Politicians grilled over pandemic holiday travel

·2 min read

Throughout many areas of Canada, public health orders have been in place for months, heavily discouraging travel outside of the country as a measure to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

A failure to abide by that guideline over the Christmas holiday cost provincial highways minister Joe Hargrave his seat at the province’s cabinet table, while Regina-Wascana Plains MLA and Minister of Corrections and Policing Christine Tell also faced calls for her resignation. Tell missed the ceremony swearing in for new cabinet ministers in November, for what was described at the time as personal reasons.

Tell was not made available for interviews on this story, with an executive council spokesperson providing the only comment on the matter.

“Minister Tell was in California from Oct. 30 to Nov. 9 to be with a close family member, who was very ill with a non COVID-19 related illness. The Minister followed all public health guidelines, including self-isolating for 14 days upon her return to Canada,” the spokesperson said.

While at the time non-essential travel outside if Canada was discouraged, Tell’s trip was completed before the province tightened up COVID-19 public health orders.

Hargrave’s reason for leaving the country was different from Tell’s, as he reportedly travelled to southern California long after more stringent public health orders took effect in Saskatchewan. Hargrave said he travelled to arrange for the listing, and later sale, of a property he owned in the Palm Springs area. His actions came at a time when Saskatchewanians were told to avoid family gatherings and non-essential travel over the Christmas holiday.

Originally, Hargrave said he had travelled to California to finalize the sale of a personal property, though the provincial NDP pointed out soon after that the property in question was not even listed until Dec. 26, and Hargrave later admitted to “an error in judgment” in travelling to California when he did.

In defence of his MLA, Premier Scott Moe told CBC, “There was no rules that were broken by Minister Hargrave in his travel ... It's the perception of that travel during a time when we're asking the people of this province to do so very much over the holiday season that is the issue. So, I think the timing of what's occurring in his personal matters is irrelevant.”

After several conversations between Moe and Hargrave, in addition to mounting public embarrassment however, it was decided Hargrave would resign his cabinet portfolios, which also included responsibility for the Water Security Agency.

Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum