COVID Hypocrisy: Heavy Rules and Weak Apologies

Commentary, COVID-19, Government, Lee Harding

“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit,” Noam Chomsky once said. Emergency orders and the moralizing pronouncements of politicians have put heavy burdens on people. But in some cases, these were the mandates of hypocrites.

“As we all make sacrifices this #Christmas, remember that some of our fellow citizens won’t even be home for Christmas dinner over Zoom,” Ontario’s now-former finance minister tweeted the night before Christmas. All the former finance minister sacrificed was the cold of Canada, having been in Saint Barthelemy in the Caribbean since December 13. His videos of drinking eggnog in a sweater in front of a fireplace with a gingerbread house and a Christmas tree did not reflect his real location.

Digging by reporters showed that the finance minister also took “a personal trip” to Switzerland in August and that Ontario’s premier talked to him on December 14. “My mistake, and I take full responsibility. At that time, I should have said, ‘Get your backside back into Ontario,’ and I didn’t do that,” the premier told reporters.

Ontario’s former finance minister arrived home New Year’s Eve to admit that, “I do understand, people are angry, they deserve to be angry, I have to earn back their confidence.” Further, he told reporters, “it was a significant error in judgment, a dumb, dumb mistake. Again, I apologize for it, I regret it,” he said.

Ontario’s premier said, “there can’t be [different] rules for elected people and non-elected people” and released a statement: “At a time when the people of Ontario have sacrificed so much, today’s resignation is a demonstration that our government takes seriously our obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

When did the premier discover this? Critics fired at him for attending the August wedding of an MPP. “That wedding I went to, all the protocols were followed. Every single person in that room had a mask,” the premier claimed. Yet, pictures from the gathering showed only one or two people wearing masks and much closer than six feet together.

On May 11, the premier admitted that his two daughters stopped in to see their sisters and him and his wife on Mother’s Day. That gathering of six exceeded the limit of five ordered by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer. Even so, the premier said the restrictions were, “just for a little bit longer and I appreciate everyone’s cooperation with that.” Or was that everyone else’s?

On April 8, the premier asked Ontarians to stay away from their cottages on Easter weekend, saying, “there’s no one that loves my cottage more than I do, but I’m not going to my cottage…We’re going to make sure we listen to the protocol that the chief medical officer has requested.”

Yet, the premier did go to the cottage on Easter Sunday. His director of media relations told CBC that the premier “drove alone to his family property up north to check on the plumbing as the property is under construction and has been over the past two years.”

In fact, the director of media relations for the premier also flew home for the holidays, her Saskatoon location betrayed by a tweet on December 29. Ironically, its topic was Covid vaccinations and “health care heroes…working around the clock to keep us safe.”  A Liberal nurse in Ontario screenshotted the director of media relation’s tweet before its deletion, saying, “everything is do as I say, not as I do with this government.”

Actually, politicians of all stripes were flying all over. On January 1, an NDP MP from Manitoba announced on Twitter she had flown to Greece to see her ailing grandmother. In response, one person tweeted, “my grandmother died in July. She battled cancer for the last three years and we couldn’t see her for her last six months…Sure must be nice to be a [Canadian] politician!”

Calgary Conservative MP for Calgary Signal Hill travelled to Palm Desert, California twice since March to address “essential house maintenance issues,” according to his office. That sounded a lot like a now-former Saskatchewan Party cabinet minister, who visited Palm Springs, California over the holidays to finalize the sale of a home. The former MLA called it an “error in judgment.”

Some United Conservative Party MLAs left Alberta on flights, including the now-former cabinet minister for Grande Prairie who flew to Hawaii and an MLA for Lesser Slave Lake who flew to Mexico. While three other Alberta MLAs travelled to the U.S.

Quebec Liberal MNA for Mont-Royal–Outremont went to Barbados. The Liberal Leader for Quebec told a radio station she discouraged the MNA from going but should have forbidden him. MNA for Saint-Jérôme of the Coalition Avenir Québec visited his spouse in Peru, whom he said he had not seen for almost a year.

If citizens could recall their elected representatives out of office, public outrage would be taken much more seriously. As voters decide what they think of this, one thing is for sure: hypocrisy is the hardest virus to shake. 


Lee Harding is Research Associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash.