Social media is abuzz with reports of United Conservative Party staffers and at least one UCP MLA enjoying vacations abroad notwithstanding the federal government’s pleas for Canadians to cancel all travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
Most mainstream media in Alberta, however, seem to be engaging in an anguished internal debate about whether what’s a major story in the United Kingdom and Ontario during COVID-19 lockdowns is also worthy of coverage here in Alberta, even when there’s an obvious local angle.
In the case of one, Michael Forian, press secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, evidence in the form of screen shots from his social media accounts now circulating on social media and the deletion soon thereafter of his Twitter account make a compelling case he has been vacationing in Hawaii.
If the tag in one of the photos before it was deleted was correct, he was holidaying with Eliza Snider, press secretary to Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides. It certainly looks like her, although it is not clear when the photo was taken.
As one wit wondered on Twitter, “If an issues manager doesn’t have a twitter account, is he even an issues manager?”
Whether or not the others, one employed in a senior position in Premier Jason Kenney’s office and another an elected MLA, are actually abroad as well cannot yet be confirmed, so they will remain unnamed here for the moment.
Emails this morning and afternoon to Mr. Kenney’s Press Secretary, Christine Myatt, about some of the others mentioned on social media had not received a response by the close of business. This is not an uncommon occurrence with UCP political staff.
Obviously, it is outrageous if UCP politicians and senior political staff members are travelling abroad at a time when ordinary citizens are being told to stay at home and socially isolate to halt the spread of COVID-19.
This kind of behaviour last March by Dominic Cummings, senior advisor to British Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being blamed for the widespread defiance of COVID-19 travel and association restrictions by disillusioned citizens in the United Kingdom and the consequent virulent spread of the second wave of the disease in Britain.
Public opinion polling showed widespread anger at Mr. Cummings’ behaviour, and there were many calls for him to be sacked. Mr. Cummings has since left his role with Mr. Johnson’s government.
Similarly, in Ontario this week, news that Conservative Finance Minister Rod Phillips was holidaying in the Caribbean in defiance of COVID-19 travel restrictions also sparked outrage and calls for his resignation. It didn’t make it better that it turns out Ontario Premier Doug Ford knew where he was before the controversy erupted, or that Mr. Phillips pretended he was at the Ontario Legislature when he participated in a Zoom meeting from Saint Barts in the Caribbean.
Mr. Ford now says he’s “extremely disappointed” in Mr. Phillips’ behaviour. “I have let the minister know that his decision to travel is completely unacceptable and that it will not be tolerated again — by him or any member of our cabinet and caucus, Mr. Ford said in a statement Tuesday.
Who can forget the outrage in federal Conservative ranks – including many Alberta MPs – when Quebec NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau spent a weekend in Las Vegas during the 2011 federal election? Ms. Brosseau was repeatedly mocked as “Vegas Girl” by Conservative MPs, and there wasn’t even a pandemic at the time.
Can you image what Alberta Conservatives would have been saying had something like this happened when the NDP was in power?
I guess we’ll see if anyone makes a reference to “Hawaii Boy” or “London Boy” when the dust has settled from the present situation.
Tuesday night, University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach challenged Alberta MLAs to have their photo taken near a landmark in Edmonton or their riding holding a copy of a current newspaper. He asked: “Any takers?”
So far, there appear to have been none.