Calgary Signal Hill Member of Parliament Ron Liepert, shown when he was Alberta’s energy minister in 2012, had “essential” home repairs to do in Palm Desert, California (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta’s Hawaiigate travel scandal continued to grow yesterday with four more United Conservative Party MLAs and one Conservative Party of Canada MP from Calgary confirmed to have been out of the country in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential travel.

In addition, rumours about several more Conservative politicians are circulating.

Calgary-Klein MLA and Parliamentary Secretary Jeremy Nixon (Photo: Twitter).

Albertans furious that Premier Jason Kenney has decreed there will be no repercussions for such behaviour can add the names of Calgary-Klein MLA and Parliamentary Secretary Jeremy Nixon, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, and Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir to the list of politicians who chose to travel for non-essential reasons during the pandemic.

In addition, of course, there was Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, MLA for Grande Prairie, whose Hawaiian family holiday was the first to come to public attention, and four UCP political staffers. A fifth, Issues Manager Matt Wolf, visited his family in Saskatchewan. 

In some cases, UCP MLAs whose non-essential out-of-country vacations have been confirmed had published social media posts while they were away that appeared intended to give the impression they were in Alberta over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. 

Also yesterday, it was reported Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative MP Ron Liepert travelled twice during the pandemic to a property he owns in Palm Desert, Calif.

The responses of some of the Conservative politicians who were caught added fuel to a fiery public reaction that runs across political lines. 

In a short statement on Facebook, Mr. Rehn, who represents the northern Lesser Slave Lake riding but has residences in Red Deer and Texas, cheekily talked about how “we must all work together to get past this pandemic” and noted that his Mexican holiday was “a previously planned family trip, following a busy legislative session.” If intended as an excuse, the latter point was unlikely to win him much sympathy. 

Mr. Stephan defiantly wrote on his Facebook page that “I support individuals and families having the freedom to choose for themselves whether they travel or not, provided they are respectful of others in doing so. International travel, in and of itself, does not negatively impact Alberta’s COVID curve if it is done responsibly.”

Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir (Photo: Twitter).

The MLA, who has complained publicly about public sector health care workers advocating COVID-19 lockdowns, also expressed the unsurprising sentiment that “I look forward to moving past this experience. …”

Mr. Liepert – once often assailed as the worst provincial health minister in Alberta history – excused his travel as being for “essential house maintenance,” evidently unaware there are trades people in California who could probably use the work right now. 

It seems possible there will be more revelations. “Keep the tips coming,” tweeted CBC investigative reporter Charles Rusnell yesterday. “Just received unconfirmed tips about two more #UCP MLAs. BTW, no tips so far about NDP MLAs/staff.”

On Twitter, the @Blurg5 account has been keeping a useful tally of confirmed and rumoured cases. 

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn (Photo: Provenance uncertain).

Unlike past political scandals that could aptly be dismissed as inside baseball for the politically engaged, this one delivers a powerful slap in the face to ordinary citizens who can’t travel, visit their loved ones, or take part in activities they enjoy because of pandemic restrictions. 

Whether you’re justifiably concerned about the threat of COVID-19 or imagine it’s part of a sinister plot to inject microchips into your bloodstream, the thought of members of the Conservative Cordilleran Elite jetting off to Hawaii, Mexico, Texas and California while you’re instructed to hunker down at home is infuriating. 

This bitterness will likely fester as it sinks in just how slowly the Kenney Government’s vaccination program is moving, and is projected to proceed. 

The vaccination plan posted Dec. 20 by Alberta Health Services without fanfare indicates most Albertans will have to wait until next fall or winter before they are vaccinated! 

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan (Photo: Provenance uncertain).

Obviously, either controls on social behaviour will have to remain in place until the vaccination program winds down in 2022, or we will have to tolerate a lot more deaths to accommodate the wishes of the UCP base and the business community to do as they please. 

Either way, if you think people are angry now, just wait. 

One can only hope that the AHS plan is an exercise in expectation management or that the government can think of a way improve its game. Blaming Justin Trudeau isn’t going to cut it, especially if other provinces continue to do better than Alberta, as they all are now. 

In the meantime, if you’re anywhere near an international airport, keep your cell phone handy with the camera turned on in case you spot an Alberta politician making the walk of shame from the arrivals gate to the baggage carousel. 

@Blurg5’s Hawaiigate List

As of January 2, 2021

Tracy Allard (UCP cabinet member, MLA Grande Prairie – confirmed, Hawaii)
Jeremy Nixon (UCP cabinet member, MLA Calgary-Klein – confirmed, Hawaii)
Pat Rehn (UCP MLA, Lesser Slave Lake – confirmed, Mexico)
Jason Stephan (UCP MLA, Red Deer-South – confirmed, Arizona)
Tanya Fir (UCP MLA, Calgary Peigan – confirmed, Las Vegas)
Matt Wolf (UCP Political Staff – confirmed, Saskatchewan)
Michael Forian (UCP Political Staff – confirmed, Hawaii)
Eliza Snider (UCP Political Staff – confirmed, Hawaii)
Jamie Huckabay (UCP Political Staff – confirmed, United Kingdom)
Ron Liepert (CPC MP, Calgary Signal Hill – confirmed, California)
Nathan Neudorf (UCP MLA Lethbridge-East – rumoured)
Tyler Shandro (UCP Cabinet member, MLA Calgary Acadia – rumoured)
Roger Reid (UCP MLA Livingstone-Macleod – rumoured)
Sheena Hughes (St. Albert City Councillor – rumoured)

Join the Conversation


  1. Premier Kenney apologized for and scolded
    the first holiday travelers but refused to discipline them. Maybe he already knew that dismissals would take a big chunk out of his cabinet and senior staff!

  2. The UCP are sinking to new lows everyday. To quote lyrics from an old song. How low can you go? It’s quite surprising to see the UCP’s travel shenanigans make the front page of the Sun newspaper in Alberta. I’m also starting to see more UCP supporters show disgust with the UCP. Basically, I think the UCP’s goose is cooked. The NDP will be back in power, in 2023. Rachel Notley will easily do the same thing to the present premier of Alberta, like she did to Jim Prentice. At this juncture, I can’t see the UCP lasting beyond 2023.

    1. Ooh, is it a singalong? Ahem-hem-hem: Some folks are born, siiiiiiiiiiilver spoon in hand, lord, don’t they help themselves.

  3. You and others, Mr Climenhaga, simply do not understand that all these UCP MLAs and bureaucrats are very special, busy and essential people. Indeed, they are VIPs who perhaps need not obey to the absolute letter the strictures faced by the “folks” as the premier charmingly refers to his flock. The VIPs have a job to do to privatize Alberta’s sovereign wealth and institutions in a hurry. Besides, Mr kenney has shouldered all the travel blame anyway, so it’s quite all right.

    Perhaps the main takeaway is that such highly-placed people seem functionally illiterate and probably cannot read well enough to absorb published Covid restrictions, recommendations and pleas for responsible behaviour which their own government has published. But Mr kenney has that covered as well — he promises to hold a series of lectures by Dr Champion on basic bible reading skills for the forgiven miscreants so that they will become better more-rounded administrators in future. After all, Mr kenney himself said:

    “Nevertheless, I recognize that those of us in positions of public trust must maintain a higher standard in our personal conduct than is expected of the folks in the general population.”

    And so besides the brush-up on conservative reading comprehension skills, the premier will also be personally holding pep sessions for these VIPs to make sure they better understand their obligations with regard to personal conduct as he sees it. What more can a reasonable leader do?

    Nothing more to see here, move along folks — hunker down and obey the pandemic restrictions your government have ordered put in place. The misunderstandings are all due to the terrible situation Trudeau has put Alberta in, by not handing Mr kenney money to distribute properly as personal alms but wiring it directly to citizens, and by not supplying Covid vaccine when the premier demanded it before Health Canada approval. You can continue to place unlimited trust in the UCP government to do the right thing.

  4. A suggestion for travel loving UCP MLAs tired of winter and the carping public. How about a three day working holiday in Palm Springs hosted by former health minister and CPC MP Ron Liepert?
    International travel you say? No problem says Red Deer’s own Jason Stephan. “International travel, in and of itself, does not negatively impact Alberta’s COVID curve if it is done responsibly.” With that minor detail out of the way, an itinerary is proposed for Mr. Liepert and his UCP friends.
    Day 1. Depart YYC at 10.29 a.m. on Westjet arriving in Palm Springs three hours later. Mr. Liepert has reserved a twelve passenger van to whisk his guests to his home in nearby Palm Desert. The “working” part of the trip consists of doing all necessary repairs as directed by Ron and collapsing in exhaustion after dinner. Masks?
    Day 2. The gang piles into the van for a round of golf at one of the one hundred ecologically significant championship golf courses, dinner and drinks to follow in the clubhouse.
    Day 3. A tour of Palm Springs celebrity homes starting with Leonardo DiCaprio’s mansion which he purchased from Dinah Shore. Next it’s on to Three’s Company star Suzanne Somers for a look at her fancy digs. Finally, the group will be keeping up with the Kardashians with a visit to the family compound. Should any of the Albertans be in the market for a nice place near Mr. Liepert, real estate listings include the former residences of Howard Hughes and Eva Gabor.
    So ends the working holiday. The party will have three hours in the air to recover and prepare for resumption of their duties and responsibilities of government. COVID test, anyone?

  5. Great work as always DC. It occurs to me that the most reasonable explanation for Kenney’s lack of action on this must be that he was aware of and approved all these travel plans. It was Kenney’s supposed caginess that let the UCP down. It seems pretty clear that Kenney completely misjudged the political fallout, no doubt relying on the usually compliant PostMedia commentators to get him out of any hot water. He failed to foresee how the more critical Ontario media would respond to the Phillips scandal. I think that’s why this affair will continue to haunt Kenney personally, as much as the UCP brand.

  6. Good for airline business. Are they just trying to start some economic activity?

    Not so good for their weak corona virus rules.

  7. “Oh what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practice to deceive.”

    This behavior goes beyond selfishness and entutlement and tiptoes into psychopathy. People are dying. Others have made sacrifices to protect the health and well-being of people they know and people they don’t know. Millions of doctors, nurses, health care workers and ordinary people have done their best, all for what, exactly?

    The UCP government doesn’t care. UCP lie, people die.

    It’s not about travel per se. It’s about having contempt for life, and loss of life. What kind of people can be this callous?

    They attempt to deceive by posting videos implying they are following the rules, when reality says otherwise. They see themselves as being above everyone else: Marie and the Antoinettes.

    It would be extremely unwise for Dr. Deena Hinshaw to repeat her “we’re all in this together” mantra, because we all know now that “they” are not in this at all. The rules are about to fall apart, and this is on “them”. After all”we” sacrificed, “they” have blown this apart. Might as well undo the charges against commoners who have broken public health orders, because it’s all irrelevant now anyways

    This is what happens when people put up, shut up and cover up for their arrogant, elite, entitled and frankly personality-disordered bosses. I hope you are listening, Deena Hinshaw. This is NOT okay. Nothing you can say will make it okay. Game over.

  8. Further to my earlier comment, UCP MLA Jason Stephan’s cocky chirping has been reported in today’s Edmonton Journal: “‘International travel, in and of itself, does not negatively impact Alberta’s COVID curve if it is done responsibly’ he wrote. He said he has never asked Albertans to do anything he would not do, including travelling. Stephan posted the statement despite provincial and federal advice to avoid non-essential international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Stephan appears to be a bit of a libertarian, and perhaps chafing in a back-bench role, but so far seems not to have attacked Kenney. It’s hard to imagine that he or others of his ilk would ever have supported an under-educated life-long pol like Kenney, except to the extent that Kenney could fulfill his promise to deliver the goods. His open defiance of Kenney may reflect a spreading doubt within the UCP that Kenney can still deliver.

    1. In Friday’s post Brett speculated that there may be a rift developing in the UCP caucus, and now Simon is raising the same possibility. Jason Stephan’s belligerent response to his being caught travelling certainly supports Brett and Simon’s speculation.

      I am reminded of how one of the events that led to Brian Jean’s downfall was when he suspended Derek Fildebrandt from his critic’s role in the Wildrose caucus when Mr. Fildebrandt made some homophobic comment about then Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne. Rebel Media, and perhaps a few other far-right news sites took umbrage, and Brian Jean ultimately backed down. Rebel Media is already pooh-poohing Covid and the resulting restrictions; suspending someone of Jason Stephan’s outlook would only do Jason Kenney more harm in the eyes of Rebel followers.

    2. When you spend your life bending the rules and finding loopholes, as Mr. Stephan has, it does affect your outlook. It would seem Mr. Stephan’s moral compass is so far out of whack he probably is surprised to be called out. He entered politics with the delusion that he would someday be finance minister. Guess those dreams have pretty much gone up in smoke, we hope at least.

  9. It’s a tad ironic that, of all the corrupt and/or incompetent acts of the Kenney UCP government, the one that has most clearly brought their sense of entitlement and moral corruption to the attention of Albertans is the one that has done the least lasting direct harm to Alberta citizens. When the actual consequences of MLAs and government staffers ignoring public health restrictions are compared to the long term and perhaps irreparable damage their legislation, policies and practices have done to public health care, education, the environment, Alberta’s economy, labour laws, and our most vulnerable citizens, a few useless MLAs and staffers leaving the province is less than a drop in the tsunami of destruction.

    1. Too right David.
      This is the aspect of this story that disturbs me the most but it will get no traction.

  10. These boneheads just keep reminding me of what MLAs from the Lougheed era taught me , you can’t trust a Reformer. All they care about is spreading lies while they look after their own well-being and that of their rich friends and that’s exactly what Kenney is doing.
    While they created the lie that we don’t have a revenue problem, only a spending problem they add the lie that foreign corporations are attacking our oil industry, but somehow can’t prove it , and oil executives aren’t buying it.
    They claimed that Ottawa is stealing our money with equalization when Alberta hasn’t paid a penny into equalization and the fools that support them are believing it, just too dumb to figure it out or do any research. Sadly most of them are our fellow seniors who should be smarter, but aren’t.

    They hold back money from the federal government that was intended for our health care workers and try to blame Ottawa , doctors, nurses, teachers and AISH recipients for the financial mess their former phoney conservative hero’s created for us and we are expected to be dumb enough to believe it.
    It must make their supporters really proud watching Kenney treat them like morons when they weren’t smart enough to realize that there was no way Notley could fix in only four years what these fools created in twenty five. How stupid can you be.

    1. The reality is the UCP MLAs and UCP staffers showed no concern for the plight of fellow Albertans by travelling during the holidays, this error in judgement should cost them their jobs.

      Alan the Reform party was formed in October of 1987 and Peter Lougheed retired in 1985, so I am curious what reformers the Lougheed era MLAs were referring to?

      As for equalization, certainly all Canadians fund government programs through personal and corporate income taxes including equalization. For the 11 years from 2007-2018 Alberta contributed $240 billion more through personal and corporate income taxes to Ottawa than we received back in transfers, Quebec on the other hand has received $171.3 billion more from Ottawa than they contributed during the same time period. Source Statistics Canada, computations by R. Mansell and M. Khanal. So on one point you are correct it isn’t Alberta that funds equalization but Alberta’s taxpayers do!

      1. No worries, thanks to the refusal of so many Albertan governments to diversify the economy, Alberta will be a have-not province any day now. They will finally start benefitting from the horrible, unjust equalization formula that was installed without their consent by that dastardly Alberta-hating liberal no-goodnik, Stephen Harper, and his cabinet minister cronies, like Jason Kenney.

