Alberta Politics
Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard at a recent news conference (Photo: Office of the Premier of Alberta).

Political New Year’s fireworks go off as Alberta learns Tracy Allard, minister responsible for vaccine rollout, is just back from Hawaiian vacation

Posted on January 01, 2021, 2:01 am
10 mins

Happy New Year, Alberta!

And welcome to the first United Conservative Party Government scandal of 2021: Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard has been caught vacationing in Hawaii, mid-pandemic. 

Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf shows a copy of yesterday’s edition of his local newspaper in a video posted to Facebook this morning (Photo: Screenshot of Facebook video).

Even before the New Year’s fireworks started going off last night, the CBC had reported that Ms. Allard, MLA for Grande Prairie and the minister responsible for Alberta’s shambolic COVID-19 vaccine rollout, returned the day before yesterday from a family vacation somewhere in the Hawaiian Isles.

Needless to say, the optics for a government that’s been telling Albertans to sacrifice and not even visit their loved ones here in Alberta, let alone take off for a foreign vacation in the sun, are ugly. The federal government has advised all Canadians not to engage in non-essential travel abroad until further notice.

Alberta’s New Democratic Party Opposition immediately called for Ms. Allard’s resignation. “Serious mistakes have been made with our only long-term weapon against the COVID-19 virus and it turns out the minister responsible for the rollout of the program was vacationing in Hawaii,” Opposition Municipal Affairs Critic Joe Ceci in a news release.

“Minister Allard is in charge of emergency management,” Mr. Ceci said. “She has made an unforgivable error and must resign her position immediately.”

This puts Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in an interesting position. A man not inclined to take the NDP’s advice on anything has before him today the example of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who yesterday fired his finance minister for the same offence. Alert readers will recall that Mr. Kenney and Mr. Ford used to boast that they were so much alike they could finish each other’s sentences. 

Former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips marked New Year’s Eve by “resigning” in disgrace hours after returning from his ill-considered sojourn in Saint Barthélemy, the semi-autonomous French collectivité d’outre-mer in the Caribbean. 

The problem was the same as with Ms. Allard’s December vaycay in Hawaii: It was smack in the middle of the second wave of a deadly pandemic that has resulted in the governments both ministers served locking down normal activities and strongly discouraging travel. 

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen on the ice in his central Alberta riding (Photo: Screenshot of Facebook post).

Such vacations reek of privilege and entitlement and Mr. Ford at least obviously realized that Mr. Phillips had to go. It remains to be seen what Mr. Kenney will do. 

Notwithstanding the use of the word resigned, Mr. Phillips was clearly sacked. After all, upon arrival at Toronto’s Pearson Airport yesterday he said he really would prefer to keep his job. Then he had a chat with Mr. Ford. Then he resigned. It doesn’t require psychic powers to figure out what happened. 

Mr. Ford is reported to have known about where his finance minister was holidaying for weeks and didn’t order him back. So Mr. Phillips may have felt he had the premier’s blessing.

It’s not yet known if Mr. Kenney knew about Ms. Allard’s Hawaiian vacation location, or those of other UCP senior staffers and possibly another MLA or two, if Wednesday’s buzz on social media is to be believed. 

Mr. Kenney’s press secretary wasn’t returning media calls and emails yesterday, presumably while the UCP communications brain trust, those of them that aren’t in Hawaii themselves, figures out how to respond. 

Former Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips (Photo: Larryssa WH, Creative Commons).

It also appeared that Ontario’s Mr. Phillips – or perhaps someone on his staff – had been posting tweets that pretended he was still in Ontario while he was soaking up the sun and vin rouge on Saint Barts. There was a fake Queen’s Park backdrop used in Zoom meeting to pretend he was in Toronto, and a pre-recorded Christmas video of the minister at home in his Ajax Riding, east of Toronto. 

For her part, Ms. Allard has already had COVID-19 and recovered, and the behind-schedule vaccine rollout is in the hands of her deputy minister, former Canadian Forces Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, so perhaps she thought she was good to go, her duties notwithstanding. 

Alberta’s vaccination program stumbled before it was out of the starting gate with fewer than half of the promised December 2020 inoculations completed by yesterday. Alberta is last in Confederation for per capita vaccinations.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who will be looking for a new finance minister today (Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr).

Mr. Ford at least seems to have realized that if Mr. Phillips’ head hadn’t rolled, his own might have been on the block in the next Ontario provincial election, which must be held before June 2, 2022. One imagines memories of the great COVID-19 pandemic will still be fresh in many voters’ memories when that date rolls around. 

Out here in Wild Rose Country, however, the next Alberta general election isn’t scheduled until the spring of 2023, and Mr. Kenney is the kind of politician who will be smugly confident he can come up with a way to defeat the NDP by then, notwithstanding the Opposition party’s recent strong polls.

Just the same, a couple of UCP MLAs appeared to be making an effort to show they were at home while the coronavirus was hitting the fan. 

Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf, who had been the subject of Internet rumours he was in Hawaii, published not one but two posts on his Facebook page yesterday asserting his presence in his southern Alberta riding. 

NDP Opposition Municipal Affairs Critic Joe Ceci (Photo : David J. Climenhaga).

“While it may not be a tropical paradise, the above-zero temperatures we have been having here in Lethbridge has been a welcome treat,” he said in one published yesterday morning. “Last night, my wife and I walked around Henderson Lake enjoying the beautiful winter lights of the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens.”

In a video posted in the afternoon, he held up a copy of yesterday’s edition of the Lethbridge newspaper and said, “like the Herald says today, stay six feet away from social media.” 

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen posted a video of himself skating and clearing snow off the ice. The Facebook post appears to have included for a while a location tag to Saint Barts – perhaps the sort of joke that would appeal to a person most famous for showing up in a MAGA Cap at a Donald Trump post-election celebration in 2016. If so, it was in remarkably bad taste, given the circumstances. 

Still, if the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, the odds are good no one in Premier Jason Kenney’s circle will have to pay a very high price for what got Ontario’s Mr. Phillips sent to Coventry. 

Readers will remember the case of Mr. Kenney’s former speechwriter, Paul Bunner, who was accused of racist, sexist and homophobic commentary in old articles that resurfaced last spring. Mr. Kenney defended him in print and kept him around for months before he conveniently retired at 65 last fall. 

And as far as anyone knows, John Carpay, the premier’s long-time friend and ally who notoriously compared the rainbow Pride Flag to the red and black swastika banner of Nazi Germany, also remains a member of the UCP. 

21 Comments to: Political New Year’s fireworks go off as Alberta learns Tracy Allard, minister responsible for vaccine rollout, is just back from Hawaiian vacation

  1. Anonymous

    January 1st, 2021

    This isn’t a surprise, is it? Also, another UCP MLA was vacationing in sunny Mexico, and telling Albertans to abide by the Covid-19 guidelines, during the pandemic. Again, as usual, there isn’t anything about this in Postmedia owned newspapers. Not that I could see. One of these vacationing UCP MLAs was also not wearing a mask, during a government meeting. The UCP laid off a multitude of educational support workers, earlier last year. The UCP were treating doctors in Alberta with contempt. The UCP didn’t listen to doctors, and what the doctors were suggesting be done to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Albertans couldn’t have a proper Christmas with their families and their loved ones. The premier of Alberta was not coming down hard on the anti mask rallies in Calgary. Openings of things weren’t very clear, nor were they balanced. The UCP flat out rejected a motion by NDP MLA, David Shepherd, that Dr. Deena Hinshaw be independent. Miranda Rosin, a UCP MLA, gave out newsletters to her constituents in November, stating that the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta is behind us. The UCP also didn’t cooperate with the federal government, on the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta. They didn’t want the federal government’s tracing app, and said it was flawed. Alberta is the only province in Canada without province wide mask legislation. It’s up to the municipalities to deal with that. The UCP have done a botch job of handling the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta. As it stands, Alberta leads the country with the per capita rate of people with Covid-19. It’s not going to get better. I hope you have a Happy New Year.

    Reply
  2. Dave

    January 1st, 2021

    New Year, same old stuff … at least so far. I agree it is unlikely that Mr. Kenney will fire the Minister here. Being Kenney or the UCP seems to involve generally not saying you’re sorry. While it was hidden for a while, I believe there also is a deep sense of entitlement, likely inherited from one of its predecessor parties, that is becoming increasingly evident for all to see in the UCP.

    No, Mr. Kenney is no Doug Ford, who isn’t quite out of the woods yet because he knew where his wayward minister was for quite a while. Although I suspect the voters will eventually forget or forgive Ford now that the Minister for St. Barts has been resigned. If there was any doubt Mr. Ford would do that, yesterday’s column in the Globe and Mail predicting Phillips would keep his job should have been a sign. Mr. Ford has his flaws, but as a rule, I doubt he generally takes advise from the Globe and Mail that seriously. In this case, that is probably a good thing.

