On Jan 1, 2021, Jason Kenney held a press conference to respond to the alarming news that some of his MLAs, political staff and senior government officials decided it was just fine to fly off to places like the UK, Mexico and Hawaii over the holidays notwithstanding the federal and provincial advisories against non-essential international travel.
Mr Kenney said this was okay because…wait for it…he failed to clearly communicate his expectation that they should comply with his government’s policy against non-essential international travel.
Here’s how he justified giving a pass to his traveling MLAs, political staff and senior government officers (let’s call them the Travelers).
On Dec 29 he learned MLA Tracy Allard was in the US and immediately asked her to return to Alberta. While she was away Allard continued to work answering the phone and participating in a virtual cabinet meeting.
Just to be clear, Ms Allard was in Hawaii celebrating Christmas. It’s a tradition she and her family have enjoyed for 17 years.
Allard is the vice-chair of Kenney’s covid committee, one would certainly hope that during her vacation she could squeeze in the occasional phone call and zoom meeting, particularly in light of the fact her colleague Health Minister Shandro failed to meet his promise to vaccinate 29,000 healthcare workers by the end of the year and AHS says it will not start vaccinating the general population until Fall 2021. That’s nine months from now.
He’s become aware that a few Travelers went abroad and is assured they complied with all relevant public health orders and legal requirements.
The issue isn’t whether the Travelers complied with public health orders and legal requirements, it’s whether their international travel was “essential travel” because the federal government and Kenney’s own government issued a global travel advisory telling Albertans to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.
Nevertheless, he recognizes that those in positions of public trust must maintain a higher standard in their conduct than is expected in the general population.
Yes, people in positions of public trust are expected to maintain a higher standard, however this is not a breach of a higher standard, it is a breach of the same standard that applies to all Albertans; namely no non-essential travel outside Canada during a pandemic. If we can comply, they can comply.
He takes responsibility for failing to clearly communicate a policy against international travel for senior decision makers in government.
Really? We’ve entrusted Kenney’s senior decision makers to get us through this pandemic. If they can’t understand a policy the rest of us can figure out by reading nine words on the government’s website, we’re doomed.
But, he’s not in the habit of tracking or regulating what the people who work for him do on their own time.
Interesting, because he’s fine with regulating what people who don’t work for him can do on their own time—he’s told them they must wear masks, maintain physical distancing and can’t have more than two singletons over for Christmas dinner.
Or maybe he’s just not in the habit of reading that little form MLAs fill out when they’re going to be away, the one Allard filled it out making Ric McIver her substitute.
Lastly, if Kenney really believes government should be run like a business, he should be aware that a CEO knows when his VPs are going on vacation and not once in my entire career in the private sector did a member of the management team go on vacation in the middle of a crisis. Not once.
He believes the Travelers acted in good faith and complied with the legal requirements…
Stop right there.
It doesn’t matter what Kenney believes. It doesn’t matter that the Travelers didn’t technically break the law. What matters is they refused to comply with a policy designed to limit the spread of covid.
…but he’s issuing a “clear directive” to MLAs, political staff and senior executives not to leave the country for the foreseeable future unless it is absolutely required for government-related business.
I see. The existing laws, public health orders, policies, and evidence of strain on the healthcare system and the economy, to say nothing of the rising death toll, isn’t enough to compel the MLAs and senior decision makers to act responsibly, but Kenney’s “clear directive” which simply repeats what the non-essential travel advisory says, will do the trick.
He takes responsibility for not being “absolutely clear” about the expectation there be no non-essential international travel, but he can’t sanction people who complied with the law and public health orders, and traveled safely.
In other words, it was simply a failure to communicate. Move along. Nothing to see here.
No, what we have here is not a failure to communicate; it’s a failure of leadership on the part of MLAs, political staff and senior government officials who chose not to comply with a government advisory against non-essential international travel.
And a colossal failure of leadership on the part of Jason Kenney who chose not to hold them to account for noncompliance with a policy designed to limit the risk of Albertans becoming sick and dying in a global pandemic.
Some of us believed there were no exceptions to compliance, no amount of status or privilege that suspended the rules.
On January 1, 2021 Jason Kenney proved us wrong.