Some United Conservative Party MLAs in Alberta have come under fire recently for travelling outside the province or country during the COVID-19 pandemic, but two weeks after the first vacation was confirmed, there was still no public accounting of where the remainder were during the holiday break.
In the absence of a complete accounting, CBC News asked the caucuses where each member was during the holiday season and followed up with individual MLAs — although some didn’t tell us.
- Check out where your MLA was and see the full list for the province in the table at the bottom of this story.
The Alberta government, like all other levels of government, had urged people to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada during the pandemic. So the revelation that some United Conservative Party MLAs and cabinet ministers had eschewed the public health advisories against non-essential travel and hit the beaches didn’t sit well with with many Albertans — including other UCP MLAs — who had obeyed the ban on mingling outside their households, even outdoors, and the many thousands of businesses that were shut down or severely restricted.
After then Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and five other UCP MLAs were confirmed to have left Canada during December or January, Premier Jason Kenney came under fire both over the UCP travel and his initial response. He initially said he wouldn’t penalize anyone and claiming responsibility for not being clear enough in saying UCP cabinet and caucus should heed the government’s own travel advisories.
After days of outrage from the public and within his own party, Kenney eventually announced that Allard had resigned from cabinet and the MLAs were demoted. The premier’s chief of staff, who travelled to the U.K., was asked to resign and did. An additional minister who had left Alberta over Christmas did not face consequences.
Kenney expressed regret for the controversy, saying caucus discipline would be stricter going forward, and if anyone left the country, they would be punished. This week, emails sent by the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the legislature revealed criticism of the premier’s response to the matter.
Many elected officials posted statements on social media or responded to constituents’ queries about where they spent the holidays.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley said none of her MLAs left Alberta. Neither the premier’s office nor the UCP caucus responded to requests for a full list of where their members were.
Two UCP legislators’ whereabouts — Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, and Miranda Rosin, MLA for Banff-Kananaskis — have still not been confirmed, despite a dozen requests made to the UCP caucus, the constituency offices and directly to the officials over the span of a week.
“The story hasn’t ended,” said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University. “We’re still talking about it and there’s been new developments almost every day.”
Bratt added that Kenney’s challenge now is to pivot from damage control to focusing on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
“He could have put this to bed New Year’s Day,” Bratt said. “This would not have had the legs that it did had the premier taken the action on January 1st that he did on January 4th.”
Most MLAs remained in Alberta
The vast majority of members say they stayed in their ridings for Christmas and New Year’s, following public health guidance.
Here’s a list of which MLAs are confirmed to have travelled and which say they were home in their ridings. Some mobile users may find the last MLAs on each page of the chart aren’t showing due to a technical glitch and can see the full listing here.)