Shed a crocodile tear for Michelle Rempel, if it were not for 'vulturous' media she could cross the US border to be with her husband and sick mother-in-law instead of stuck in Calgary, a victim of political optics.
Well, no. The Conservative MP is not a victim of anything. She is mixing public health guidance with a me-first, political spin.
Rempel spent the first months of the COVID outbreak working remotely from Oklahoma. Her husband and step children live there. She let her constituents know that an urgent personal matter, which now appears to be the stage 4 breast cancer attacking her mother-in-law, drew her south just prior to the closure of the border. In late summer, the MP returned to Canada and spent Christmas by herself. Her angst is real, understandable and unfortunate. But the blame game she spews is nothing more than self-absorbed political rhetoric.
Her personal reality is no different than tens of thousands of Canadians who do not live as privileged an existence, whose lives have been disrupted in silence, whose views do not demand thousands of YouTube views.
Students forced to spend Christmas in dorms because they were not permitted to travel home.
Friends and relatives with no ability to say goodbye to a deceased loved one.
Cancer victims fighting alone in hospital.
Families separated by closed borders.
All done in the name of personal sacrifice to fight an unprecedented public health crisis.
Michelle Rempel is no different than the silent sufferers, her megaphone is just bigger. She is using it to throw shade at Ontario’s former Conservative Finance Minister, fired for taking a Caribbean vacation at the same time massive swaths of the province were locked down. She calls the trip dumb. On that she is right. But in the same breath she blames Liberal entitlement knowing Rod Phillips is a member of her party and his trip was known by Premier Doug Ford before the plane ever took off.
It’s here where Rempel loses all credibility. She is a hardcore Tory who can’t resist making everything into a partisan issue. So rather than explain that her relative is sick, get approval from the party and public health to visit, she throws political bombs and blames others. It’s typical Tory strategy.
There is no debate Liberals are often arrogant and entitled, but they can’t be blamed for Phillips’ out-of-touch decision. Nor are they to blame for the double standard created by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney for not punishing cabinet ministers, MLAs and senior government officials flaunting lockdown regulations by jetting off to sunny destinations or family reunions.
Rempel hasn’t said a word in criticism of disastrous COVID leadership delivered in Alberta and Ontario that has cost 6,500 people their lives. Instead she uses a sick family member as a pawn to throw cheap political shots. It’s what is wrong with politics.
The vast majority of politicians understand the job comes with an elevated degree of scrutiny and accountability. There are some like Rempel, Phillips, Kenney and NDP MP Niki Ashton who don’t get it. Ashton travelled to Greece to visit a sick family member. She followed all public health requirements to enter, but failed to tell anyone in her party. This is not an oversight, it’s an effort to avoid transparency. Ashton is smart enough to know what her party would say - no, you can’t travel to Greece. Two Liberals, Quebec MP Sameer Zuberi and Ontario MP Kamal Khera, were demoted Sunday from parliamentary duties after it was learned they too travelled internationally without party approval, adding to a growing list of politicians from all stripes who flaunt their position of privilege.
Some, like Rempel, think it unfair to hold politicians to a higher standard. It’s a false narrative. In a global pandemic politicians are not being held to a higher standard, they are expected to meet the same standard asked of every other citizen. No one is saying it is not tough. But if a politician disagrees they have every right to quit and go back to the life enjoyed prior to entering the political arena - off the public payroll. Representing Canadians is not a right, it is a privilege. They’ll be happier and politics will be slightly less self-absorbed.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org