Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said city councillor Sharmarke Dubow’s decision to travel to Africa recently was “irresponsible” but as mayor, she has no power to discipline him.
Helps said she was only informed of Dubow’s decision to travel for non-essential reasons on Tuesday, a short time before the councillor posted on social media.
“On matters such as these, councillor Dubow answers to the public, not to council and ultimately the next steps are left in his hands,” Helps said.
“With so many Victorians making such sacrifices this past year to pull together as a community and stop the spread of COVID-19, councillor Dubow’s decision to travel internationally was both disappointing and irresponsible.”
In the statement posted on social media, Dubow said he adhered to local public health guidelines while away and took the PCR COVID-19 test multiple times. All the results came back negative.
Dubow was isolating in Vancouver after arriving back in Canada on Monday.
Politicians at all levels have been under intense scrutiny over the past week for travelling abroad after telling their constituents to stay home amid COVID-19 restrictions.
International travel is not against public health orders but is strongly discouraged by public health officials.
Dubow said he’d been saving for the trip “for years” and that it would be his first time back to East Africa since he fled the country as a child in 1992.
But Dubow posted photos on social media in December 2019 from Ethiopia and from Djibouti in January 2019.
Health Minister Adrian Dix noted none of the 87 MLAs elected in British Columbia opted to travel outside the country during the recent holiday. He would not say whether he believes politicians should resign if they go against the non-essential travel recommendations.
“I think the issue isn’t about punishing people it is about communicating non-essential travel should be avoided right now,” Dix said.
In Alberta, Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard resigned as the minister of municipal affairs after travelling to Hawaii for Christmas.
Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips stepped down after his family trip to the island of St. Bart’s.
Dubow said he will not be stepping down, however.
Port Coquitlam Brad West said Dubow must make his own decision.
“I can’t put myself in his shoes, and say what he should do. I can say what I would do which is I would resign. This is such a breach of trust between the people we serve and elected officials,” West said.
“When that trust is broken I don’t know how you continue on with the moral authority required to lead.”