A number of UCP MLAs and senior staffers have resigned from their positions after news broke that they had travelled outside the country over the holidays, despite repeated recommendations from the government and chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw to avoid all non-essential travel.
Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard, parliamentary secretary for civil society Jeremy Nixon, and treasury board member Jason Stephan resigned from their positions.
The Premier’s chief of staff Jamie Huckabay was asked to step down and did, and MLAs Tanya Fir, Pat Rehn, and Tany Yao have “lost their Legislature committee responsibilities” according to a Facebook statement made by Premier Jason Kenney.
“By travelling abroad over the holidays, these individuals demonstrated extremely poor judgment,” said Kenney.
Allard and Nixon both went to Hawaii, Rehn and Yao were in Mexico, Fir traveled to Las Vegas, Stephan to Arizona, and Huckabay to the United Kingdom.
The resignations come days after the premier became aware of the travel. On Friday, Kenney said he “had not been clear enough” with members of caucus and senior staff that they should not travel outside the country over the holidays.
Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson said it was unfortunate Allard had to step down. He worked closely with Allard on establishing a tax revenue solution from the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range for the Lakeland region, which was completed in late 2020.
“Tracy Allard is probably the best minister that I’ve worked with in a long time. And I would say, probably the best Municipal Affairs Minister we’ve had in over 10 years. So I’m very upset that we have to lose her, but politics is politics,” said Hanson.
Asked if he thought the premier’s response to the travel impacted the credibility of the government’s COVID-19 messaging, Hanson said it “absolutely makes it tougher.”
“We’re asking people to really restrict their movements and then, on the other hand, we have people that are kind of working their way around those issues. So I think it was time for the premier to step up and show some leadership by giving these penalties and I think that now we can move forward on it,” said Hanson.
Hanson said he was quite clear in relaying the message from constituents to the premier’s office over the last several days.
“There was a lot of frustration and anger. Everyone else has been home. They can’t visit their grandma at their house or have their kids over for Christmas dinner. And it seemed like it was a different set of rules for MLAs and Ministers, and that’s not the way it should be,” said Hanson.
Asked how he had spent Christmas, Hanson said it was a quiet one at home in Owlseye with his wife Donna.
Transportation Minister Ric McIver will serve as interim municipal affairs minister, and principal secretary Larry Kaumeyer will serve as interim chief of staff, Kenney said.