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New Brunswick natural resources minister travelled to N.S. to see significant other for Christmas

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There is a growing list of politicians across Canada, at both the federal and provincial levels, who have left the country despite guidance to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel. David Akin reports on who is on the list and what fallout there has been – Jan 4, 2021

New Brunswick natural resources minister Mike Holland left the province in order to see his significant other for Christmas, the premier’s office has confirmed.

Nicolle Carlin, director of communications for Premier Blaine Higgs’ office, said no other PC MLAs have travelled outside of Atlantic Canada over the holiday season.

However, Carlin admitted that Holland did travel to “rural Nova Scotia” to visit his significant other.

“Minister Holland is currently at home and is self-isolating for 14 days and is following all COVID-19 related guidelines,” Carlin said.

Read more: The Canadian politicians who travelled during the holidays amid a coronavirus pandemic

In a second email, the premier’s office confirmed that Holland will face no repercussions for his trip as, at the time, “travel was not banned and he followed all of the required protocol.”

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But the statement splits hairs.

New Brunswick has never banned travel in or out of the province. Instead, it has relied on a 14-day self-isolation period for anyone entering the province in order to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

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The only exception was for travellers from inside the Atlantic bubble, which fell apart in November.

The statement also ignores the multiple, repeated urgings from provincial health officials to avoid non-essential travel.

At an update provided on Dec. 3, Russell said that non-essential travel was not being advised at the time.

At that same briefing, Higgs even provided a personal anecdote to highlight the sacrifices he was personally making over the holidays.

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He said his two daughters and their families will not be travelling home to New Brunswick for Christmas and that he will have to celebrate his mother’s 100th birthday virtually, rather than in person.

Read more: New Brunswick warns against holiday gatherings

The province’s own guidelines for the holiday season put the rules in harsher terms.

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“New Brunswickers are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential trips this holiday season, especially outside of your region, or into areas where COVID-19 cases are present and rising.”

What does the province consider essential? The clearest definition was provided when the province decided to restrict access at the Campbellton, N.B., crossing for residents of Listuguj First Nation and Pointe-à-la-Croix, Quebec, to only essential goods and serves.

At that time they defined essential goods and services as the necessities of life (including groceries and clothing); supporting services (including butchery for hunted game); health care (physician and hospital care, prescriptions, and medical equipment and supplies); goods and services they require for their work; banking and financial services; transportation (including automotive repair); animal care; and funeral or visitation services for members of the immediate family of the traveller.

None of those cover the reason provided for Holland’s travel.

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Wave of politicians caught travelling

Multiple politicians at various levels of government have admitted to, and been punished for, taking non-essential trips.

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips resigned last week after returning from a two-week vacation in St. Barts, where he had been since Dec. 13.

The NDP stripped Manitoba MP Niki Ashton from her cabinet critic roles after she travelled abroad to visit her ailing grandmother in Greece.

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Saskatchewan MLA Joe Hargrave was caught taking a trip to California to finalize the sale of his home in Palm Springs. He has since stepped down from his role as highways minister.

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Quebec Liberal Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Pierre Arcand and his wife were spotted vacationing in the Glitter Bay region of Barbados. The party’s leader has since ordered them home.

Read more: N.B. targeting 70 per cent vaccination rate before opening borders to the rest of Canada

Earlier on Monday, six Alberta MLAs who travelled out of the country resigned their posts either resigned from or lost their ministerial or cabinet committee roles.

Premier Jason Kenney’s chief of staff was also asked to step down.

Other parties say caucus members stayed in New Brunswick

All other parties in the New Brunswick legislature provided responses to Global News when questioned on whether their members travelled outside of the Atlantic bubble

The three members of the New Brunswick Green Party have remained in the province since the Atlantic bubble closed, a spokesperson for the party told Global News on Sunday.

When the Atlantic bubble was active this summer, some members of the Green caucus did travel throughout the region but none have left Atlantic Canada since the pandemic began, the party confirmed.

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The Peoples Alliance of New Brunswick confirmed that its two members remained at home over the holidays.

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The New Brunswick Liberal Party said that one of its 17 caucus members did leave the province to receive a medical treatment, which is permitted under the province’s health guidelines.

“(That member) followed all public health guidelines before, during and after their travel,” said Ashley Beaudin, the director of communications for the province’s official Opposition.

Additionally, Benoît Bourque travelled to Romania in July to see his wife, the Liberals confirmed. He even posted about it on Facebook at the time.

— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and Emily Mertz

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