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Here are the Canadian politicians facing questions over travel amid COVID-19 restrictions – CBC.ca

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As Canadians were urged to stay indoors and limit holiday celebrations to members of their households, a growing number of politicians across Canada have admitted to travelling outside the country despite pandemic restrictions. 

Federal and provincial politicians alike have come under fire — or drawn rebuke from their leaders — for choosing to leave Canada as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in parts of the country. 

The federal government has advised Canadians throughout the pandemic to avoid all non-essential travel and introduced new testing requirements this week for those planning to travel by air.

Here are the cases CBC News has confirmed so far.

Federal MPs

Conservative MP Ron Liepert, pictured here in 2014, has twice travelled to a home he owns in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative MP Ron Liepert travelled to Palm Desert, Calif., on two occasions since March to address what his office called “essential house maintenance issues.” Liepert, who previously served as Alberta’s health and wellness minister, owns a home in the city. 

A spokesperson in Liepert’s office confirmed Saturday that one of the MP’s visits took place during the current parliamentary recess.

“There has been no non-essential travel, and he has complied with all public health guidance, including the Alberta border testing program, each time he has travelled,” the spokesperson told CBC News in an email.

In a tweet on Friday evening, NDP MP Niki Ashton said she spent the holidays at home before travelling to Greece to be with her ‘ailing grandmother.’ (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

NDP MP Niki Ashton was stripped of her critic roles on Friday after sharing that she travelled to Greece to visit her sick grandmother after spending Christmas alone with her family in Manitoba.  

According to a statement from the NDP, Ashton “was allowed entry by Greek officials based on this urgent family situation.” Leader Jagmeet Singh was not informed beforehand of Ashton’s intent to travel and removed her from her roles in the NDP’s shadow cabinet. 

The party said Ashton, who represents the Manitoba riding of Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, is the only member of its caucus who has travelled internationally, while the Bloc Québécois said none of its members have left the country since March of last year. 

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed to CBC News on Saturday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent the holidays in the National Capital Region and said no cabinet ministers travelled during that time. The office of chief government whip Mark Holland said it was not aware of any Liberal MPs who left Canada during the holidays. 

Despite Liepert’s trips across the border, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has emphasized that MPs “follow all public health guidance including travel advisories,” his press secretary, Chelsea Tucker, told CBC News on Saturday. “It is our understanding that all members of caucus have.”

Alberta

CBC News has learned that Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard took a vacation to Hawaii in December. (Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)

In Alberta, Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard is now home in Grande Prairie, Alta., after vacationing in Hawaii in December. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he first learned of Allard’s trip on Tuesday and asked her to return. Kenney has ordered MLAs not to leave the country unless it was for government business and said he did not plan to sanction members of his government for their actions.

Alberta MLA Pat Rehn posted a statement on Facebook on Saturday confirming he is on his way back from a trip to Mexico. (Facebook)

Meanwhile, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn posted a statement on Facebook Saturday confirming his return to Alberta following a trip to Mexico. The United Conservative Party MLA apologized for taking “a previously planned family trip, following a busy legislative session” and said he planned to follow Kenney’s new travel directive. 

Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South, is also en route home from a trip abroad. 

“MLA Stephan travelled to the United States and has indicated that he is returning to Alberta in line with the Premier’s directive,” Kenney’s press secretary confirmed to CBC News by email on Saturday.

Two other UCP MLAs — Calgary-Klein’s Jeremy Nixon and Calgary-Peigan’s Tanya Fir — also recently travelled to the United States. Nixon spent time in Hawaii over the holidays, while Fir visited her sister in the United States.

Ontario

Former Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips made headlines earlier this week after returning to Toronto Pearson Airport following a personal vacation to the Caribbean Island of St. Bart’s. 

Phillips — who called the trip a “dumb, dumb mistake” — resigned from his role as finance minister on Thursday. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he had not been informed about the trip ahead of time but admitted he failed to ask Phillips to return after learning of his travels. 

WATCH | Ontario’s Rod Phillips resigns following Caribbean vacation:

Rod Phillips resigned as Ontario’s finance minister after the controversy over his Christmas vacation to St. Barts, despite the government urging people to stay at home. Meanwhile, Alberta’s minister of municipal affairs travelled to Hawaii. 1:54

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Party MLA Joe Hargrave is another provincial cabinet minister drawing criticism for leaving the country during the pandemic. The Highways Minister visited Palm Springs, Calif., to finalize the sale of a home over the holidays. 

Hargrave said he told Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe of his travel plans and plans to self-isolate upon his return to Canada. Moe said in a separate statement that he expects Hargrave to follow required public health advice, while the province’s official opposition called the minister’s actions a slap in the face to residents of Saskatchewan.

