Recently Yorkton This Week wrote an article about political figures taking Christmas vacations outside of Saskatchewan, entitled ‘Saltcoats Mayor and Municipalities of Sask. president in Hawaii’. As a result of this article, and a myriad of similar articles from other news sources, Cabinet Members have been stepping down from their position; not only in Saskatchewan but across the nation.
Restrictions allow for the freedom of going on a flight, even an international one, but they also demand a strict set of protocols when passengers depart and arrive back in Canada.
Thousands of Canadians have travelled to Hawaii since December 1st, according to a report cited by the Calgary Herald. A recent article by Stephanie Babych reported, “Since Dec. 1, 2,824 visitors have jetted to Hawaii from Calgary’s airport, according to an online portal from the U.S. state on Sunday. More than 80 percent of these travellers cited ‘pleasure/vacation’ as their reason for the trip. Another 2,058 travellers departed from Vancouver International directly to Hawaii, 21 from Lester B. Pearson International and 15 from Edmonton International.”
Certain members of the public have voiced their concern regarding politicians travelling during a time when restrictions are heightened. While restrictions have increased, travel is allowed if strict protocols are followed. Of these nearly 5000 Canadians who travelled, most were not asked to leave their positions of employment.
Gordon Barnhart, President of the Municipalities of Sask. and Mayor of Saltcoats was contacted to hear first hand his side of the story by the Four-Town Journal, to which Barnhart shared the experience of he and his and his wife, Naomi when travelling during COVID-19 and the nature of their Christmas vacation to Hawaii.
Mr. Barnhart offered, “For the last nine years, Naomi and I have spent Christmas and January in Maui. This year with COVID-19, we took extra precautions to ensure that our health and the health of those around us would be safe.”
Explaining the precautions he had to meet in order to travel, Gordon said, “ In order to enter Maui, it is required by Hawaiian state law that you have a Covid test done at pre-approved labs in Calgary. We took extra precautions to ensure we were free of Covid before flying to Calgary. We took the test with a negative result. After registering this result with the Hawaiian Ministry of Health, we received clearance to board the Air Canada flight to Maui.”
The Mayor of Saltcoats added, “It was reassuring to know that all 182 passengers on that flight were Covid free. We all wore masks and followed the health requirements. On arrival in Maui, with the lab test results in hand, we were welcomed and were not required to self-isolate.”
Now that he is safe and healthy in Hawaii, he has been able to enjoy cycling, swimming and the beautiful sunshine.
“Other than a weekly visit to grocery stores, we do not have direct contact with anyone.” Gordon said, “This is our usual lifestyle in Maui even before Covid. The stat on new Covid cases for the island of Maui has been in the range of 30 new cases per day. By taking the usual precautions and the low Covid count, we feel very safe here. We will again take the Covid test and will self isolate for 14 days on returning to Saskatchewan.”
Mr. Barnhart understands the importance of being cautious and staying protected.
“We are both supporters of taking precautions to stop the spread of Covid. With the above-mentioned testing and careful lifestyle, we believe that we have done our very best to protect ourselves and those around us.”
Responsibility is a priority for Barnhart, which he demonstrated by informing all members around him that needed to be privy to his flight plans.
Gordon explained, “Before leaving for our vacation, I discussed with the Saltcoats Council and Administration how we could keep in contact while away. While in Maui, we both have been keeping up with work by email and phone, FaceTime and zoom. As Mayor of Saltcoats, I am in touch with Councillors and Administration on a daily basis. Arrangements have been made for me to fulfill my administrative duties by distance and I have been able to Chair Council Meetings by Zoom. I take my role as Mayor very seriously and believe I have been able to fulfill my duties to the best of my ability while still taking a holiday with my wife.”
The Municipalities of Saskatchewan President ended by saying, “We look forward to meeting our friends and colleagues in person on our return and after the required period of self-isolation.”
Even though the Barnhart family travelled, they followed all COVID protocols of pre-testing, social distancing, masking in public areas and self-isolation, Gordon was still able to conduct his responsibilities to the Municipalities of Saskatchewan as well as to the community of Saltcoats.
Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal