“The absolute dishonesty some of them displayed in trying to deceive us into thinking they were here with us is absolutely sickening”
Alberta Health workers and advocacy groups are outraged that UCP MLAs spent their Christmas holidays at sunny vacation destinations while frontline workers sacrificed visits with loved ones and dying relatives to keep their communities safe.
Last week, Jason Kenney’s UCP government made headlines around the world after Alberta’s Premier defended several MLAs and top staffers travelling outside the country for the holidays, despite a provincial lockdown back home and pandemic guidelines that explicitly advised against non-essential travel.
Kenney reversed course on Monday, accepting the resignations of Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, who snuck away to Hawaii, and his own chief of staff Jamie Huckaby, who returned to Canada from the UK despite flight cancellations due to a mutant strain of COVID-19. Several other MLAs were demoted.
Allard initially defended her decision to vacation in Hawaii, describing the trip as a “family tradition.”
But health workers who made personal sacrifices over the holidays to avoid the risk of spreading COVID-19 say the UCP resignations and demotions offer little comfort.
Jessica, an ICU nurse from Lethbridge, said she was unable to visit her uncle before he passed away this Christmas.
“We didn’t see any family outside our household for the holidays, even as my uncle was dying of cancer in palliative care,” Jessica told PressProgress.
“He died on Christmas Eve.”
Because of pandemic rules in place to keep communities safe, Jessica said she was also unable to comfort her grieving mother in person.
“It was incredibly hard to know my mother was sad on the holiday and we could not be there to support her.”
The ICU nurse of 12 years described the behaviour of the UCP MLAs who travelled for Christmas as “infuriating.”
“This also completely undermines all the recommendations the governments are asking people to do. This is putting everyone at risk. It fuels non-belief in the pandemic restrictions,” Jessica added.
“If leadership can travel for leisure then it sends the message to the world that the pandemic rules and restrictions are not important.”
Isobel, a nurse at the COVID unit at South Health Campus in Calgary, said she also spent the holidays separated from loved ones.
“I have not seen my extended family in months, and had to tell my single brother he couldn’t come for Christmas,” Isobel told PressProgress. “My husband and daughter are both working from home, and my mother and other daughter can’t come to visit.”
The nurse added that the MLAs’ mid-pandemic vacations are especially insulting given the UCP government’s plan to lay-off up to 11,000 health workers.
“I am completely disgusted by (the MLAs’) thoughtless behaviour,” Isobel said. “My patients and coworkers are terrified. Nursing jobs are being eliminated, and they are relaxing on a beach.”
Ryan, an advanced care paramedic in Edmonton, shares that anger.
“We gave up Christmas dinner at my mother’s house. A ‘family tradition’ if it were,” he told PressProgress. “I’ve continued working responding to emergencies around Edmonton and the frequency of COVID-19 patients I see in a shift has dramatically increased.”
Ryan also expressed disgust at the fact Allard created a misleading social media post suggesting she was at the Alberta Legislature on Christmas Eve.
“The absolute dishonesty some of them displayed in trying to deceive us into thinking they were here with us is absolutely sickening.”
Danielle Larivee, First VP of the United Nurses of Alberta, said Kenney’s UCP MLAs have insulted to the province’s 30,000 frontline nurses.
“They’re working non-stop which is why it was such a slap in the face to our frontline nurses,” Larivee told PressProgress.
“They’re working overtime, they’re working double shifts, they risk exposure everyday going to work to save people,” Larivee added. “It’s incredibly frustrating to see MLAs risk exposure for themselves for what is clearly unnecessary travel.”
“They’re undermining their own moral authority in telling people to stay home.”
Editor’s Note: PressProgress spoke to all of the health workers named in this story and verified their identities. At their request, aliases have been used in place of their real names in order to protect the health workers from any retribution by their employers.