Hargrave has since apologized for his “error in judgment,” but does not plan to step down from cabinet. 

Quebec 

Quebec Liberal Party MNA Pierre Arcand flew to Barbados with his wife for the holidays. He now says he regrets the decision. (Radio-Canada)

In Quebec, Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand said he now regrets his decision to visit Barbados with his wife for the holidays. 

“Despite the fact that travel is not prohibited, we are aware of the magnitude of criticism against people travelling south [during the pandemic],” said Arcand, who said he and his wife were tested for COVID-19 before and after their trip.

Coalition Avenir Québec MNA Youri Chassin, meanwhile, flew to Peru to visit his spouse, who he said he has not seen for nearly a year. Chassin said he has been involved in a sponsorship program to have his partner immigrate to Quebec, a process which has reportedly slowed due to the pandemic. 

The MNA for Saint-Jérôme said Quebec Premier François Legault permitted the visit.

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Donald Trump may not be done disrupting American politics, only this time it could actually end up being an improvement – Salt Lake Tribune

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President Joe Biden set the tone for his new administration last week seeking to reunite a divided country.
“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge,” he said, “and unity is the path forward and we must meet this moment as the United States of America.”
It was a noble, aspirational inauguration speech and a message this divided country needed to hear. But it won’t be easy, not in a political environment where for years Americans have been pushed into clans and fed resentment and mistrust.
Sen. Ben Sasse from Nebraska wrote a piece in The Atlantic last week about the reckoning the Republican Party is facing and the soul-searching and house-cleaning that needs to take place to set it in the right direction.
This assumes the Republican Party can be salvaged. It may be too late for that, and there’s another guy who shares that view: Recently unemployed Florida man Donald Trump.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Trump had discussed creating a new political party — the Patriot Party — as a refuge for his true believers.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as he’s out of office he comes up with an idea that makes sense. I say that not because it might blow up the Republican Party. I say it because the two-party system is the worst feature of modern American politics.
Our government is so hopelessly dysfunctional that facing a crisis of historic proportions, it took months to pass a COVID relief bill — and that’s just one example. But the larger problem is that the current party structure isn’t about governing at all. It’s about power and holding onto that power by creating a big enough tent.
It has reached a point, however, that in this push to be everything to everybody, the parties have lost any philosophical cohesion.
In what world can you have a Republican Party going forward that includes both Mitt Romney and the people who rampaged through the Capitol looking to take members of Congress hostage? And how does the average Republican feel represented by that party?
The Democrats have an identity crisis of their own, trying to hold together people like Ben McAdams and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
Trying to find a way for everyone to fit means nobody fits well, like Cinderella’s stepsisters trying to cram their feet into ill-fitting slippers. It makes sense that nearly a third of Utah voters choose to not affiliate with either party. That number will continue to grow.
That’s because, as humans, we all have different experiences that inform different world views and beliefs. Things aren’t black-and-white, purely Democratic or Republican.
Maybe you are pro-life but believe in a liberal immigration policy and are a dyed-in-the-wool union member. Or you are devoutly religious, love your guns and think the threat of climate change is dire and everyone deserves a guaranteed income. Or you’re a Black entrepreneur who opposes government regulation but believes Black Lives Matter and police should stop shooting people.
None of that matters in our current system. Donkey or elephant, blue or red — those are your choices. Don’t like it? Feel free to throw away your vote.
If your grocery store gave you two choices of toilet paper — both of them bad, like mesh vs. extra coarse — you’d probably find another store, but this is the only store we have.
Hillary Stirling, the newly minted chairwoman of the United Utah Party would like to give people more choices. Both nationally and in Utah, she said, the two major party agendas are driven by the fringes.
“The people on the extremes are the people who are most active, most interested in politics, so they’re the ones who show up and are most vocal,” she said. That leaves those in the middle dissatisfied with their voices, but the United Utah Party has struggled, like all third-parties, to make much headway.
The inevitable result of these two combatant parties trying to remain in power is we end up with pure bloodsport. The incentives are on obstruction and demonization, not collaboration and compromise. It partly explains why we’ve seen the fierce polarization — fueled by media and online outlets that drive the wedge deeper, which in turn are exploited by opportunistic, ambitious politicians.
We’ve seen other parties rise and fade and we have a handful of third parties in place now, but they aren’t viable because the two parties that make the rules have created a system that perpetuates their power. And because they’re the only viable options, they get all the money.
Without money, minor parties can’t put their candidates in front of people, they can’t get on the ballot, they can’t get into the debates, they can’t win — and when they can’t win donors won’t give money.
“Especially the way our current system is set up, it’s either/or. The question that is currently asked is: Who do you want out of these two people?” Stirling said. “There are better ways to do it, so let’s try those better ways.”
Those better ways, though, will take serious structural changes like public campaign financing, ranked-choice voting or electing members of Congress proportionately, rather than from districts gerrymandered to benefit one party or the other.
The other possibility is the rise of a viable third, and maybe fourth, parties, something Theodore Roosevelt’s popularity couldn’t do and that Ross Perot’s money couldn’t do. It’s possible Trump could use both money and a cult-like following to disrupt the two-party system.
Or, perhaps, Biden is right and, despite a track record to the contrary, Democrats and Republicans can come together and chart a new course and we don’t need major reforms to our system. I hope he is right.
Given our recent history, however, it seems more likely that we’ll see more of the same, with the two parties, left to their own self-serving devices, continuing to pull Americans further and further apart until there is a rift that can’t be healed.

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Politics Chat: Biden To Sign More Executive Orders In First Full Week As President – NPR

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President Biden will begin his first full week in the White House. Many of the executive orders he’s been signing and will sign this week are part of a plan he laid out for his first 10 days.

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Why Biden's vaccine goals are likely too modest and good politics – CNN

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That’s generally in line with other polling (such as last week’s CNN/SSRS survey) that showed that most Americans were displeased with how Donald Trump’s administration handled the coronavirus pandemic.
What’s the point: President Joe Biden’s administration has come under some criticism for its goal to deliver 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine in its first 100 days. Some people believe it is too modest a goal. The Biden administration has pushed back on that claim.
A look at the statistics reveal that it may very well be too modest, but it’s likely good politics.
Let’s start with the basic fact that humans developing multiple Covid-19 vaccines in less than a year was a scientific achievement for the ages.
The Trump administration then completely botched the expectations game on the vaccine rollout. They set an initial goal of getting 20 million vaccine doses into the arms of Americans by the end of 2020.
As I noted last week, we simply didn’t come close to reaching that milestone in December.
We’re very likely to hit 20 million total doses administered? in the next few days, however, as more than 19 million doses have been administered as of early Friday.
Overall, as Biden White House press secretary Jen Psaki pointed out, “less than 500,000 shots a day” were administered during Trump’s time in office once the first shots were given on December 14.
It’s a true statement, but I must admit that it feels like it doesn’t encapsulate all the facts. You can’t just look at the entirety of the Trump run to determine whether Biden’s setting a low goal.
After all, it takes time for the states and the federal government to figure out how to coordinate with each other and themselves to distribute the vaccines.
Moreover, a number of states were very strict with who could get the vaccines at first. There were reports of doses getting thrown out.
States have since opened up the eligibility. Combined with more practice in actually delivering the vaccine, the number of people getting doses each state has gone up dramatically.
Since January 13, we have averaged greater than 800,000 doses administered every day. On three days since that date, we’ve had more than a million people get the vaccine. This includes on Friday, when the CDC reported an increase of more than 1.5 million doses administered from the day before.
We’ve done a better job of administering the doses we have than we used to. We used to only administer less than a third of the doses distributed. Only once before January 12 had we administered more than 33%. It’s been above that every day since. In fact, it’s been greater than 45% each of the last four days reported.
This is before the Biden administration has had any real opportunity to change anything from the Trump administration.
Of course, the past isn’t always prologue. We could run out of vaccines, but that doesn’t seem likely at this point.
We know that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have pledged to deliver 200 million doses of their vaccine combined in the first quarter of this year (i.e. through March). This doesn’t even count the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which, if approved, could deliver tens of millions more doses by the beginning of April.
The bottom line is that it’s very easy to see how the Biden administration hits 100 million doses in 100 days. We’re basically already doing it, and we should have the doses available to keep doing it.
Indeed, America may end up doing considerably better than 100 million doses in 100 days.
Now, it’s possible that things go awry in vaccine production or distribution. That’s why it’s usually best to keep expectations low.
Biden’s team, if anything, wants to do the exact opposite of what Trump did. They don’t want to set a bar that can easily prove impossible to beat. They want a bar that can be met and can potentially be exceeded.
In other words, they may end up under-promising and over-delivering.
Usually, voters reward politicians who do what Biden’s team could do. They clearly punished Trump for the opposite.
To be clear, Americans expect Biden to fulfill his promise. The vast majority (70%) of Americans told CNN pollsters that the Biden administration is at least somewhat likely to reach its goal of 100 million does in 100 days.
If we don’t, there could be a heavy political price to pay.
Before we bid adieu: The theme song of the week is Scrubs.

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