergency room physician responds to government officials travelling during pandemic

CBC News

2 months ago
5:46
Dr. Shazma Mithani is an ER physician who says the skirting of public health guidelines by politicians is a 'slap in the face.' 5:46

Ontario

Former Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips made headlines earlier this week after returning to Toronto Pearson Airport following a personal vacation to the Caribbean Island of St. Barts. 

Phillips — who called the trip a "dumb, dumb mistake" — resigned from his role as finance minister on Thursday. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he had not been informed about the trip ahead of time but admitted he failed to ask Phillips to return after learning of his travels. 

WATCH | Ontario's Rod Phillips resigns following Caribbean vacation:

Ontario’s finance minister resigns after Caribbean vacation

The National

2 months ago
1:54
Rod Phillips resigned as Ontario’s finance minister after the controversy over his Christmas vacation to St. Barts, despite the government urging people to stay at home. Meanwhile, Alberta’s minister of municipal affairs travelled to Hawaii. 1:54

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Party MLA Joe Hargrave resigned as minister of highways and minister responsible for the Water Security Agency after drawing criticism for leaving the country during the pandemic. He will stay on as MLA for Prince Albert Carlton.

The former minister visited Palm Springs, Calif., to finalize the sale of a home over the holidays. 

Hargrave said he told Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe of his travel plans and would self-isolate upon his return to Canada Jan. 5.

He apologized for his "error in judgment" and initially said he would not step down from cabinet, but Moe accepted his resignation Monday afternoon.

The province's official opposition called the minister's actions a slap in the face to residents of Saskatchewan.

Quebec 

Alberta MLA Pat Rehn posted a statement on Facebook on Saturday confirming he is on his way back from a trip to Mexico. (Facebook)

In Quebec, Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand said he now regrets his decision to visit Barbados with his wife for the holidays. 

"Despite the fact that travel is not prohibited, we are aware of the magnitude of criticism against people travelling south [during the pandemic]," said Arcand, who said he and his wife were tested for COVID-19 before and after their trip.

Coalition Avenir Québec MNA Youri Chassin, meanwhile, flew to Peru to visit his spouse, who he said he has not seen for nearly a year. Chassin said he has been involved in a sponsorship program to have his partner immigrate to Quebec, a process which has reportedly slowed due to the pandemic. 

The MNA for Saint-Jérôme said Quebec Premier François Legault permitted the visit.

With files from CBC Calgary, CBC Edmonton, CBC Montreal, Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now