Conservative MP resigns, Senator quarantining following admissions of international travel

OTTAWA — Two more federal Conservative politicians have joined the growing list of officials who have come under fire for travelling internationally during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Conservative MP from Ontario David Sweet is the latest to be sanctioned for his trip abroad. He recently travelled to the U.S. to deal with a “property issue” but then stayed afterward “for leisure,” without telling Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole or the party’s whip.

He has resigned as chair of the House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee, and has announced he will not be running again in the next federal election.

“It is time for me to spend more time with my wife, children and grandchildren while contributing in other ways,” Sweet tweeted, adding that he remains out of the country but will be back in Canada “soon.” 

CTV News has previously reported that Alberta Conservative MP Ron Liepert has travelled twice since March, once during the current parliamentary break, to Palm Desert, Calif., to deal with “essential house maintenance issues.” O’Toole’s office has not indicated any sanctions for Liepert as a result of these trips. 

As well, CTV News confirmed Monday that Conservative Sen. Don Plett travelled to Mexico over the holidays and is now quarantining in his home province of Manitoba.

Plett, who is the opposition leader in the Senate “travelled briefly to Mexico on personal travel,” said spokesperson Karine Leroux. 

“Senator Plett travelled to Mexico on December 28th, upon arrival he reflected on his decision to travel and immediately made arrangements to return home on December 31st,” read the statement. 

In a Christmas greeting posted on his YouTube page just prior to the holidays, Plett speaks about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed traditions for people.

“For many of us, Christmas is a time when we are used to gathering with family and friends, reconnecting and enjoying one another’s company. But this year, the pandemic has forced us to change some of those traditions, since we cannot travel and gather as we normally would,” he said. 

In Plett’s last question in the Senate before the holiday break, he asked whether there was “one rule” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and “another rule for everyone else,” in the context of Trudeau appearing on-site at the Ottawa hospital where initial COVID-19 vaccines were being administered, given the restrictions on visitors due to the pandemic.

The senator is now following the public health 14-day self-isolation requirement. 

This was the only trip outside of Canada that Plett has taken since March 2020, according to his office.

O’Toole has not commented on whether or not there would be any repercussions for Plett, who is a member of the Conservative parliamentary caucus.

MPs from the Liberal and NDP caucuses have also faced sanctions for their travel.

On Jan. 1, NDP MP Niki Ashton lost her critic roles after revealing that she travelled abroad to visit an ailing family member in Greece. The party said Ashton had not informed them of her travel before departing.

And, over the weekend Liberal Whip Mark Holland’s office said that during the summer three Liberal MPs travelled abroad “to complete essential family affairs,” and have not faced sanctions for doing so, though two other Liberal MPs had not informed Holland’s office of their travel and so they have been stripped of their additional parliamentary responsibilities.  

“We’ve said from the beginning, that all international travel that’s non-essential, should be avoided. And clearly, these trips should have been avoided. And I think the public rightfully expects a higher standard from elected officials. We’re seeing that across the country,” said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc in an interview on CTV’s Power Play.

LeBlanc shot down the suggestion of an outright ban on international travel at this stage in the pandemic, citing the constitution.

“It’s hypocritical and that’s problematic, but this is more than just hypocrisy… This is really something that that affects how people feel and I don’t think that will quickly be forgotten,” said political science professor Lori Williams on CTV News Channel of these numerous instances of travelling politicians. “It is going to hurt the impression of politicians.”   

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