    Meanwhile back in Alberta, expect Mr. Kenney to do nothing, while the local mainstream media further erodes their credibility by pretending nothing bad really happened here, or trying to greatly downplay it.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Ford despite all his flaws gets re-elected in a couple years. Mr. Phillips might get a second chance too after an appropriate time on the back benches, but will probably be more careful with travel plans in the future. Also, I expect Mr. Kenney will get what he deserves in the next election, whether the local papers continue to try cover for him or not.

    Reply
  3. Kang

    January 1st, 2021

    Perhaps Dreeshen-the-younger’s tag linking what looks to be a picture of Pine Lake to St. Barts is aspirational. Who knows, with the human caused global climate catastrophe his mentors are pushing, the sub-arctic Pine Lake may well become another St. Barts in the future. More likely it will revert to the slough of toxic algae, sludge, and cattle urine his more socialist neighbours spent so much volunteer effort, and government money to fix before Mr. Dreeshen was out of diapers.

    Reply
  4. ronmac

    January 1st, 2021

    Ironically, fleeing COVID-filled lands in the frozen north for sunny beaches in the south may be the most responsible thing a politician can do. They can claim with some justification they are building up stores of Vitamin D which could stop COVID in its tracks.

    Perhaps some thought should be given to relocating all essential government apparatuses to Bermuda or Barbados during pandemics and carry on from there. Wasn’t Canada trying to buy some island in the Caribbean a few years ago. Now would be a good time to do so.

    Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    January 1st, 2021

    Interesting that Nathan Neudorf would respond to Andrew Leach’s challenge and post a photo of himself with yesterday’s newspaper in his riding. I assumed his Controller, Jason Kenney, would have directed all of his minions not to respond. Now that one has, that does put pressure on the rest.

    Reply
  6. Athabascan

    January 1st, 2021

    How many more UCP MLAs and Ministers fled Alberta during the Xmas break? Why are their whereabouts being covered up by Kenney?

    The thing that makes it so egregious in this case is that Allard is in charge of COVID vaccine rollout. It’s outrageous that she should be away from the job while we are in a foot race to vaccinate as many Albertans as possible.

    In 15 days, which is half a month, Alberta has only vaccinated 11,000 people. At that rate we will all die of COVID before we are vaccinated. The population of Alberta is about 4.1 million. We will never get this done by the end of 2021, or 2022.

    Alberta is categorically the worst province to live in with the worst provincial government in Canada. Our lives are literally in the hands of Kenney, which is terrifying.

    Reply
  7. David in Sask

    January 1st, 2021

    Here in Saskatchewan we have our own minister who reportedly owns a house in Palm Springs who says he went there to complete the sale of the property during the Christmas break. One wonders if the Leader Post will ask him if the sale was completed while he was in sunny southern California. Or if it had even been offered for sale. Premier Moe knew about the trip and presumably gave it his okay if not his blessing.

    That’s 3 conservative ministers violating provincial lockdown rules that apply to the rest of us at least.

    Reply
  8. Scotty on Denman

    January 1st, 2021

    My, we live in interesting times! Thank you, DJC, for putting interesting Alberta together for us outliers. All the best for 2021—more interesting times can hardly be imagined without your reportage.

    Reply
  9. Abs

    January 1st, 2021

    While Ms. Allard was away, the Covid vaccination plan was proceeding at the rate of an escargot, or whatever the elite class of Albertans in the UCP caucus eat when they’re living the high life on foreign shores during a state of emergency. At this rate, everyone should be inoculated in –checks watch — 10 years or so. Whose idea was it to put Auntie Covid in charge of this plan anyways? Oh, right, Jason Kenney. How’s that working out for you, Jason? Rhetorical.

    We all know he’ll say everything’s fine, while the flames of the UCP dumpster fire lick at his feet. Pour another drink, Jay-dog. Let’s get this Covid house party started.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 1st, 2021

      An escargot, eh? Moving at the speed of the restaurant business? DJC

      Reply
  10. Abs

    January 1st, 2021

    Now the premier’s press conference that was delayed multiple times this morning until the afternoon, all the while keeping national news waiting, has finally, interminably, gone to air.

    Tut-tut. Other people leave the country, and the airlines are still flying, and the risk of Covid transmission in airplanes is “almost negligible”, so if Ms. Allard, the cabinet minister in charge of emergency management, chose to leave the country during Alberta’s state of emergency and the snail’s pace vaccine rollout that she is responsible for, well, we should LET IT GO! It wasn’t illegal was it, so LET IT GOOO!

    Elsa from Frozen has spoken and he is so over all this. The Sky Palace is now an Ice Palace. There are too many MLAs and staff members who went on vacays to reprimand and force to resign. Who would be left in caucus and support roles at the legislature if they all resigned? Well, the opposition NDP, that’s who.

    Whatever you do, don’t dare play shinny at the local outdoor hockey rink. Stay home and stop the spread, or vacation overseas like UCP cabinet ministers, MLAs and support staff — your choice. So what if you had to sacrifice your lives and livelihoods for the greater good? Suck it up, Alberta, and head to Maui.

    Reply
  11. Lars

    January 1st, 2021

    Happy New Year, David.

    Reply
  12. Jim

    January 1st, 2021

    So has anyone seen Kenney in Alberta recently?

    Reply
  13. DG Jacks

    January 1st, 2021

    David- minor geographic error. St. Barth, the island where Rod Phillips was on holiday, is in the northeastern Caribbean, next to St. Martin and St. Kitts.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 1st, 2021

      Many thanks. I’ve fixed it, I think, by removing the directional indicator. I did briefly check it on the map last night, but I think I generously gave a goodly portion of the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean. DJC

      Reply
  14. Bob Raynard

    January 1st, 2021

    This BFNS (Bob’s Fantasytastical News Service) story says it best:

    J A S O N K E N N E Y

    APOLOGIZES FOR POOR COMMUNICATION

    REGARDING CABINET MINISTER’S HAWAIIAN VACATION

    Jason Kenney announced today that he will not be sanctioning Tracy Allard, his cabinet minister who went on an Hawaiian vacation over the Christmas holiday, as he was unclear in his communications to his MLAs, and no laws were broken.

    In an exclusive interview with BFNS, Mr. Kenney acknowledged that at first glance, ‘no laws were broken’ may appear to be a pretty low standard to set but, “it also isn’t fair for me to hold my MLAs to a higher standard than what I set for myself, and from my own experience, ‘no laws were broken’ isn’t as easy a target to reach as first appears.”

    When asked if his MLAs should need direction from him on foreign travel when the government’s website spells things out pretty clearly, Mr. Kenney offered a much more thorough explanation:

    “You have to understand that all of the UCP MLAs were handpicked by me based primarily on their willingness to follow my directives unconditionally. They were chosen especially because they have no ability to think for themselves.” Mr. Kenney then added that he intends to pass a law in the upcoming spring session that would require Alberta based websites to only place ads to the right of news stories, as people are confusing the photos of virtual mates in the body of news stories with actual UCP cabinet ministers.

    As the interview progressed, Premier Kenney did acknowledge that the whole MLA/staff travel has been an unnecessarily difficult PR issue for him to deal with. “We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on press secretaries to deal with this, but unfortunately they are all out of the country”. As a result, he has dealt with it himself. Mr. Kenney also mentioned that he will be holding a press conference this Tuesday, at 2 PM, at which time he will sign a chloroplast plaque promising that no MLAs will vacation out of the country until the pandemic is over.

    When asked about his own location for this interview, Premier Kenney insisted he was not in Hawaii. “In fact”, he added, referring to the traditional Hawaiian welcome of putting a ring of flowers around the neck of newly arrived guests, “I’ve never been leied in my entire life.” He then tried to add another comment but a mariachi band broke out in song, and his comment could not be understood.

    Reply
  15. Just Me

    January 1st, 2021

    Being an Angry Midget means you never having to say your sorry.

    Reply
  16. Kel

    January 2nd, 2021

    I,m getting a little tired of these screw ups being passed off as ‘mistakes’. These are not mistakes, they knew what they were doing and went ahead and did it. They weighed the consequences if they were caught, and obviously decided things were lax enough in Kennys office that they could get away with it. In the meantime I can’t even get out for a haircut.

    Reply
  17. Ruth Kletke

    January 3rd, 2021

    Ms. Allard & Mr. Phillips thought that ‘strongly discouraging travel’ doesn’t mean NO….
    And if, as the article states, Ms Allard may have thought she was ‘go to go’ bc she had Covid already
    and was better…surely she didn’t go alone…maybe family members were carriers

    Reply

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