Somebody voiced their unhappiness with Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan’s decision to travel to Arizona over the holidays with a makeshift protest display outside his constituency office on Sunday night. Photo from @AlohaUCP on Twitter

Somebody voiced their unhappiness with Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan’s decision to travel to Arizona over the holidays with a makeshift protest display outside his constituency office on Sunday night. Photo from @AlohaUCP on Twitter

Opinion: Red Deer MLA Jason Stephan setting bad example

While most of Alberta stayed put, sticking to their households over the holiday season, some MLAs, including Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South, went travelling.

While there is nothing illegal about travelling at this time and no laws were broken, there is an implied moral imperative to follow guidelines set by our health experts and endorsed by our government – that includes avoiding all non-essential travel.

This is something most Albertans expect of their leaders when they haven’t been allowed to see their friends and family since the most recent restrictions came into effect earlier in December.

Instead, Albertans are reminded every day to stay home, not have a backyard session with friends to enjoy this mild December and not come close to anyone outside of their household on the skating rinks.

In response to the travel scandal, Premier Jason Kenney has accepted resignations of Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard (who went to Hawaii) and asked chief of staff Jamie Huckabay (who went to the U.K.) to step down.

The premier has also accepted resignations from MLA Jeremy Nixon as parliamentary secretary for Civil Society and MLA Stephan from government’s treasury board committee.

Stephan left for Arizona on Dec. 31.

Three MLAs — Calgary-Peigan’s Tanya Fir, Tany Yao of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo and Lesser Slave Lake’s Pat Rehn — have also lost their committee responsibilities.

Since this weekend, when many of these trips came to light, the premier issued a statement.

“Over the weekend I have listened to Albertans who are sending a clear message that they want real consequences for these actions.”

But many questions still remain.

For one, when and how did the premier learn about these travel plans?

Perhaps, it is possible Kenney did not know of each and every travel plan, but it’s safe to say he would know his chief of staff’s international travel intentions.

It is also unclear why Stephan’s apology came Tuesday morning and not Saturday when he released the first statement about his trip to Arizona.

These travel plans come across as insensitive and tone-deaf at a time when businesses are shut down or open to limited capacity.

By travelling abroad, our leaders, have added yet another layer of virus risk to our communities.

The whole scandal also gives non-COVID believers another reason to not believe the virus is real and lives are at stake.

In a nutshell, our leaders have set a terrible example for the rest of us by travelling internationally at this time.

It could be that these people in power just wanted a mental break. Don’t we all. But there are ways to help our mental health, without putting our health-care system and our fellow Albertans at risk.

Mamta Lulla is acting editor at the Red Deer Advocate.

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