Edmonton mayor concerned politicians’ travel will cause others to flaunt public health rules

After a weekend of reports that Alberta politicians had partaken in non-essential travel over the holidays amid the coronavirus pandemic, Edmonton’s mayor issued a statement Monday.

Don Iveson posted a response on Twitter, prefaced with: “As mayor of the hardest-hit city in Alberta, I am concerned that some will take these developments as an excuse to flaunt the public health rules, even just out of frustration.

“But we must continue to take this pandemic seriously if we’re to limit the spread and save lives.”

As of Sunday, Global News had confirmed that six MLAs had travelled. Three high-level staffers for the UCP also left Canada.

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

“Many Edmontonians are justifiably angered about reports that some politicians and public officials engaged in non-essential travel during this serious phase of the pandemic,” Iveson said in his statement.

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“I want to be clear that COVID-19 is still a clear and present danger to Edmontonians, lives are at risk and the healthcare system remains under a tremendous amount of pressure. So each and every one of us must continue to take this pandemic seriously if we are to limit spread and save lives, and minimize economic disruption.

“I, like most of you, stayed home this holiday season. I did not gather with friends and family and followed AHS public health directives.

“I commend Edmontonians who did the same — your sacrifices and diligence have made a difference to case counts. Thank you for your leadership and civic-mindedness,” Iveson said.

Read more: The Canadian politicians who travelled during the holidays amid a coronavirus pandemic

“These restrictions have been tough to bear. It’s been especially tough on vulnerable people in our community and on struggling businesses. Let’s do our part to alleviate the pressures we’re facing by focusing our energy on flattening the curve so that we may all, soon, be reunited with our friends and family.”

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The UCP has come under heavy fire over the past several days after Premier Jason 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.

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

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

Tany Yao, who represents the riding of Fort McMurray – Wood Buffalo, is currently in Mexico and cannot be reached, the UCP confirmed.

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Jason Stephan, the MLA for Red Deer-South, visited Arizona; Jeremy Nixon, MLA for Calgary-Klein and Tracy Allard, the minister of municipal affairs, both visited Hawaii.

Pat Rehn, the MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, also visited Mexico. Tanya Fir, MLA for Calgary-Peigan travelled to Las Vegas.

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Click to play video 'More Alberta government officials confirmed to have travelled abroad' More Alberta government officials confirmed to have travelled abroad

More Alberta government officials confirmed to have travelled abroad

Three high-level staffers also left the country: the premier’s chief of staff Jamie Huckabay visited the U.K., while Michael Forian and Eliza Snider, both press secretaries for ministers in the party, went to Mexico.

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

Several other Edmonton councillors confirmed to the mayor that they did not travel, including Ben Hendersen, Bev Esslinger, Aaron Paquette, Jon Dziadyk, Tim Cartmell, Mo Banga, Michael Walters and Scott McKeen.

With files from Allison Bench, Global News

— More to come… 

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