Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says he’s returning to Alberta “right away” after travelling to Arizona this past week.
On Friday, Premier Jason Kenney issued a directive forbidding all of his caucus members and senior staff from traveling outside Canada unless it’s for government business, after it emerged that his municipal affairs minister spent the holidays in Hawaii.
In an email statement released Saturday afternoon, Stephan said he bought a plane ticket in October for a flight to Phoenix on Dec. 31.
“The flight was full, with individuals and families complying with health guidelines. Upon arrival, I continued to follow Alberta’s guidelines in Arizona, limiting contacts to immediate household members, etc.,” Stephan said.
He said he supports individuals and families “having the freedom” to choose whether they travel or not, provided they are respectful of others in doing so.
“International travel, in and of itself, does not negatively impact Alberta’s COVID curve if it is done responsibly,” said Stephan.
“I do not consider myself an exception to health guidelines. I have never asked Albertans to do things that I myself would not do – and that includes not travelling.”
Stephan said he is returning home “right away” as requested by the premier.
“Upon returning, I will be complying with all isolation requirements,” said Stephan.
“There is already too much contention in our society and I regret if my actions have contributed to that. I look forward to moving past this experience and COVID, in positive directions.”
The following central Alberta MLAs did not leave the province: Adriana LaGrange, Red Deer-North; Devin Dreeshen, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake; Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre; Ron Orr, Lacombe-Ponoka; and Nate Horner, Drumheller-Stettler.
Two other members of Alberta’s United Conservative government travelled abroad over the holidays despite widespread recommendations to stay home in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
MLA Jeremy Nixon, who represents the riding of Calgary-Klein, has been ordered to cut short his trip to Hawaii and return home, while another government member has apologized for travelling to the U.S.
Press Secretary Christine Myatt issued an email statement saying Nixon “will be returning on the earliest available flight.”
Myatt also directed inquiries about Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir to a Facebook post in which the legislator apologized for travelling to the U.S. to visit her sister.
The post says Fir has since returned home.
Kenney says that while he should have issued a directive forbidding caucus members and senior staff from traveling outside Canada earlier, those who went abroad over the holidays will not face sanctions as they did not violate any firm rules.
–With files from The Canadian Press