Manitoba's top civil servant travelled to Ottawa during holidays
WINNIPEG -- Some Manitoba politicians, as well as the province's top civil servant and former campaign manager for the premier, are facing heat over their holiday travels out of the province.
A spokesperson for the province confirmed David McLaughlin, Clerk of the Executive Council, was in Ottawa working remotely for the last two weeks of December.
Premier Brian Pallister, along with public health officials, has been advising Manitobans not to travel during the current lockdown in place to help curb COVID-19 case numbers.
In a statement, the spokesperson tells CTV News McLaughlin followed all public health protocols and was working remotely.
“The assertion that the Clerk of Executive Council was on vacation is false and it would be grossly inaccurate for such a narrative to be propagated,” the statement said.
“The Clerk returned to his immediate family’s home in Ontario and, for the last two weeks of December, was working remotely - just as thousands of Manitobans have been for months. The work of government does not stop over the holidays. The Clerk was actively participating in virtual meetings, conference calls, or working on Government of Manitoba business from his home daily.”
Still, some Manitoba politicians who stuck close to home over the holidays condemned McLaughlin's actions as being unsafe.
"It’s totally unacceptable," Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said on Monday. "It’s hypocritical, it’s not safe.”
Mark Wasyliw, Manitoba NDP critic, said McLaughlin's actions are an example of a 'double standard.'
"Apparently, there is one set of rules if you are a connected insider like Mr. McLaughlin,” said Wasyliw.
McLaughlin served as Pallister’s campaign manager in the 2016 and 2019 elections.
Several elected officials of all political stripes across the country are in hot water over holiday trips outside of Canada during the pandemic.
Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton lost her critic roles for travelling to Greece to see a sick relative, but she is not the only politician in the province who spent some time over the holidays in another country.
A spokesperson for Manitoba Conservative Senator Don Plett confirmed he is in quarantine after a trip to Mexico.
“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.”
The spokesperson for Plett said this was his sole trip outside of Canada since March 2020.
Manitoba's NDP and Liberal Parties told CTV News none of their MLA's travelled for non-essential reasons over the holidays.
However, Conservative MLA for Radisson James Teitsma travelled to Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia with his immediate household members from December 21 to 30.
The province said they took a personal vehicle, they did not gather or socialize with anyone outside their immediate household and all public health orders were followed.
While he would not comment on any specific cases, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer, said public health has continued to advise against travelling.
“Right now is not the time to travel internationally, especially for non-essential reasons so that would still be my message at this point," Dr. Brent Roussin said, adding he spent the holidays at his home visiting with family virtually, save for a few trips to the grocery store and some time spent at a clinic.