Ashton loses shadow cabinet spots after travelling to Greece

The MP representing Thompson and much of Northern Manitoba is in hot water after flying to Greece to see an ill loved one during the pandemic.

Niki Ashton, MP for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, has been reprimanded by the federal MP after announcing that she had left Northern Manitoba - and eventually, Canada entirely - to visit her ill grandmother in Greece. Ashton’s mother is originally from the Mediterranean country.

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“Wishing everyone a better year ahead… After spending Christmas alone with our family at home in Manitoba, now I am with my ailing grandmother, my yiayia, in Greece,” Ashton announced via her verified Twitter account Jan. 1, finishing the tweet with a message in Greek translating to “Have a long and healthy life.”

Following the tweet, Ashton was removed from her roles in the NDP’s shadow cabinet. Before the punishment, Ashton was the federal NDP’s critic for public ownership and transport and deputy critic for women and gender equality

"Canadians, rightfully, expect their elected representatives to lead by example," reads a statement from the federal NDP. 

"While this is no family vacation, Ms. Ashton will be removed from her shadow critic roles."

According to the federal NDP, Ashton did not notify party officials that she would be leaving the country.

During the pandemic, Greece has heavily restricted international travel, only allowing people to enter the country if they are there for essential travel and if they submit a negative COVID-19 test. The federal NDP announced Greek officials had approved Ashton’s visit. Starting Jan. 7, all travellers entering Canada will also need to show a negative COVID-19 before boarding their flight into the county.

“While some countries are partially opening their borders, we continue to advise against non-essential travel outside of Canada,” reads an official travel advisory from the provincial government. The federal government advises Canadians to “avoid non-essential travel” to Greece.

Travel into northern Manitoba is also restricted under provincial health orders – only essential travel or workers or northern residents who have had to leave the region for essential purposes are allowed in.

Ashton is one of a growing number of Canadian elected officials to have been found travelling out of Canada during the holidays. Ontario Progressive Conservative MLA Rod Phillips was found last week to have travelled to the Caribbean island of St. Barts over the holidays and resigned as Ontario’s finance minister upon his arrival in Canada Dec. 31. Alberta United Conservative Party MLA and provincial municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard was caught Dec. 31 having travelled to Hawaii over the holidays. Another UCP MLA, Jeremy Nixon, was also confirmed to have travelled to Hawaii in the same timeframe. In response, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney ordered all UCP MLAs to avoid leaving Canada unless their travel was for official government business. Allard has not resigned or been removed from her cabinet position. As the province’s municipal affairs minister, Allard is in charge of overseeing the province’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Saskatchewan Party MLA and provincial highways minister Joe Hargrave was also found to have travelled to Palm Springs, Calif. shortly before Christmas – Hargrave claimed the travel was to sell a property he owned in the south. Premier Scott Moe said he had been made aware of Hargrave’s travel in advance and would keep Hargrave’s spot in Saskatchewan’s cabinet upon arrival in Canada, but that he would need to observe any COVID-19 health orders in effect after coming home. The Saskatchewan NDP has demanded that Hargrave step down from his cabinet post.

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