COVID-19: Some southern Alberta voters retract UCP support amid MLA travel scandal

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Some of southern Alberta’s historically conservative voters are voicing their anger with several UCP MLAs for vacationing outside of Canada even though provincial health guidelines advise against doing so. As Emily Olsen reports, political experts say voter frustration may strongly impact an upcoming provincial election – Jan 4, 2021

As more UCP MLAs are confirmed to have travelled outside of Canada for vacations despite provincial health guidelines, the historically strong conservative voice of southern Alberta may be changing its tune.

Kieth Carlson, owner of popular Claresholm eatery Roy’s Place, says that as a business owner who was forced to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions, watching MLAs make the choice to ignore a travel advisory is the final straw for him. 

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

Carlson says he will not be supporting the UCP any longer.

“The UCP brand, as a whole, is a failing brand,” Carlson said.

He adds he is not alone — even in a historically conservative riding.

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“I had a gentleman email me this morning. He simply said, ‘We need to find a way to get the UCP out of power next run. Would you be interested in helping?’ — and that’s coming from somebody who’s normally front and centre of the local UCP movement.”

Read more: ‘Staycation’ summer video showing Alberta MLA involved in travel scandal angering tourism industry

Trevor Harrison, professor of sociology at the University of Lethbridge, said it’s likely that the southern region of the province will see significantly less support for the UCP moving forward, now that Premier Jason Kenney’s integrity and strength as a leader has come into question — even with the announcements of several UCP officials’ resignations.

“He now looks like a very weak and wounded leader,” Harrison said Monday. “And had he actually done something last Friday, he might have got out … of this a bit. But with the drip, drip, and finally gusher over the weekend, … I’m not sure what happened today actually erases that.”

Read more: #ResignKenney trends on Twitter after at least 8 Alberta MLAs and staff travel over holidays

Former Lethbridge PC MLA Bridget Pastoor said Monday she is incensed to hear the news, calling it just one in a series of nails in the current UCP government’s coffin.

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She also says it sadly paints all of Alberta’s elected officials in a negative light.

“There are good, hardworking ones out there, and they pay the price for the ones that are so arrogant and really don’t care about anyone else but themselves,” Pastoor said.

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

When it comes to Lethbridge’s municipal politicians, Global News confirmed Monday that no Lethbridge city councillors had travelled outside of Canada since the initial travel advisories were issued last March.

Global News reached out to Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman for comment on the issue. He responded in a statement late Monday.

“We know, as the pandemic wears on and restrictions remain in place, people are getting frustrated. The recent information of politicians having travelled out of country during the Christmas break has added to that frustration. I would ask that constituents concerned about this issue contact their MLA,” he said.

“I can confirm that no one on Council has travelled outside of Canada since travel advisories were put in place last March. We know visits to see friends and family and travel vacations will still be there when we come out of this pandemic and that the most important thing right now is the safety of our community.”