      2. FARMER BRIAN: Alberta, in no way, sent money to Ottawa, or to other provinces. Ottawa collects personal and corporate taxes from all the provinces. That’s how it works. Also, Alberta had only one single good Conservative premier, who was Peter Lougheed. The Alberta PCs, after Peter Lougheed exited from politics, lost Alberta $433 billion from collecting very poor oil royalty rates. Ralph Klein was negligent in making sure oil companies clean up their messes. Albertans have to fork over $260 billion, to deal with this. Ralph Klein’s bad tax policies lost Alberta $150 billion. For decades, starting in the mid to late 1980s, the Alberta PCs did more costly shenanigans than one can count, losing vast sums of money. The UCP are also wasting vast sums of money on very costly shenanigans. Social programs in Canada, come from provincial tax revenue, not from equalization payments. There is a sole reason why Quebec can have the services it does. It’s due to a very high provincial tax rate.

      3. Farmer Brian is one of these guys that lawyers and University Professors have talked about over the years. He feels guilty about what he did by supporting these phony conservatives and watching them destroy this province , but isn’t man enough to admit it . He desperately tries to convince himself that he was right and the intelligent Albertans were wrong, but can’t because there are too manty cold, hard, true facts that won’t let him.

        It would never occur to him that some of us had ties to the former MLAs from the Lougheed era long after we had retired and they had retired and they were certainly following what Klein was doing to us and in fact several of them told us they were moving to B.C. because they couldn’t stand to watch him destroy what they had worked so hard to create for us. Sadly all of the ones I knew have now passed on. The last two passed away in 2019 , they were both 93 years old. One was Lougheed’s Energy Minister, Bill Dickie , who was a brother in-law of one of my uncles.

        Having spend 32 years in the world of finance I certainly understand how the Equalization Payments work and if Brian had bothered to do any research he would know also. Instead of listening to this fool Kenney who helped the Harper government increase the payments to Quebec to help them buy votes. It has absolutely nothing to do with why this province is broke like Kenney wants us to believe, and Alaska and Norway aren’t. Giving away our oil royalties and taxes is the reason, and Alaska and Norway aren’t doing it.

        They are based on what a province is capable of creating in the form of revenues and of course with all the wealth that Alberta is creating they don’t deserve any , and why should they? The problem is these fools haven’t been collecting the oil royalties that are legally owed to Albertans and have slashed the taxes to benefit their rich friends, so why should the rest of Canada pay for our stupidity?

        Maybe instead of believing the lies these Reformers keep feeding you, like Klein did, you should get yourself educated you are letting them treat you like a moron.

        By the way I was asked by the group of lawyers who created the Alberta Alliance Party in 2002 if I
        would run as their leader in the 2004 election to try help them stop what Klein was doing to us. I refused knowing my wife was retiring in two years and we planned to do a lot of travelling and we have.
        Unfortunately they were dumb enough to let the Wildrose Party run by Reformers take them over and conservative party was dumb enough to allow it also and we all know what the outcome has been.

        I won’t respond to anymore of your ignorant comments, so please keep them to yourself.

        1. One question Alan please explain what I stated about equalization that you believe is incorrect?!

  11. Nick Taylor, the Alberta fossil fuel developer and one-time Alberta Liberal leader once remarked that the aspirations of most Alberta business people were to sell out and retire to BC. Given the Hawaiian and California trips, they have obviously raised their expectations. Once again the UCP are shown for what they really are: ill-educated, and entitled – prepared to lie and knowingly endanger and even kill helpless people with their negligence to fill their own pockets and sense of grandeur. Laugh? I thought I would cry.

  12. The real problem here is that politicians get to set their own pay and having that privilege, they set it very high.

    As a a result they logically assume that they can make rules for others and having the money to afford such travels, they just want to do it. Until we rein in the their setting their own pay, this behaviour will persist.

    We have allowed politicians to do what they want and it doesn’t matter which party they represent they won’t change until we end their fun at the pay level.

  13. I suppose that much of these antics will be painted as sticking it to PMJT and defending FREEDUMB.

    Already one travelling-MLA has publicly declared that he has nothing to apologize for in his defence of freedom and free markets. I suspect others will follow suit and, in defiance of provincial health orders, urge others to do otherwise. After all, isn’t Dr. Hinshaw an elitist globalist, who must be ignored because she’s never worked a day in her life? Considering the way Hinshaw is told off everyday and compromised by the powers-that-be, can there be any doubt that the PLAN-demic is officially over and the Angry Midget better get on board or be shoved out of his closet?

  14. “Cordilleran elite”
    Beautiful, and especially appropriate in describing the attitude of Jason “let them eat cake” Stephan.
    I will be using that in the future

  15. So Jason Stephan goes skiing at Lake Louise they hops on a plane for Arizona? Posting on Facebook at about 3 o’clock in the morning on December 31st about the wonderful day skiing yesterday. We would assume that the great socialist fighter will forego his taxpayer funded salary for the time he is isolating with his wife and 3 kids. It would be a shame to see him strolling along Waskasoo creek ignoring his mandatory isolation requirement. On a positive note we now have proof of life.

    1. Well, maybe never trust a “conservative” politician. Your lesson is perhaps a little too general, and smacks of a very common wingnut talking point, to the effect that “all politicians are corrupt lying scum, but we are scummiest, so vote for us.” Notice how it works either way to diminish any confidence in the political system, a drum on which their financial backers never tire of beating.

      The real lesson here is the need for an electorate that will hold untrustworthy politicians accountable. But this is Alberta under discussion.

  16. I imagine there has been much discussion this weekend between Kenney, Harper, and an assortment of spin doctors. Upcoming week should be interesting. Stay tuned!

  17. Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty and, obey only love.
    ~ K. Gibran

    Look! The emperor has no clothes!
    ~ H.C. Andersen

  18. The Premier started lying to Albertans the minute he claimed that he was unaware that that any senior staff and MLA’s were out of the Province. And he continued to knowingly and purposely misinform and deceive Albertans about this issue. His words went far beyond political posturing.

    This is not the standard of behaviour I would expect from Premier. I suspect other Albertans of all political stripes are of the same opinion. Not certain how Mr. Kenney can continue as Leader.

  19. The federal government is sending the vaccines to all of the provinces in a timely manner. A number of health care providers have publicly offered to help with vaccinating citizens. There is no excuse for not getting the people vaccinated faster than has been proposed.

  20. I am a bit surprised that UCP supporters have been so angry and upset about this, perhaps more so than those who are not. Maybe that is partly due to disappointment. It is also possible they really bought all the spin about Kenney being a political genius, as opposed to someone who just figured out the opportunity of being in the right spot at the right time. Well opportunities can be transitory and what was a good spot a few years ago, no longer seems so now.

    On a related note, perhaps the Cordillerian Conservative elite are finally realizing that Kenney is no longer a good bet for them to win the next Alberta election so they are trying to pull a Redford here. Didn’t she also get into sudden unexpected trouble related to questionable judgements on out of province travel as her personal popularity fell? Just wondering aloud here.

    Right now Kenney needs a lot of good friends to help him clean up this mess and get through this crisis. Unfortunately, I get the feeling he has made an awful lot of enemies over the last few years. Even more than a few on the Conservative side too, I suspect.

    Even worse for Kenney, this is a political cancer enveloping his caucus. There is already large number of travel advisory violators and the list seems to be increasing still. It seems to have gone way beyond the point where Kenney can easily just fire one person and isolate the problem by talking about that person’s bad judgment. He seems to have a caucus chock full of bad judgment and his own is not looking so good right now either.

    People have used the words arrogance and entitlement to describe this situation and while I do agree, I would use another word especially for Kenney and that is hubris. The problem is the downfall can be sudden and unexpected. He is in for a heck of a bumpy ride and this time it may not end very well for him.

  21. Well, maybe never trust a “conservative” politician. Your lesson is perhaps a little too general, and smacks of a very common wingnut talking point, to the effect that “all politicians are corrupt lying scum, but we are scummiest, so vote for us.” Notice how it works either way to diminish any confidence in the political system, a drum on which their financial backers never tire of beating.

    The real lesson here is the need for an electorate that will hold untrustworthy politicians accountable. But this is Alberta under discussion.

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