Albertans angry over COVID-19 travel scandal, feel consequences came too late

Click to play video: 'Albertans angry over travel scandal, consequences came too late'
Albertans angry over travel scandal, consequences came too late
Anger has been building up for Albertans. Many people said they've sacrificed so much and they're still furious about MLAs and senior staff travelling abroad during the pandemic. As Lisa MacGregor reports, consequences for this travel scandal have come too late – Jan 4, 2021

Outrage has been building over the past few days, as many Albertans are still furious that MLAs and senior staff travelled abroad during the pandemic.

Businesses are shocked members of government went against the public health rules they’ve been accommodating — at a moment’s notice — all year.

Northern Chicken owner Andrew Cowan has spent the past 10 months following mandatory restrictions — sometimes announced without notice — to stay afloat.

Cowan is frustrated government officials haven’t been doing the same.

“It was super hypocritical,” he said.

“I don’t know how they can ask all of us to do all these things and they’re just, ‘Oh whatever, I’m just going to do what I want for the holidays.'”

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READ MORE: Alberta MLAs who travelled during COVID-19 pandemic lose ministry portfolios

The UCP has come under heavy fire over the past several days after Kenney did not discipline those in his party who left Canada, despite advice from both the provincial and the federal government to avoid non-essential travel amid the pandemic.

On Friday, Kenney said he was issuing a new “clear directive” to government officials, including support staff like press secretaries, not to travel internationally.

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On Monday, the premier announced six MLAs and a high-level UCP staff member who took part in non-essential travel had been reprimanded. The six MLAs who travelled out of the country have either resigned from or lost their ministerial or cabinet committee roles. The premier’s chief of staff was asked to step down.

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Read more: Tany Yao is sixth Alberta MLA confirmed to have travelled abroad amid COVID-19

Cowan said the premier’s response and the resignations on Monday are too little too late.

“Probably should have happened right when the revelations came out and I really think Jason Kenney should have been hammering down hard on them.”

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

To help herself feel a little bit better about the travel scandal, Edmonton illustrator Serena Tang created a “Wish you were here” postcard.

“I was me using my frustrations to turn into a project that other people could use so we could show our representatives that we’re not OK with their behaviour,” Tang said.

More than 500 people requested one of the postcards that will go to the office of MLAs in Alberta.

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“I honestly don’t expect there to be enough of a consequence given to all these MLAs that would really make the citizens feel better,” Tang said.

“Was it worth it? Was it worth stepping away for a few days and then coming back to this?”

Despite the resignations or demotions of several UCP MLAs and staff, this controversy has left many people wondering how this will affect the update on mandatory restrictions. The current health orders were set to be in place until at least Jan. 12.

Click to play video: 'Provincial government travel scandal continues to enrage Albertans'
Provincial government travel scandal continues to enrage Albertans

“He’s got to make a call next week about whether to maintain the social restrictions that were put in place in December,” Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said.

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“If you reduce it, are you reducing it so as to not to embarrass your own caucus? If you maintain it, you’re in the same problem about maintaining policies that were not followed.”

“If he removes the [travel] advisory, is that because it’s safe to travel? Or is it to cover the events of his caucus? He’s in a tough spot, even if there are heads on a stick,” Bratt said.

With files from Emily Mertz, Global News

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