Politicians travelling amid COVID-19 should fear voters, Manitoba professor says

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Pallister says MLA James Teitsma won’t face ‘disciplinary action’'
Coronavirus: Pallister says MLA James Teitsma won’t face ‘disciplinary action’
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday that while he is disappointed with MLA James Teitsma’s decision to travel to Saskatchewan during the holidays, as he is not in cabinet, he is “not going to be taking any disciplinary action against him.” Pallister also pointed to three NDP MLAs who had also traveled outside the province – Jan 5, 2021

As the number of Canadian politicians caught travelling over the holidays during COVID-19 continues to grow, a political science professor in Manitoba says voters will ultimately decide the price their roaming representatives pay.

Kelly Saunders, an associate professor of political sciences at Brandon University, says despite three decades following politics, she was still shocked to see politicians decide to take trips while asking Canadians to stay home for the holidays.

Read more: Conservative Senate leader Don Plett took brief personal trip to Mexico in December

“I think it’s just so blatantly stupid,” Saunders told 680CJOB. 

“We all need a vacation, we’ve all got family members we wish we could be with, but we’re smart enough to realize that it’s risky.

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“There are public health orders in place and we need to follow the rules.”

On Monday, two Manitoba politicians were added to the growing list of Canadian public officials who have admitted to travelling while Canadians are asked to hunker down to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Conservative Senator Don Plett said the senator from Manitoba took a personal trip to Mexico on Dec. 28, but decided to cut the excursion short after he “reflected on his decision to travel.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor says still no reported cases of COVID-19 variant in province'
Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor says still no reported cases of COVID-19 variant in province

Plett returned to Manitoba Dec. 31 and is now undergoing 14 days of quarantine, the spokesperson said.

Provincially, a progressive conservative communications officer confirmed a member of the Legislative assembly also left Manitoba for the holidays.

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Read more: Two Liberal MPs resign from government roles after traveling abroad amid coronavirus

James Teitsma, MLA for Radisson, went to Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia with his immediate household members from Dec. 21-30.

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The party spokesperson said Teitsma took his personal vehicle, didn’t t gather with anyone outside his household and “all public health orders were followed.”

Click to play video: 'Federal politicians face fallout for pandemic trips'
Federal politicians face fallout for pandemic trips

While travelling outside of Manitoba is allowed under the province’s current public health orders, a government release Monday said public health “strongly advises that travel out of the province should be limited to essential purposes only.”

On Tuesday Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said that while he is disappointed with Teitsma’s decision to travel to during the holidays, as he is not in cabinet, he is “not going to be taking any disciplinary action against him.”

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But the decision to travel during the pandemic has proven costly for a number of politicians across Canada.

Read more: Alberta MLAs who travelled during COVID-19 pandemic lose ministry portfolios

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Philips resigned last week after returning from a two-week vacation in the Caribbean. On Friday, the federal NDP removed MP Niki Ashton from her critic roles after she travelled to see her ill grandmother in Greece.

Two Liberal MPs have resigned from their government and House of Commons roles after admitting to recently traveling overseas despite strict travel restrictions due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Several Alberta United Conservative MLAs who travelled out of the country have also either resigned from or lost their ministerial or cabinet committee roles.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Growing list of Canadian politicians who ignored travel guidance'
Coronavirus: Growing list of Canadian politicians who ignored travel guidance

Back in Manitoba Saunders says politicians who’ve lost cabinet positions and leadership roles should be more worried about the impression they’ve left in the minds of their constituents.

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“There’s so many Manitobans and Canadians that have been struggling with the worst kind of loses, losing family members and not even being able to be there to offer them comfort or to say goodbye,” she said.

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

“Next election time we need tor remember who stepped up and who didn’t.

“I think voters will remember this.”

— With files from Elisha Dacey and David Lao

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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