EDMONTON — The hammer has dropped on members of the Alberta government caucus and staff who recently travelled abroad during the COVID-19 crisis.
Premier Jason Kenney, in a Facebook post, says he has accepted the resignation of Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and he has asked his chief of staff Jamie Huckabay to step down.
Other backbench members of his United Conservative caucus who travelled to sunnier climes over the holidays have been stripped of responsibilities.
Jeremy Nixon is no longer parliamentary secretary for civil society and Jason Stephan is out at Treasury Board.
Tanya Fir, Pat Rehn and Tany Yao have also lost their legislature committee responsibilities.
Kenney says he has listened to anger from the public in recent days and acted.
“By travelling abroad over the holidays, these individuals demonstrated extremely poor judgment,” Kenney wrote Monday.
“Albertans have every right to expect that people in positions of public trust be held to a higher standard of conduct during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Millions of Albertans have made real sacrifices over the past 10 months to help keep each other safe. They are right to be angry about people in positions of leadership vacationing outside of the country.”
Kenney made the decision three days after he announced he would not sanction them because what they were doing was legal. However, it was unseemly, given the government was asking Albertans to avoid travel and social gatherings due to COVID-19.
“Last Friday, I took responsibility for not having been clear enough with members of the government caucus and others in positions of leadership that they should not travel abroad. Over the weekend, I have listened to Albertans who are sending a clear message that they want real consequences for these actions.”
Allard was part of Kenney’s COVID-19 pandemic steering committee.
She went with her husband and daughter to Hawaii over Christmas as part of what she called an annual family tradition. She has been mocked on social media as “Aloha Allard” and, on the weekend, angry constituents redecorated the outside of her Grande Prairie constituency office with leis and other Hawaiian accents.
Transportation Minister Ric McIver will handle Allards’ portfolio on an interim basis, Kenney said, and his principal secretary, Larry Kaumeyer, will serve as chief of staff for now.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2021.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press