Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan has resigned from the government’s Treasury Board in the wake of his much-criticized decision to vacation in Arizona over the holidays.
Premier Jason Kenney announced on Twitter early Monday afternoon that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard was resigning and that he had asked his chief of staff Jamie Huckabay to hand in his resignation “which he has done.”
Three other MLAs have stepped down from committee positions and Jeremy Nixon has resigned as Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Society.
Albertans have every right to expect that people in positions of public trust be held to a higher standard of conduct during COVID-19.
Over the weekend I have listened to Albertans who are sending a clear message that they want real consequences for these actions.
My statement: pic.twitter.com/uAw0DI0N67
— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) January 4, 2021
Albertans have every right to expect that people in positions of public trust be held to a higher standard of conduct during COVID-19, tweeted the premier about 12:30 p.m.
In a statement, Kenney said millions of Albertans have made sacrifices to keep each other safe over the last 10 months.
“They are right to be angry about people in positions of leadership vacationing outside the country.”
Kenney said last Friday he took responsibility for “not having been clear enough with members of government caucus and others in positions of leadership that they should not travel abroad.
“Over the weekend I have listened to Albertans who are sending a clear message that they want real consequences for these actions.”
Besides the resignations of Grande Prairie MLA Allard, Huckabay and Calgary-Klein MLA Nixon,
Three MLAs — Calgary-Peigan’s Tanya Fir, Tany Yao of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo and Lesser Slave Lake’s Pat Rehn — have lost their committee responsibilities.
“By travelling abroad over the holidays, these individuals demonstrated extremely poor judgment,” said the premier.
News that a number of UCP MLAs had ignored their own health department’s guidance to stay home to travel, mostly to hot spots, created a social media firestorm.
Thousands of negative comments were left on social media and the hashtag #KenneyResign began trending.
Stephan posted an unapologetic explanation for his travel to Arizona on his Facebook page on Saturday after he, and other MLAs, were recalled to Alberta by the premier, who was taking heat for the double standard his party members appeared to be displaying. Stephan went to Arizona on Dec. 31.
Stephan’s Facebook post in which he said he supported “individuals and families having the freedom to choose for themselves whether they travel or not, provided they are respectful of others in doing so” and that “international travel, in and of itself, does not negatively impact Alberta’s COVID curve if it is done responsibly” did not go over well with many constituents.
More than 2,800 comments — overwhelmingly negative — were left on his Facebook post as of Monday afternoon.
Sometime on Sunday night, critics put together a display outside his office off Taylor Drive and 43rd Street. It featured signs, including one saying, “Welcome Home Jason” and another sporting the hashtag #ResignKenney as well as a cutout of a cactus.
News that Stephan had resigned his Treasury Board position did not satisfy many of his critics, who called for his resignation as an MLA on his Facebook page shortly after the news broke about Kenney’s moves.
One woman who called on him to resign posted: “You need to spend some time at a hospital watching our hardworking ICU staff working with their hearts helping covid victims! This is not a time to be travelling!!!!”
No immediate comment was available from Stephan.
Transportation Minister Ric McIver will serve as interim Minister of Municipal Affairs and Kenney’s Principal Secretary Larry Kaumeyer wil serve as interim chief of staff.