Aloha, Allard: Constituents greet Alberta minister from Hawaii; another MLA confirmed to be travelling
EDMONTON -- A minister who vacationed in Hawaii against the advice of her own government to stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19 is returning to a number of voters upset over the hypocrisy.
A sign hung over the weekend in front of Tracy Allard's constituency office reads, "Welcome Home. #AlohaAllard."
Allard, the United Conservative government's minister of municipal affairs and Grande Prairie MLA, left for a family vacation in Hawaii on Dec. 19.
In response to backlash, she said the trip with her immediate family had been "fully compliant" with the province's health orders and that she had felt its border testing pilot offered a safe way to carry through with the tradition, but in retrospect, that she could see that it was "the wrong decision."
Grande Prairie resident Aaron Penson, who was part of the multi-partisan group that hung the sign at Allard's office, called it a "tongue-in-cheek" nod to Alberta's emphasis on personal accountability during the pandemic.
"Hopefully she's having a nice little quarantine after her great vacation," he told CTV News Edmonton.
EIGHT BECOMES NINE
Penson said it was infuriating how many Alberta government members and staff had travelled internationally during the holidays.
As of Saturday, the confirmed number was eight. It grew to nine on Sunday with confirmation from a government spokesperson that UCP Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao was currently in Mexico.
"We are attempting to contact him to advise him to return as per the premier's directive," Tim Gerwing told CTV News Edmonton, adding that was all the information his office had.
- READ MORE: 'A family tradition:' Alberta minister does not step down over Hawaii trip
- READ MORE: 'Slap in the face': Albertans react to news that at least 8 UCP staffers travelled internationally over Christmas
"The voice is pretty unifying that you know, whether you're left, right, centre, or Liberal, Conservative, Alberta Party or NDP, pretty across the spectrum, people are outraged by this. And I believe rightfully so," Penson said.
Leis adorned the two Christmas trees propped up in front of Allard's office in Grande Prairie. Some left Christmas cards for the minister, too.
Penson explained: "Tracy's excuse for this trip was that it was a family tradition of all things, so we took that opportunity to write in our cards what traditions we've all missed out on this year… what new ones we didn't create, what family we haven't seen."
Energy Minister Sonya Savage did leave Alberta in December, too, the premier's office confirmed Sunday. Spokesperson Christine Myatt told CTV News Edmonton the 72-hour trip was essential to check on a property after a water line replacement, "not part of a vacation trip."
Criticism has sprouted across the province.
Online, #ResignKenney trended on Twitter momentarily. In Calgary's Beltline neighbourhood, signs were hung that read "Mahalo COVID" and "Aloha COVID," featuring an United Conservative Party logo that had been edited to read, "Albertans Strong, Free & Dead" and "Sponsored by WestJet."
Country and folk musician Matt Masters was inspired to write a song titled "Allard Family Tradition."
"We're all down here suffering. You're all over there swimming. Something's broke because I didn't vote for Allard's family tradition," he sings.
During a press conference on Friday, Premier Jason Kenney said he was not aware any MLAs or ministers had travelled until Tuesday when asked by media.
Edson mayor Kevin Zahara said rural voters, some of whom voted blue in the last election, are upset, too, about the travel and lack of any punishment from the premier.
"I served in the PC government, the press secretary under Allison Redford. I know what the feeling is out there, and it's way worse than anything I've ever experienced before," he told CTV News Edmonton.
But he's doubtful Kenney didn't know of any of the travel plans, especially that of his chief of staff Jamie Huckabay, who recently returned from the U.K.
The effect of the scandal is bad for the party, he believes.
"There's tons of caucus members and cabinet members that have been doing the right things, and they're wearing this," Zahara commented. "I think that the response from the premier is a slap in their faces as much as it is to every other Albertan in this province."
On Friday, Kenney said the chief government whip had "strongly encouraged" members at the last caucus meeting before Christmas to stay in Canada, but "I regret not having issued a very clear directive against international travel."
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson