NDP MP Niki Ashton stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, April 26, 2018. The federal NDP say Ashton will be removed from her shadow critic roles after she travelled to Greece to visit an ill family member. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

NDP strip Niki Ashton of critic roles after recent trip to Greece

A prominent member of the federal New Democrats has lost her cabinet critic positions after travelling to Greece in spite of widespread travel restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The party released a statement saying Manitoba member of Parliament Niki Ashton travelled to Greece recently to visit a family member who was seriously ill.

It says Greek officials, who currently only permit visitors to enter the country if they can prove their trip is essential, approved Ashton’s visit.

The NDP says Ashton reached out to Canadian officials for “best practices,” but did not notify leader Jagmeet Singh or the party whip of her travel plans.

The statement says party members sympathize with Ashton’s situation, but notes millions of Canadians adhered to public health guidelines under similarly pressing circumstances.

Ashton did not immediately respond to request for comment on the loss of her critic roles, but she says on Twitter that she is in Greece to visit her sick grandmother.

“Canadians, rightfully, expect their elected representatives to lead b example,” the statement reads. “While this is no family vacation, Ms. Ashton will be removed from her shadow critic roles.”

The party said the portfolios Ashton oversaw will be reassigned in the coming days.

Ashton is the latest senior politician to face consequences for flouting advice to stay home during a global pandemic.

Rod Phillips resigned from his former role as Ontario finance minister on Thursday after travelling to the Caribbean over the holiday season.

Several members of Alberta’s United Conservative government, including Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and Premier Jason Kenney’s chief of staff, were also revealed to have travelled in recent weeks.

The trips prompted Kenney to issue a directive forbidding senior government players from travelling outside Canada during the pandemic. He said he ought to have issued such a directive sooner, but said those who took trips before Friday’s announcement will not be sanctioned as they did not violate any rules and followed safety guidelines.

Allard later apologized for taking the trip.

In Saskatchewan, Highways Minister Joe Hargrave apologized for travelling with his wife to Palm Springs, Calif., to complete the sale of a home. And in Quebec, Liberal assembly member Pierre Arcand was facing heat for a trip with his wife to Barbados.

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