One of Our MLAs is Missing!
I know, this sounds like the title of a bad movie, the kind that might earn three rotten tomatoes on an online review site, but it’s for real.
It’s now Day 4 of the Hawaiigate Scandal, and Tany Yao, United Conservative Party MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo is somewhere in Mexico, not picking up his calls.
The spokesperson for the UCP Caucus confirmed yesterday that Mr. Yao is south of the Rio Grande, but said the party hasn’t been able to contact him.
“We’re not even sure where in Mexico he is,” UCP communications director Timothy Gerwing plaintively told a reporter. “Typically, we do know where they are,” he added.
Well, maybe Mr. Yao left his cellphone in his room. Or maybe he just couldn’t hear it over the mariachi band on the patio.
TY Phone Home!
Meanwhile, it was also revealed yesterday that Energy Minister Sonya Savage went to B.C. over the holiday period for “essential maintenance” to her property. It was not a vacation trip, so according to her staff that’s OK.
Just in case you were worried you’d got it wrong and thought the MLA for Calgary-North West might be the MLA for Calgary-Kelowna, it’s OK. It’s Ms. Savage’s holiday home that’s in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley.
Well, maybe she had the only key and needed to let the plumber in. Whatever, she was back within 72 hours, her press secretary assured restive voters.
So this adds two more names to the list of MLAs confirmed to have travelled out of the province during the holiday in defiance of advice against non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions have turned out to be entirely optional for UCP Cabinet ministers, caucus members and political staff, much to the irritation of many Albertans.
Yesterday’s news about Mr. Yao and Ms. Savage raised the number of Alberta MLAs confirmed to have travelled outside the province to six, three of them members of Premier Jason Kenney’s cabinet. To date, in the Alberta Legislature only UCP MLAs and staffers have been confirmed or rumoured to be travelling outside Alberta.
Media continues to work hard on this story, so there may be more to come.
Yesterday’s development comes amid feverish speculation on social media that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, whose Hawaiian family vacation was the first of the exodus of UCP MLAs to be discovered by media, will fall on a metaphorical grenade and resign today to try to shield others from damage from the scandal.
That is unlikely to work, as what seems to have lit a fire under large numbers of voters of all political persuasions was Premier Kenney’s announcement on Friday there would be no consequences for ministers, MLAs and staffers who ignored the government advisories not to travel outside the country and frequent requests from health officials to avoid interprovincial travel as well.
If you don’t think this is having a serious impact on Premier Jason Kenney, consider this: The man hasn’t tweeted anything for two days! This is unprecedented.
Well, as your blogger wrote in A Poke in the Public Eye, Media Manipulation for Aspiring Politicians and Other Undesirables, a cult classic that is sadly long out of print, allowing the story to leak out in dribs and drabs is probably not best public relations practice.
“Should the unthinkable happen, my advice to you is to take the advice of Mark Twain and tell the truth, ‘You’ll astound your friends,’ he said, ‘and confound your enemies.’ What the heck, if you let all the bad news go in one blast, there’ll be one or two terrifically bad big stories, and then everyone will forget about it. Let it drip out one putrid drop at a time and heaven knows where this may end up.
“If Richard Nixon had understood this elementary truth, he’d probably have finished his term,” I went on (remember, this was written in 1995), “and someone like Dan Quayle would be president of the United States today!”
By the way, a spokesperson for Tyler Shandro contacted me this evening to state categorically that the health minister has been nowhere outside Canada during the holiday period. However, he declined to comment on whether Mr. Shandro had travelled to another province.
It’s important to note at this very heated moment that while any travel is inappropriate by government officials who are urging citizens to stay at home and restrict their social contacts to reduce COVID-19 infections, some excuses are feebler than others.
Christmas in Hawaii or a waterskiing in Mexico is far less appropriate in such circumstances than visiting a sick child or a dying grandparent.
That said, what is completely appropriate is the expectation by citizens for leadership, not lame excuses for irresponsible behaviour, from their elected representatives.