The leader of the Municipalities of Saskatchewan is coming under fire as news broke this week of a recent trip to Hawaii.
Municipalities of Saskatchewan president and Mayor of Saltcoats Gordon Barnhart is now facing scrutiny from both within the organization and from across the province as more and more provincial figureheads are being reported for international travel during the pandemic.
Mayor Rodger Hayward, Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s Vice-President of Towns, said in a press release on behalf of Municipalities of Saskatchewan that the board is disappointed in Barnhart’s decision.
“As municipal leaders, we have a duty to lead by example and keep our communities safe by following public health measures and recommendations… We strongly believe that everyone should be doing their part to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.”
They do not know Barnhart’s itinerary, he said later in a phone interview, and they are not aware of when he left for Hawaii or when he will return but the Municipalities of Saskatchewan are hoping that Barnhart reaches out to them soon to discuss his side of the issue.
“It's very hard for us to speak on his behalf for him on a situation like this, so we really need him to reach out and talk to people. There's a lot of questions that I, and we as a board, just can’t answer.”
The board scheduled an emergency meeting on Jan. 8 to discuss the repercussions of Barnhart’s travel and nothing can be done until Barnhart contacts the board.
“It caught a few of us off guard and we are disappointed by [Barnhart’s] decision. And it does put our organization in a bad light right now and we don't want that.”
Recommendations have come out from Health Canada and the province suggesting a reduction in travel to contain the spread of the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Health Canada advisors suggested that all residents, “avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice to limit the spread of COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself, your family and those most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in our communities is to choose to stay in Canada.”
According to the provincial COVID-19 website, “the best way to protect yourself, your family, and those most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in our communities is to choose to stay in Canada. Contact your airline or tour operator to determine options for cancelling or postponing your trip.”
Municipalities of Saskatchewan have ongoingly supported provincial and federal regulations and shared information with panels and workshops with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, including panels with Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, being provided for their members throughout the pandemic. The most recent of these workshops was a virtual town hall with the Saskatchewan Health Authority on Dec. 9.