A Progressive Conservative backbench MLA and a second senior adviser to Brian Pallister travelled outside of Manitoba during the Christmas holidays contrary to the urgings of the premier and public-health officials.
Radisson MLA James Teitsma and his family went on a driving trip to British Columbia Dec. 21-30, a PC caucus spokeswoman said in an email Monday, adding that they "did not socialize with anyone outside their immediate household." The family stayed in hotels and did not visit anyone, she said.
Meanwhile, the province's director of strategic communications and marketing, Logan-Theanna Ross, travelled to Eastern Canada over the holiday season, a government spokeswoman confirmed. The political staffer, who earns $105,781 per year, was required to self-isolate for two weeks upon her return.
The Free Press previously revealed that the province's top civil servant, David McLaughlin, spent the last two weeks of 2020 working from his Ottawa home.
Opposition politicians decried the hypocrisy of a government legislator and senior staff travelling at a time when ordinary Manitobans were being told not to visit or share meals with extended families during the holidays.
“It’s completely inappropriate. He’s completely ignoring what public-health officials and the premier are publicly saying.”
‐ Liberal leader Dougald Lamont
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont described Teitsma's vacation trip as "mind-boggling" and "reckless."
"It’s completely inappropriate. He’s completely ignoring what public-health officials and the premier are publicly saying," Lamont said.
The fact that two senior government officials, in McLaughlin and Ross, are also flouting provincial edicts is "absolutely outrageous," he said.
"These are people who are... working with the premier on a daily basis, talking about messaging for the pandemic and telling people what to do. And they are telling people to do one thing while not doing it themselves," Lamont said.
The Liberal leader said Pallister had to be aware that his senior staff were travelling against the government's advice, "so he's making special exceptions for the people around him."
Pallister's spokeswoman was asked for the premier's reaction to Teitsma's decision to travel, but the Free Press received no response before Monday's deadline.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said news that Pallister's senior advisers and an MLA were travelling outside the province while Manitobans hunkered down in their homes over the holidays is "pretty tough for people to take."
"I think it’s very frustrating when you hear about people who decided that (the government's guidelines) didn’t apply to them," Kinew said.
The fact that the government's top civil servant, tasked with overseeing the government's COVID-19 vaccination rollout, was away from Winnipeg for weeks at a critical time is especially troubling, he said.
"For (McLaughlin) to be ignoring (chief provincial public health officer) Dr. (Brent) Roussin’s advice on a personal level, to me, begs the question, 'Is he going to follow Dr. Roussin’s advice on the public-health level?'" he said.
"I think it’s very frustrating when you hear about people who decided that (the government's guidelines) didn’t apply to them.”
‐ NDP leader Wab Kinew
Kinew said none of his party's 18 MLAs have travelled outside of the province during the code-red coronavirus restrictions that have been in effect since mid-November.
Going back to Sept. 1, the NDP says none of its MLAs has travelled out of province on vacation. However, three left the province for personal reasons.
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Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and all 15 councillors say they have not left Canada since Manitoba declared its COVID-19 state of emergency on March 20.
Councillor Shawn Nason visited an eastern province in the summer, but says he did a full 14-day isolation upon his return.
Councillor Scott Gillingham went to Rushing River Provincial Park in northern Ontario as well as Saskatchewan in July and August, but neither region fall under the provincial requirements to isolate.
Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsey, who lives near the Saskatchewan border, travelled to neighbouring Creighton, Sask., where several essential services are located. Point Douglas MLA Bernadette Smith spent three September days in Terrace, B.C., where she helped a local Friendship Centre develop a toolkit for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. And Kinew travelled to his home reserve, Onigaming First Nation in Lake of the Woods, Ont., for two-day trips and a weekend in October to repair a roof on his home.
While the Free Press asked all parties Monday to account for any out-of-province travel by MLAs since Sept. 1, the Tories' response was confined to the period since the code-red restrictions took effect on Nov. 12. Apart from Teitsma, the Progressive Conservatives said, none of its caucus members has travelled outside of the province since then.
Cindy Lamoureux, Liberal member for Tyndall Park, says she took a personal trip to an isolated cabin at Lake of Two Mountains, just inside the Ontario border, Sept. 12-13. She said she travelled by car and did not make any stops along the way. She said she was following public-health rules in force at that time.
Neither of the two other Liberal MLAs took trips outside of Manitoba since Sept. 1, the party said.
Larry Kusch Legislature reporter
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Travel during the holiday season discouraged by Roussin, Pallister
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer, urged Manitobans on Dec. 10 not to travel — either within or outside the province — to avoid another spike of COVID-19 cases and further strain health resources.
"Hanukkah starts today, and Christmas is getting closer, and many are starting to think of their holiday plans. I want to again be clear with our messaging that everyone should celebrate with members of their household only," he said.
"I know that’s very difficult. It’s difficult at any time, but it’s especially difficult during the holiday season.... We need to not let our guard down this holiday season."
Roussin on Twitter
Nov. 25 - I am asking Manitobans to avoid non-essential travel and to not drive out-of-province to holiday shop. I am asking you to #StayHome to stop the spread of #COVID19.
Dec. 21 - No one wants to have these #Covid19MB restrictions in place over the holidays. But Manitoba is still in a critical time and we must continue to protect the most vulnerable and the health care system. My message remains clear: #StayHome and only go out for essentials reasons.
Dec. 22 - Please do not plan or attend in-person gatherings for the holidays with anyone from outside your household. Stay #SafeAtHomeMB by connecting through virtual means with family and friends.
Dec. 28 - Now is not the time to gather with others from outside your household. Stay #SafeAtHomeMB during the holidays and connect with others via phone or virtually. #StaySafe
Premier Brian Pallister
At a Dec. 3 press conference, Brian Pallister said he was Canada's most unpopular premier because he's been telling people not to shop or travel or go to church or visit friends.
"I'm that guy. And I totally get that you don't like that. I don't like saying it, but it's got to be said. I'm the one who took on this job to say it."
Pallister tweeted that people should stay home, including:
Dec. 18 - I look forward to the day we can all celebrate together, in person again. But in the meantime, stay #SafeAtHomeMB and join me and my colleagues @ 6PM tonight for our virtual holiday show! All the best to you and yours
Dec. 24 - Wishing you and yours a safe #Christmas. Stay home, stay safe. #ProtectingManitobans
Dec. 25 - Stay home, stay safe, and save lives. All the best to you and yours this #Christmas