Alberta premier issues trip order after learning of vacationing officials

Alberta premier issues trip order after learning of vacationing officials

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has ordered all cabinet ministers and senior government officials not to vacation outside Canada after learning of multiple recent trips by party officials and employees. 

Kenney said he learned this week of travel abroad by “a few” legislature members, senior staff and officials with the United Conservative government, including his municipal affairs minister and his chief of staff.

He said he made an error by not issuing a clear directive earlier urging them to remain in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I take responsibility for not having been absolutely clear about this expectation,” Kenney told a news conference Friday.

He added that he does not have a list of those who took foreign vacations. And because they did not break any official rules and followed safe travel guidelines, Kenney said they will not be sanctioned.

But the premier said those in public positions should be held to a higher standard in their personal conduct.

“We should be here at home, plain and simple, if we carry a position of public trust,” he said.

The Opposition NDP called for the resignation of Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard after the CBC reported Thursday that she was in Hawaii over the holidays.

Kenney said Allard left for the United States on Dec. 19 and continued to work while away.

He said he learned of her trip Tuesday and asked her to return. She arrived back in Alberta on Thursday.

Allard, the legislature member for Grande Prairie who is also responsible for emergency preparedness, had COVID-19 in October. At the time, Kenney and some other legislature members who had contact with her went into self-isolation after learning of the positive test result.

Kenney said Allard has apologized for her lack in judgment over the trip abroad. Allard was to hold a news conference later Friday.

Kenney also said Jamie Huckabay, his chief of staff, travelled to the United Kingdom with his family before Christmas. After learning of the COVID-19 variant in the U.K., Huckabay changed his travel plans and returned to Alberta on Boxing Day, the premier said.

Other provincial politicians have faced stiffer penalties for travel abroad during the pancemic. 

Rod Phillips resigned as Ontario’s finance minister on Thursday after returning from a Caribbean vacation.

In Saskatchewan, Highways Minister Joe Hargrave apologized for travelling with his wife to Palm Springs, Calif., to complete the sale of a home. And in Quebec, Liberal assembly member Pierre Arcand was facing heat for a trip with his wife to Barbados.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press