Cathay Wagantall, MP for Yorkton-Melville, spent Christmas with her husband and brother in-law at home knowing the importance of following the health recommendations over the holidays.
She says many factors go into the current situation surrounding politicians travelling abroad, and travel in general during the pandemic has been a polarizing topic.
“I think we have to couch the whole thing with a couple of other qualifiers,” said Wagantall. “This government has never shut down our borders to international travel into Canada, that’s a mark right there.
“Then of course we have airlines that are basically on fumes and needing to re-open and we have travel agents who depend on their commissions to make a living for their family. I actually met with a number of them online on a Zoom call with a few of us from the Sask caucus. Trips that were scheduled back in 2019 even, are now not being able to be taken and these people are being required to return their commissions from a year ago to the airlines to provide refunds for people. I understand there’s a desire to get the money back, but the government has insisted that they won’t help the airlines out unless they first re-open their regional carriers and give the money back to customers.
“They wouldn’t be in this circumstance where they’re having to shut down regional airports if the government had acted on Covid and our borders much sooner. There’s all these dynamics in play here, as well as the fact that the airlines are trying to open things up and there’s actually agreements in place, like with Hawaii and Canada.
“Right now we have the ability as Canadians to fly to Hawaii if you do a rapid test and you have that as you board the plane to go to Hawaii and then of course you have to be rapid tested once you come home to Canada.
“There’s so much miscommunication out there on what people can and cannot do,” she said.
“At the same time though, for this particular season, we were highly encouraged not to go outside of the country and I understand that because the message to Canadians especially as things got worse and worse towards the holidays was that it would be best for everybody to stay home.
“For my husband and I, a couple months ago we were hoping to take a trip for this time and my husband said ‘let’s plan and prepare and if things are good then we can go.’ As it turned out, it was not a good time to go for many reasons,” she said.
“One of those reasons is optics and with those optics come the concern. It’s unfortunate because with many of these circumstances I think the part that’s most disconcerting to me and to other Canadians and probably to their colleagues is that they went incognito, or not communicating their intentions to their leadership and to their caucuses.
“We have a responsibility to communicate as a team,” she said.
“On the one hand, there are people coming in and out of our country every day so it’s a lot of mixed messaging and Canadians are so tried of this whole Covid environment. Then of course, who knew that there was going to be this other strain developing over the Christmas season as well.
“There’s just so many unknowns at this point in time, but I do understand the frustration and at the same time you’d think there has to be regret in most of these situations and it’s all very unfortunate.”
Wagantall doesn’t want to speak on resignations without knowing all the details surrounding these decisions made by politicians to travel abroad, but she does think people are quick to make judgements and she’s glad she’s not in their shoes.
“It’s too hard for me to make a call on (resignations),” said Wagantall. “It’s the perception that is being presented and it’s like anyone who faces a circumstance where they’ve made a misjudgment in their field or in their occupation.
“You’ve done many good things in your time in office, but now a day you make on error or wrong choice—whatever you want to call it—and with social media and with perceptions that are developed, you’re gone immediately and there’s no room a lot of times.
“I think in every one of these cases, I’m thankful I’m not in that scenario where I would have to try and make that decision. Canadians, we know each other very personally and we work as a team and at times people make very foolish decisions. We’ve had times where we’ve had to apologize even just to each other for the way words come out or things have been done, and we’re not living in very forgiving times.”
Covid-19 has been the focus of everything for nearly a year in Canada and Wagantall is proud of the way her constituents have handled the constant changes and adjustments, especially over the holiday season when they were tougher than ever.
“I think overall absolutely the people of my constituency have done what they had to do,” said Wagantall. “It’s just a question of understanding what it is we have to do.
“It’s tough, I know of a scenario where an individual lost his life over Christmas due to Covid.
“He happened to be a parishioner in a church where I have family members involved, the wife was allowed to be at his side and she had just come out of Covid herself.
“I just think how grateful she must be that she was able to be with him when in many other circumstances that wasn’t even a possibility.
“We’re kind of navigating our way through this and there has to be that balance of yes there’s Covid, but yes there’s life and there’s all these other circumstances going on that have always been there.
“Everything is so overshadowed now by this, even when we turn on our television we just wonder what would any of these 24/7 news programs be reporting on right now if there was no Covid. That’s part of the challenge, that it’s just absorbing every part of life now.”