California Governor Gavin Newsom (D), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D), and a growing list of other U.S. politicians have been caught breaking the rules, ignoring their own advice, and insulting millions of Americans whose livelihoods have been destroyed or disrupted. But the United States is not alone in electing leaders who have exercised their political privilege during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The revelation of former Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips jetting off to the Caribbean in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic produced a domino effect. Canadians are reading a long list of politicians, from federal Liberals to provincial Conservatives, who are being exposed as hypocrites. Despite pleading with the public to take COVID-19 seriously and abide by myriad public health guidelines, these very same taxpayer-funded civil servants have failed to heed their advice. Like folks south of the border, many Canadians cannot bury loved ones, open their small businesses, or have family gatherings. But it seems the rules do not apply to politicians.
Sorry Because They Got Caught
Liberal Members of Parliament Sameer Zuberi and Kamal Khera recently admitted to traveling outside the country, despite the federal government’s strict travel restrictions and recommendations. As a result, Zuberi stepped down from a couple of committee roles, and Khera resigned as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Development.
So, why did these grits leave the country after telling Canadians to stay home and save lives? Zuberi visited his wife’s ailing grandfather in Delaware, while Khera attended a memorial in Seattle, WA. Both returned to Canada on New Year’s Eve.
This comes as three other Liberal MPs were caught traveling abroad in 2020. But it is not only the Liberal Party of Canada MPs guilty of hypocrisy.
In recent days, New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Niki Ashton was stripped of her critic role after traveling to Greece to visit her sick grandmother. Conservative Party of Canada MP Ron Liepert traveled to Palm Desert, CA, for “essential house maintenance issues.” Conservative Senator Don Plett vacationed in Mexico in December. His penalty? He is under quarantine. Oh, the humanity!
And, remember, this is at the federal level.
Provincially, many politicians are submitting their apologies and regrets to the media. Quebec Liberal Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Pierre Arcand stated that he regrets going on vacation to Barbados with his wife during the holidays. Saskatchewan Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Joe Hargrave stepped foot in California to complete his home sale. Coalition Avenir Québec’s Youri Chassin vacationed in Peru to see his husband.
In Alberta, United Conservative Party (UCP) Premier Jason Kenney apprehensively scolded the growing number of MLAs and senior staffers who fled the country and enjoyed a vacation. The bad publicity forced him to take action. He requested his Municipal Affairs Minister and Chief of Staff to resign, and he accepted committee resignations from several MLAs. The premier blamed himself for not being clear enough among his UCP elected officials.
“Albertans have every right to expect that people in positions of public trust be held to a higher standard of conduct during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Premier Kenney said in a statement. “Millions of Albertans have made real sacrifices over the past 10 months to help keep each other safe. They are right to be angry about people in positions of leadership vacationing outside of the country.”
Rules for thee, but not for me in the Great White North. Zero accountability and punishment – that is the Canadian and political way!
Political Privilege on Display
Perhaps it is time to ditch the asinine concepts of white or male privilege. We should be discussing political privilege, something that politicians of every stripe suddenly possess as soon as they are elected. As it is evident in Canada and the United States, it does not matter what your philosophical leanings are – progressive or conservative – you are always above the proletariat if you serve in public office. Sure, the public has been unable to attend a funeral, but it is perfectly acceptable for our esteemed representatives to say goodbye to loved ones. Yes, you are recommended against visiting the sandy beaches in the Caribbean, but if the people have elected you, you have carte blanche to apologize only if you are caught. What’s worse, the only reprimand you receive is a slap on the wrist as you continue earning a six-figure salary on the public’s dime, which, in this landscape, is eroding into a nickel.
Read more from Andrew Moran.
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