By Chad Ingram
Just before New Year’s Eve, Ontarians discovered that Finance Minister Rod Philips had balked public health recommendations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and taken a Christmastime trip to the Caribbean. While Phillips’ attempts to create the impression he was still in Ontario with a series of deceitful videos and photos, including an incredibly stupid picture of him holding a stack of pancakes in his driveway, may make his scandal one of the more colourful, we have since learned that Phillips was just one of many politicians and other public figures to make international trips during the holidays.
Senator Don Plett released a video telling Canadians to stay at home during Christmas, saying the pandemic was forcing people to forgo tradition, “since we cannot travel and gather the way we normally would.” Plett then boarded a plane for Mexico.
A number of Alberta MLAs and some federal MPs also chose to leave the country, and many of them, along with Phillips, have since resigned or been demoted from cabinet positions or other posts.
Canadians have rightly been outraged by these events. These politicians are all members of governments who’ve been telling us all to stay home for the sake of public health. To make the difficult but right decision to resist seeing family and friends during the holidays. To make personal sacrifices for the greater good. For some of them to then hop aboard planes destined for places with white sand is not only hypocritical, it’s a betrayal. It’s a betrayal of trust. It also paints a picture of a cynical government structure where there are two sets of rules – one for the general population, and another for lawmakers. Their set of rules, of course, is a lot more fun. It paints a picture of elitism and entitlement, of deception and deceit, where constituents get played like patsies.
I’ve heard the defence that, hey, they weren’t breaking any laws, and that’s true. But do we not want a bar higher than not breaking the law for officials who are elected to, well, make laws?
For close to a year now, we’ve heard the repeated mantras that we are all in this together, that it’s time to hunker down, it’s time to sacrifice. But it’s clear we have some so-called leaders who aren’t prepared to walk that talk, who are not prepared to make those sacrifices themselves.
Speaking of walking, some of them will undoubtedly be shown the door by their constituents should they choose to again run for office.
In the meantime, do better.