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Westlock mayor calls out minister for Hawaii vacation

Tweet goes viral, message shared by opposition leader
ralph leriger 2
Town of Westlock mayor Ralph Leriger thinks Albertans deserve better leadership and fewer political fights.
 

WESTLOCK — Town of Westlock mayor Ralph Leriger criticized Municipal Affairs minister Tracy Allard for her December vacation to Hawaii over Twitter.

“It broke our hearts to miss our new Grandson’s 1st Christmas but we did what was expected. The disingenuous speech, lack of transparency & deceptive videos,” Leriger wrote on Saturday.

He referenced Allard’s social media posts during the time she was away that made it seem as though she was in Alberta.

“I chose Twitter because that’s how this government is communicating and I expected them to be listening and I wanted them to hear me,” Leriger said over the phone on Sunday.

“Looking forward to your report card….gonna send you one right back,” the tweet continued. Leriger’s post got close to 400 retweets and over 1,500 likes. NDP opposition leader Rachel Notley shared his message on her social media platforms as well.

Leriger then ended with the #resignkenney hashtag that gained traction on the platform after premier Jason Kenney refused to hold his MLAs and staffers accountable for disrespecting the lockdown. He said instead he took responsibility for not laying out a clear policy against international travel.

Meanwhile, Allard said the trip was “naïve” and a “lapse in judgement,” that she thought it would be safe since she was traveling only with her husband and daughter, and that she wanted to maintain a 17-year family tradition.

News Staff confirmed that Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken hasn’t been abroad in the last month. “I have been enjoying quiet time in my shop working on three tractors,” he wrote over text Jan. 3.

Westlock Mayor Ralph Leriger is among tens of thousands who have publicly called for the resignation of Premier Jason Kenney over the COVID-19 UCP holiday scandal. What do you think?

Posted by Rachel Notley on Sunday, January 3, 2021

Province ‘void of leadership’, says mayor

While this episode got Leriger a lot of attention, he thinks the popular tweet needs more explaining.

“I want to make it really clear that the problem is as soon as you’re critical, that means you’re on the other side, that’s the only thing it can mean … Since when did we become the Americans? I want to be really clear with everyone that I wasn’t any happier with Rachel’s government than I am with this one,” he said.

To the mayor, the problem isn’t just about which minister went where. Allard’s vacation was “very poor judgement but people make mistakes,” and Kenney’s explanation was “disingenuous.”

He says instead there’s a “void of leadership” in the province. It’s a criticism Leriger has voiced before during the COVID-19 pandemic. He and other municipal leaders have been consistent with their message that the provincial government should have been more responsible about COVID-19 rules.

“I am sick and tired of being governed by outliers,” Leriger said. “Both ends of the political ideologies are very willfully and purposefully misinterpreting what the other side is saying or doing for the sake of gaining political points and we cannot afford to do that at this time. We deserve better.”

Leriger doesn’t dismiss Allard’s capabilities as a minister either, and said their first meeting since she was appointed in August was “a very good meeting.”

“If we’re really in this together, I want to encourage both our government and the opposition to start working together.”

Albertans stay home, MLAs go on vacation

CBC News first reported Dec. 31 that Allard had gone to Hawaii on a family vacation and returned home Dec. 30. Kenney said he learned of her trip Dec. 29 and asked her to return home. Press secretaries also said most ministers and MLAs stayed home over the holidays.

On Saturday, Kenney’s press secretary Christine Myatt confirmed four other MLAs travelled abroad: Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South went to Arizona; Pat Rehn, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake to Mexico; Tanya Fir, MLA for Calgary-Peigan went to Las Vegas; Jeremy Nixon, MLA for Calgary-Klein went to Hawaii.

Three UCP staffers also travelled. Jamie Huckabay, Kenney’s chief of staff, went to the United Kingdom. Two press secretaries — Eliza Snider for Advanced Education and Michael Florian for Education — went to Hawaii.

In Ontario, Finance minister Rod Phillips resigned the same day news broke of Allard’s trip. He travelled to the Caribbean island of St. Barts. Ontario premier Doug Ford said he was “extremely disappointed” and Phillips’ “decision to travel is completely unacceptable and it will not be tolerated again — by him or any member of our cabinet and caucus.”

Andreea Resmerita, TownandCountryToday.com