Albertans are furious and rightly so.
After nine-and-a-half months of sacrificing and restricting our activities as a result of the fact there is an infectious disease spreading in our communities and killing friends and family – Albertans were shocked and angry to learn that members of our elected government chose to ignore its own advice to avoid non-essential travel.
Premier Jason Kenney held a press conference on the very first day of 2021 to address these revelations, and in particular that his own cabinet member – Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard – travelled to Hawaii.
Allard is the minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, which has not met the expectations set by the United Conservative Party during its few first weeks in December.
Kenney said he didn't know Allard, and his own chief-of-staff, had left the country over the holidays. He defended their decisions and tried to take responsibility by saying he never made it explicit to his MLAs and senior staff that they shouldn't take a tropical or international vacation.
Our premier's attempt to staunch the controversy only made it worse. It felt like a lesson in how to gaslight an entire province.
Fast forward a few days and Kenney took to social media to criticize the actions of Allard and others and announce he had accepted resignations from the minister and chief-of-staff, while others have resigned from committee and other roles in our government.
"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," said his written statement.
It is discouraging that it took several days of intense public pressure and outrage at a level not seen before in Alberta politics for our premier to recognize that they are and should be held to a higher standard. It was obvious to Albertans across the political spectrum that the arrogance of telling people to stay home to save lives and then travelling abroad was unacceptable.
On Tuesady (Jan. 5), it was newly sworn in Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIvor that stepped up to the plate to answer tough questions from the media.
"I guess the message I would say to Albertans is, you have every right to expect good behaviour and a high standard of conduct from your government and Albertans get to judge whether government met those standards of good behaviour and high standards," McIvor said. "From what I have heard, Albertans have said very clearly we have not met those standards.
"What I have to say is our government agrees. So if you are yelling at us, interestingly enough my message is thank you. There is no doubt in my mind we didn't get it right."
We hope Premier Kenney was taking notes, because that is the kind of message he should have personally delivered to Albertans on Jan. 1, instead of obfuscating and deflecting responsibility.
There is, however, one thing our premier said that does not add up and has not been adequately addressed yet. He said he had no knowledge that a minister in his cabinet and his own chief-of-staff were planning to leave the country on vacation.
We find this hard to believe. If he didn't know, he is incompetent at managing his caucus and staff. If he did know, he has lied to Albertans.
Albertans have lost trust in their government as a result of this debacle. Not just because of what happened, but as a result of the tone deaf response to these revelations.
Allard in her own press conference added fuel to the fire by revealing that her decision to go to Hawaii was to honour a Christmas tradition her family has done for the past 17 years.
At the same time, Albertans chose to sacrifice their own holiday traditions. Albertans have sacrificed other traditions like funerals after their loved ones died this year, including those who lost their life due to COVID-19.
Kenney came to power in an effort to unite Albertans. Now, they are united in their anger.