Documents show Kenney’s former chief of staff requested details on MLA vacations before travel scandal: Notley

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WATCH: NDP leader Rachel Notley is questioning how much senior officials knew about MLA travel details before news broke that several UCP staffers had left the country amid COVID-19. Tom Vernon reports. – Mar 10, 2021

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley says the Alberta NDP has obtained new information raising further questions about whether Premier Jason Kenney knew some of his staff and UCP MLAs were planning to travel abroad despite government advisories calling on people to avoid doing so during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At an executive council meeting to ask questions about the new provincial budget, Notley began her questioning by citing the severance pay his former chief of staff received following the travel scandal.

She said the NDP received documents through a Freedom of Information request that show Kenney’s former chief of staff Jamie Huckabay, who was asked to resign after ignoring advisories imploring Canadians — and Albertans — to avoid non-essential travel, had asked UCP cabinet ministers on Nov. 24 to inform him in writing of their vacation plans.

Among the UCP MLAs whom Albertans would later learn travelled abroad over the holidays was former municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard. After Allard apologized for vacationing in Hawaii, she later resigned from her cabinet post.

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

Notley asked how Huckabay could not have been aware that Allard would be travelling in December given his request for vacation details, or why he would not have told Kenney about her plans. She suggested that if Huckabay failed to disclose the information to the premier, he should not have qualified for the $60,000 severance package he received when he resigned.

“It just strikes me as a strange thing that would still render him as qualified for a severance,” she said at the meeting on Wednesday.

Kenney replied that he was only following advice he received on how to deal with the matter of Huckabay’s dismissal.

“The advice I received was that Mr. Huckabay’s employment contract, the terms of it, required that severance be honoured, and that ‘s exactly what happened,” he replied.

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

Notley also questioned Kenney about when he knew of Huckabay’s vacation plans. Kenney reiterated that he only discovered Huckabay was planning to travel to the U.K. when his former chief of staff told him he was on the way to the airport. Kenney said Wednesday that Huckabay informed him of his plans in a face-to-face meeting.

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The NDP said the documents it obtained show Huckabay’s assistant sent an email on Dec. 16 about the need for a travel plan for the former chief of staff’s cellphone for while he was abroad. The NDP said documents also show Allard’s office contacted Service Alberta for an out-of-country phone plan on Dec. 17, two days before she left the country.

READ MORE: Premier Kenney faces growing anger for going quiet amid COVID-19 travel scandal 

Kenney held a news conference on New Year’s Day to address the revelation that staff and members of his government travelled abroad despite public health guidance advising against it. Days later, he announced those who disregarded public health advice on non-essential travel would be reprimanded.

“By travelling abroad over the holidays, these individuals demonstrated extremely poor judgment,” he said at the time.

Watch below: Some Global News videos about the travel scandal involving some UCP MLAs.


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