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Peterborough councillor issues apology for road trip to New Brunswick amid coronavirus pandemic

Coun. Stephen Wright issues apology for road trip to N.B. during pandemic
Peterborough Coun. Stephen Wright apologizes for an 11-day road trip around New Brunswick to get a first-hand look at how restaurant owners are handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Peterborough city Coun. Stephen Wright says he made an “error in judgement” by recently driving to New Brunswick during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wright came under intense scrutiny from the province of New Brunswick after he revealed he spent 11 days there in May. He claimed his road trip was to investigate the impact the pandemic was having on restaurants in cities of a similar size to Peterborough. He also claimed he stayed in his car, only exiting for gas and washroom breaks.

READ MORE: New Brunswick investigating after Peterborough councillor visited province despite border restrictions

New Brunswick’s borders are closed to non-essential travel, and under the province’s state of emergency, people who enter are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Wright’s trip prompted New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs to demand an investigation. Saint John Mayor Don Darling asked that Wright and Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien issue an apology.

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On Wednesday morning, Wright issued a statement, apologizing to residents of New Brunswick and Peterborough. He declined an interview with Global News.

“I take my role as city councillor very seriously and do not consider that to provide me with any special privilege,” he stated. “I made an error in judgment by travelling to New Brunswick during this pandemic.

“My overzealous approach to research the restaurant sector in the anticipation of reopening our economy, and for that I am truly sorry.”

“To Premier Higgs, and the residents of New Brunswick who have not been able to return home to be with their loved ones during to this unprecedented pandemic; I receive your criticisms and hope you accept my deepest regrets. I will have no further comment on this matter.”

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READ MORE: Coronavirus — City of Peterborough staying the course on municipal closures, restrictions

Therrien also told Global News Peterborough that Wright’s trip was not endorsed by the city or city council and that he will not be reimbursed for his travel.

“This was not a trip that was sanctioned by or paid for by city hall or my office,” she said. “It’s not something that we knew about nor would we have ever asked for this type of trip to happen during a pandemic or normally even in regular times — we have a limited budget for travel.”

Therrien said she had a “good conversation” with Darling on Wednesday morning, who indicated he was grateful for the call and will “let it go.”

“We’ll have open lines of communication going forward if there are lessons that we can learn from each other as municipalities, over the phone or over Zoom,” she said. “I am the mayor but I can’t control all the actions of council so it’s important to know that people are still individuals and do what they’re going to do, but again, it’s not something that was either approved by or paid for or endorsed by city hall or the mayor’s office.”

Therrien noted that New Brunswick is still investigating Wright’s action and isn’t sure if there will be any reprimand locally for Wright.

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“Obviously, we’ve heard there’s some investigations happening from New Brunswick’s end,” she said. “Locally, there’s been some suggestions and we’re just kind of looking at what the impact might be.”

More to come.

— With files from Jessica Nyznik/Global News Peterborough