Alberta leader reverses course, punishes for pandemic travel

FILE - This June 9, 2015 file photo shows then-Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney in Warsaw, Poland. He is now the premier of Alberta. Alberta is investing $1.1 billion in the disputed Keystone XL pipeline, a project that Kenney says is crucial for the province's economy. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
FILE - This June 9, 2015 file photo shows then-Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney in Warsaw, Poland. He is now the premier of Alberta. Alberta is investing $1.1 billion in the disputed Keystone XL pipeline, a project that Kenney says is crucial for the province's economy. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TORONTO, ONT – Alberta’s premier has reversed course and is now punishing members of his government for vacationing outside Canada despite government guidelines urging people to avoid nonessential travel during the pandemic.

Premier Jason Kenney said Monday he asked his chief of staff to resign and accepted the resignation of his Municipal Affairs minister. Several other members of his United Conservative party have also been demoted for travelling outside Canada.

Kenney said last week he would not punish members of his government after he said he learned of travel abroad by a number of people in his government.

“Over the weekend I have listened to Albertans who are sending a clear message that they want real consequences,” Kenney tweeted Monday.

Politicians travelling abroad for vacations during the pandemic became a big story in Canada last week after it became known that Ontario’s finance minister went to the luxury Caribbean island of St. Barts for weeks and seemingly tried to hide the fact by sending social media posts showing him in a sweater before a fireplace. Rod Phillips resigned last Thursday after being ordered home by Ontario's Conservative Premier.

Federal opposition Conservative Senate leader Don Plett also traveled to Mexico on Dec. 28 for personal reasons, but quickly returned after Phillips and St. Barts became news.

“Senator Plett travelled to Mexico on December 28th, upon arrival he reflected on his decision to travel and immediately made arrangements to return home on December 31st,” a spokesperson said in an email.

Before he traveled, Plett posted a video message on twitter where he tells Canadians this Christmas will be different this year because “the pandemic has forced us to change some of those traditions, since we cannot travel and gather as we normally would.”