Opposition questions why Kenney’s travelling chief of staff was given severance

EDMONTON — Opposition Leader Rachel Notley is questioning when Premier Jason Kenney knew his chief of staff was leaving the country and why he is receiving severance despite leaving his job.

In an executive council meeting on Wednesday, Notely asked Kenney to clarify what took place leading up to Jamie Huckabay, his former chief of staff, travelling outside of Canada during the pandemic against public health advice.

Emails from mid-December obtained by the NDP through freedom of information requests, show Huckabay’s assistant setting up an international cell phone plan for his use abroad.

“I’m a little concerned, frankly, that your chief of staff in fact, by way of this document, was the person that would have been told about people  including members of cabinet … going on vacation and that he also clearly was making plans to go abroad,” said Notley. “And yet, you only became aware of this as he was driving to the airport.”

Huckabay was asked to leave his position and resigned from the role in January. 

Notley went on to ask the premier to clarify why Huckabee was eligible for a severance, and on the topic of travel suggested, “perhaps there was more awareness than we were ourselves all made aware of.”

The premier remained firm on the fact that he did not know about Huckabay’s trip until the day of the trip.

“In retrospect I obviously should’ve said that would be really a bad judgement call, and I took responsibility for not having intervened,” said Kenney.

“Mr. Huckabay didn’t do anything illegal, nor did he do anything unethical, he had an employment contract,” said Kenney.

He  went on to say that for that reason he was advised that Huckabay receive his severance, which was later revealed to be $50,000.

Huckaby was one of several government figures to ignore public health advice and travel abroad over the 2020 holiday season. 

Tracy Allard resigned from her role as municipal affairs minister after travelling to Hawaii. Other government MLAs who travelled abroad included: Tany Yao, Tanya Fir, Pat Rehn, Jason Stephan, and Jeremy Nixon.

Rehn has since been ejected from the government’s caucus after an outcry from those in his riding brought on in part due by his vacation to Mexico over the holiday period.

Earlier, Kenney said his officials “demonstrated extremely poor judgment” by travelling abroad despite his government asking Albertans to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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