If you’ve seen Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao, please call the UCP Caucus (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage – her Okanagan holiday home needed “essential maintenance” (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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.

Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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.

Join the Conversation


  1. I think it’s beginning to dawn on me why the Atlantic Region holds the line on Covid-19. You fly or drive in and it’s an automatic 14 days quarantine. And if you can’t tell officials at whichever border point you present your magnificent self what your plans are and where you plan to hole up, you don’t get in. Or pay for hotel rooms for over a $1000 if say, you’re a returning student from away and the university cannot allow you into your residence hall room, like Dalhousie U. Stay at a relative’s and they get to join you in isolation, unless they have an entirely separate room available for you. But driving off to BC from AB apparently warrants no more checks than the reverse, which all adds up to none. Pretty lax.

    I haven’t read any public comment on Postmedia or any other site which favours kenney, yer straight-shootin’ cowboy hipster premier, or the dumbos he relies on to dutifully pass his unconstitutional bills in the legislature, or VIP bureaucrats whose specialty is conducting an essential Timmy’s run every day in the forenoon. But the negative din is ever increasing, so ears-out kenney may suddenly experience an epiphany of biblical survival proportion and on second thought, jettison the more egregious travelling dopes and demote the rest. Well, stranger things have happened, darn it! UFOs for example.

    1. So my 3 am Edmonton time post above that kenney may have second thoughts came true. He has accepted seven “resignations”. Now all he needs to do is accept his own.

  2. it could be true that the MLA for Calgary Northwest is the MLA for Calgary Kelowna. lots of Alberta Plates in Kelowna permanently.

  3. With the recent exception of Tany Yao, it is noteworthy that all of the travelling MLAs are rookies. As such, the only political mentor they have had has been Jason Kenney. So how did these people get the idea they could do as they wanted? Consider what they have watched their mentor do.

    Right from Jason Kenney’s arrival on the provincial politics scene he has acted like he is above the rules. Remember the illegal hospitality suite he hosted during a delegate selection meeting during the PC leadership campaign? How about Jeff Calloway’s kamikaze UPC leadership campaign? Even passing out ear plugs to his MLAs in the legislature was an indicator of how he felt he could do whatever he wanted. All of these things happened before his government was elected.

    Once elected the Kenney government has passed unconstitutional laws and torn up the contract with the province’s doctors. Is it any wonder Kenney’s rookie MLAs think they can do whatever they want?

  4. Let alone lying, denying and fudging the truth re: these ‘trips,’ there is the matter of the big babies having to be told about the right thing to do by Pappy Jason. This Travelgate Scandal could well be another ‘$16 dollar glass of orange juice.’
    With regard for the UCP MLA Savage’s holiday home in the Okanagan Valley, one could assume she supported the UCP cuts to AISH. Along with this, and the unethical aspect of these ‘trips,’ one would wonder, “what would Jesus say?”
    I don’t think they give a rats. The whole rotten UCP bunch should be given the boot.

  5. I wonder if my experience with dealing with misbehaving junior high students gives me insight into Tany Yao’s ‘disappearance’.

    So, Mr. Yao’s staff phones him in Mexico and tells him he needs to come back home, and nothing has happened to all the other MLAs that travelled and came home. Any junior high student with an inclination to misbehave knows that the thing to do is push things a little farther and see if he/she gets away with that too. Thus Mr. Yao tells his staff to report that they are unable to reach him.

    Your move Mr. Kenney.

  6. Leadership is simply the ability to influence, and subordinates look to their leaders and will emulate their behaviors .

  7. It should be called the Ron Liepert School of Excuses now when any MLA/MP/any public office
    holder insists that they have broken the spirit of pandemic rules to go do (vacation) home maintenance in any place known as a vacation destination. We could also call it the Calgary School, as a nod to architectural style like Bauhaus.

    As for what we peasants without vacation homes consider home maintenance, I doubt very much that Mr. Liepert was up on a ladder painting the ceiling of his kitchen, or laying tile, or ripping out carpet (which is hardly an emergency). Same goes for Ms. Savage with the plumbing issue. Did her days away happen to be December 24th through 26th? We all know that people with the finances to own vacation homes that sit idle for extended periods of time must have people to look after them for insurance purposes. They’re called “property managers”.

    I doubt very much that these folks have roofers on deck shovelling snow and ripping off old shingles at the moment, as has become a regular winter activity in some parts of Calgary this year. Now that is what I call essential home maintenance. Are you listening, Jason Kenney? Maybe get out of your mom’s basement once in a while and learn what is essential and what is not.

    So while it is possible that some dire emergency at one’s vacation properties might require intervention by the homeowner only, it also happens to be a most unprovable excuse. Honestly, Ms. Savage could use a hand from her reliable buddies in the War Room at the moment to distract us from this little situation.

    As for Tany Yao, he should get an award: Number One MIA MLA in world! Go Tany! Set record!

    For anyone other than the premier and MLAs, who seem to think the joke’s on us, here you go:


    The joke’s not very funny. Waiting to see how Dr. Deena Hinshaw spins this fiasco into something perfectly acceptable and reasonable tomorrow. “We all have a vacation home or two and we all take Hawaiian holidays at Christmas for 17 years in a row. Be kind. We are all in this together.”

    1. There’s already a Calgary School of economics (as seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calgary_School). Why not a Calgary School of politics as well? Oh wait, that’s a thing already–Preston Manning started it but they took his name off it, didn’t they? We could have a Calgary School of Excuses, but that’s a bit too blatant. What’s a good euphemism for “dumbass excuse”?

      Dominic Cummings and his apologist Boris Johnson have become the textbook case for how NOT to handle public relations. Tany Yao isn’t really in the running, but unless he dropped his smartphone in the ocean, he’s got a LOT of explaining to do….

      This bring to seven the UCP MLAs out of province over Christmas. Two more wayward politicians elsewhere in Canada brings it to thirteen (unless I’m mistaken). Does anyone think it’s a coincidence that so many are from Oilberduh?

    2. Well said,
      leadership is the key.
      It’s that simple, wars have been won with it.

      Thank You for writing.

  8. I think, given how many of the UCP MLAs traveled, that the only thing Jason Kenney did not explicitly tell them is not to brag or post pictures on social media.

  9. It would be very interesting to know if any of the folks, or others in the cabinet, were given priority for covid vaccinations before leaving on vacation.

  10. I do understand that being in politics can sometimes be a bit like herding cats. Well it seems like some of the cats are still missing from the herd and Kenney’s cat wranglers are having a hard time tracking them down. It is possible Mr. Yao is blissfully unaware of the crap hitting the fan back in Alberta and taking that self help advise about not reading e-mails and answering calls while on vacation very seriously. After all, what is big Canadian news does not get much coverage in Mexico and he could be caught up watching telenovellas in his hotel room, while not relaxing on the beach. On the other hand, it is also possible he is aware and has just decided he wants to enjoy a few more days in the sun before going back for a ritual tongue lashing. Perhaps he is actually aware enough of what is going on to have figured out it is unlikely he will get actually get fired or removed from anything, if he puts together a half heartfelt apology.

    The situation for Ms. Savage is a bit different, although I am not sure if at this point it doesn’t just add more fuel to this controversy. At least she was still in Canada, perhaps she was even able to drive to her destination. If she wasn’t visiting others and made no stops say at ski hills along the way, such an auto trip might be considered fairly responsible. Maybe she even had a good excuse, essential maintenance sounds like it could be legitimate. Of course, the UCP communications on all of this are a bit opaque, so who really knows. They just can’t seem to help themselves, even in a situation when they might have a more defensible position. Although I suppose if they took that approach, it would only highlight how indefensible many of the other situations were. Mariachi band anyone?

    I do think you are right, it is probably well past the point where the UCP should just rip off the bandage and do a full roll call, or if they have already done so which I think is likely, just announce it to the public. The drip, drip, drip of this is probably worse than whatever still remains to be revealed. A few resignations might also help quell the rising public discontent, although I think it will require more than one at this point, which might be quite inconvenient and uncomfortable for the Premier. This is probably a big reason why it hasn’t happened yet and Premier Kenney is gone into a hidey hole (presumably still somewhere in Alberta).

  11. The Angry Midget’s tantrum will become known as the Monday Morning Massacre.

    As Moses did, Kenney divided his flock into the obedient and the idol-worshippers. Thus, the Idol-worshippers were cast into the wilderness, so the the Children of the UCP shall remain pure.

    But will this action change anything? Nada.

    Kenney’s cult of personality is not strong, given the behaviour of his gang of idiots. In anything, it’s Kenney who encouraged this nonsense and likely rewarded this sort of behaviour, when it suited partisan interests.

    If these were the most competent people to hold these these position, there can be no doubt that the next group coming in represents the stunning devolution of the UCP government.

    I am hoping for more scandals to keep the cull going.

  12. So I see no wrists will be slapped for the UCP offenders who went out of the province, but did not leave the country. It’s still okay to break any inconvenient rules you don’t like, but only if you are in the UCP elite, and only if you break them just a little bit, and don’t get caught. Some UCP VIPs must be very relieved.

    As for the millions of ordinary people in this province, sure there is a tremendous amount of mixed messaging, but you are still subject to onerous fines and other consequences for breaking the rules, and especially that one about playing shinny. Don’t even think of it.

    Now let it go, let it go…

    (Is it over, Elsa?The Ice Palace is melting.)

  13. Bottom line for me…..Jason Kenney has proven himself to be an incredibly weak leader and a very poor liar.

    Albertans deserve more than this.

    1. Actually they don’t. Albertans are getting exactly what they voted for … and deserve.

    2. This is exactly what they deserve. Albertans are getting what they voted for … and deserve.

  14. Presenting receipts for parts and labor could be proof essential maintenance.

    A few loose parliamentary responsibilities for travelling to other countries whilst travel to other provinces is acceptable for others? He is dividing his own pack of shameless aberrants. It must be a tough at the top continually looking over his shoulder.

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