Dozens of B.C.'s elected officials are assuring constituents they weren't the only ones making responsible choices this holiday season, amid growing outrage over the Canadian politicians who took international vacations at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CTV News reached out to mayors and councillors from 16 municipalities across the Lower Mainland – from West Vancouver to White Rock to Chilliwack – and in less than 24 hours received more than 80 email responses people who made the same sacrifices most British Columbians did last month.
Among them was Coun. Dennis Marsden of Coquitlam, who expressed concern that recent headlines have painted most politicians as "awful and out of touch" with the electorate.
"I can confirm that the only travel I did during the break was from my couch to the fridge and back!" said Marsden, who added that he believes the official recommendation against non-essential travel has been crystal clear.
In Delta, Coun. Dylan Kruger said his family made the difficult decision not to travel to Calgary to see his 90-year-old grandmother, who suffers from dementia.
"These are the types of sacrifices all of us are expected to make right now. It has been very disappointing to see other elected officials make poor choices that are so out of touch with public expectation and the best available medical advice," Kruger said.
While it was not illegal to vacation in Mexico or Hawaii – like Sen. Don Plett or former Alberta cabinet minister Tracy Allard, respectively – it was against public health advice.
And District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little said he understands that politicians are and should be held to a higher standard.
"I haven't left the province in over a year, and won't be travelling until we have seen a dramatic change in the situation," said Little, who cancelled two trips abroad in 2020. "There will be a time for travel, but out of respect for the sacrifice of so many, we need to model low-risk behaviour from home."
So far, only one Lower Mainland politician, West Vancouver Coun. Peter Lambur, has admitted to travelling internationally over the break.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said he and his wife made a meal for their adult children and grandchildren over the holidays. He told CTV News they "delivered those meals to their doorstep and left," which was one of Dr. Bonnie Henry's recommended ways of staying connected with loved ones.
"I haven't hugged my 90-year-old mother since early March," Braun said, adding that they do visit her outside of her care home often.
Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung of Vancouver was among the British Columbians who decided against their normal family gatherings, in accordance with provincial health orders.
"I also did not have Christmas with my cousin and extended family and see my 99-year-old aunt as I normally would, knowing each Christmas at that age is a gift," she said.
"I believe that as elected representatives it’s our job not just to follow the standard, but to set the standard."
When asked what he would say to leaders who chose non-essential travel, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West told CTV News that the behavior “reveals a deeper problem: a sense of entitlement, a sense of elitism, a sense of rules are for the people, not for me.”
West spent Christmas at home, including baking gingerbread cookies with his three-year-old son.
“(Those leaders) have forfeited the moral authority that’s required to be in leadership positions,” West said, though he and others like Kirby-Yung stopped short of calling for outright resignations.
“It’s really up to you to stand up and do the mea culpa,” Kirby-Yung said.
And Abbotsford’s Braun pointed out that instead of looking at others' behavior and casting judgment without knowing all the details, he has focused largely on his own actions.
“My role is to lead by example. And I try to do that as a mayor and hope (others) emulate that.”