Alberta’s COVID-19 travel controversy brings attention to Kenney’s recall legislation promise

Click to play video: 'Mounting mistrust among Albertans over UCP government officials international travel'
Mounting mistrust among Albertans over UCP government officials international travel
WATCH ABOVE: More and more Albertans are expressing their frustrations online and in person over a growing number of government officials travelling abroad over the holidays amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Chris Chacon reports – Jan 3, 2021

Controversy around United Conservative Party MLAs and their staff travelling recently amid the COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention back to a promise Premier Jason Kenney made to table legislation that could allow Albertans to remove elected officials from office at any time.

Premier Jason Kenney promised a recall act in a Throne Speech delivered on Feb. 25, 2020 where his government promised to allow “constituents to remove their MLAs, municipal councillors, mayors, and school board trustees from office between elections.”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said Sunday the recent controversy around the premier failing to sanction MLAs and staff who travelled internationally over the holidays highlights why the province needs a recall act.

“If Premier Jason Kenney doesn’t want to hold these politicians accountable for hypocritically travelling abroad while families and businesses were locked down during the holidays, well then I think voters are certainly up to the job,” CTF Alberta director Franco Terrazzano said.

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“We deserve the right to hold these hypocritical politicians accountable, and that’s why we need recall legislation now.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta political expert weighs in on UCP travel controversy'
Alberta political expert weighs in on UCP travel controversy

British Columbia already has recall legislation in place for its MLAs. In that province, signatures must be collected from at least 40 per cent of eligible voters in an MLA’s electoral district to trigger a by-election.

While the legislation has not yet been tabled in Alberta, a committee report dated Oct. 14, 2020 outlined submissions the government received from public and private individuals about how a recall act could look.

“Specifics of recall such as thresholds, procedures, etc. are currently being studied by an all-party committee of the legislature,” Christine Myatt, press secretary to the premier, said Sunday.

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Kenney had also tweeted about the act in February 2020, although the link to the full plan is now broken. Global News has reached out the United Conservative Party for details on why the article was removed.

Terrazzano added that the COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta over Christmas, which included a ban on indoor and outdoor gatherings, are why the public has reacted so strongly to the travelling and lack of consequences. Both the provincial and the federal government advise avoiding non-essential travel amid the pandemic.

“It doesn’t seem like the politicians understand the massive sacrifices that they’re asking Albertans to make,” he said. “They’re asking us to make massive sacrifices, whether its financial, or whether it’s just family wise.

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“What’s so frustrating is we’re just not seeing our politicians being willing to make the same sacrifices that they’re asking us to make,” Terrazzano said.

Calgary-based political scientist Lori Williams said the outrage transcends whether people are right or left leaning.

“I think across the board people are finding this disrespectful,” Williams said.

“The problem is, that if [politicians] say that this is what the government is recommending, and [they] don’t follow those recommendations, then what sort of leadership by example can you provide?” she said.

“People are feeling betrayed that the government has set a standard that they themselves are not actually enforcing.”

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‘Aloha’ display constructed at Tracy Allard’s constituency office

Outrage has been swift against the at least eight MLA and staffers connected to the UCP who recently travelled. Of those, five were elected officials, including Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard.

The minister travelled to Hawaii over Christmas but was not asked to resign from cabinet by the premier after the trip became public. On Sunday, a display was set up outside of her Grande Prairie constituency office that referenced the trip, including a #AlohaAllard hashtag.

A display set up Sunday outside the Grande Prairie office of MLA and Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard. Credit /

“Minister Allard knows that she is held to a higher standard and in retrospect, she made the wrong decision,” a statement from her press secretary Justin Marshall said on Sunday.

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“She acknowledges the frustration and anger that her actions have caused and for that she is truly sorry. Her commitment to her constituents and to the service of all Albertans remains unchanged and she only hopes to earn their forgiveness and trust in the future.”

Allard left the country for Hawaii on Dec. 19 and returned on Dec. 31.

The others connected to the party who have so far been confirmed to have travelled internationally include four other MLAs and three of their staffers.

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