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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s UCP caucus ordered not to travel internationally over the holidays


‘I understand that this directive may impact family members and holiday plans, but we must show leadership as we learn more about the Omicron variant’

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Alberta’s United Conservative Party caucus has been forbidden from travelling abroad this holiday season.

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The directive comes just one week after provincial legislators were told international travel would be fine, and implores them to show leadership and stay within Canada.

“I am directing that Members of Government caucus will not be permitted to travel internationally at this time,” says the email from Whitney Issik, the chief government whip, which was sent to legislators and obtained by the National Post. “I understand that this directive may impact family members and holiday plans, but we must show leadership as we learn more about the Omicron variant.”

The directive comes a year after several UCP MLAs took vacations over the Christmas break, sparking outrage across Alberta in what became a significant scandal for Premier Jason Kenney’s government.

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Last Friday, another letter had told members of the government caucus there were no advisories against out-of-province and out-of-country travel. “The public health context is materially different than a year ago,” the letter said.

Yet, within a week, the reality has changed.

The rapidly changing situation regarding the Omicron variant has governments around the world scrambling to respond.

Some provinces have strengthened COVID-19 restrictions, Ontario and Alberta are scrambling to distribute rapid test kits, and the federal government has asked people to avoid non-essential travel abroad.

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“To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly — now is not the time to travel. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant on a global scale makes us fear the worst,” said federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos this week.

The Post reached out to the UCP caucus, seeking information on whether or not any members had already left Canada and, if there were any, if they would be asked to return to the country immediately. The party did not respond before deadline.

In the early days of 2021, international travel became a major scandal dubbed “Alohagate” after one of Kenney’s senior government ministers, several members of caucus and a group of staffers travelled abroad.

“I think they made a mistake,” Kenney said at the time.

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Tracy Allard, who was the minister of municipal affairs, had voyaged to Hawaii. She lost her cabinet post as a result. Jeremy Nixon lost his position as a parliamentary secretary, Jason Stephan resigned from a role with the Treasury Board, and three other MLAs, Tanya Fir, Pat Rehn and Tany Yao lost roles on legislature committees.

Kenney, in a statement, said Albertans were right to be mad that some politicians had travelled out of the country, and said he had been insufficiently clear with members of the government caucus about whether or not they were allowed to travel.

The Alberta New Democrats said nobody in their caucus had left the country over the holiday season.

Donna Christensen, a spokesperson with the NDP caucus, said all MLAs are currently in the country. “No one is travelling,” she wrote in an email Friday.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley tweeted that “several MLAs have trips that they have postponed,” and that NDP MLAs would not be travelling, given the federal advisory.

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