It was Jan. 7, when Yorkton This Week first reported Saltcoats Mayor, and then president of the Municipalities of Saskatchewan Gordon Barnhart was in Hawaii.
That might not sound like such a big deal coming after the holiday season, but of course we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and international travel is simply frowned upon.
In fact, prior to the discovery of Barnhart's trip, Joe Hargrave, MLA for Prince Albert Carlton, had resigned as Saskatchewan Highways Minister after making a trip to Palm Springs, California in late December landed him in a public storm given the general public has been urged to stay home to control the spread of COVID-19.
In Alberta six MLAs, including one cabinet minister, and Premier Jason Kenney’s chief of staff had resigned from various positions for similar reasons.
Barnhart's trip, given his position was at best bad optics, at worst a flawed decision from a provincial leader.
A press release from the Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s Board of Directors soon followed after being made aware that Barnhart had travelled internationally while non-essential travel is not recommended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Board of Directors is disappointed in President Barnhart’s decision to travel abroad,” said Mayor Rodger Hayward, Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s Vice-President of Towns. “As municipal leaders, we have a duty to lead by example and keep our communities safe by following public health measures and recommendations.”
Monday that disappointment proved to extend to the general membership of the group and not just the board as the former lieutenant-governor’s bid for a second term as president of Municipalities of Saskatchewan was upended by challenger Rodger Hayward, who won 351 votes to Barnhart’s 115.
Interestingly, news that Hayward who had been the Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s vice-president of towns did not even surface until Feb.4, yet he easily carried the vote a few days later.
It had seemed Barnhart would be acclaimed, and frankly probably would have been if not for his huge misstep, but when Hayward, the Mayor at Naicam, did step forward the membership were obviously eager to support him.
“In light of recent events by our present president and his trip out of country for a holiday and just a few other decisions he's made over the last couple of years, I wanted to make sure our members had a choice in who they want to be our president,” Hayward said in a story in Yorkton This Week's sister publication The Humboldt Journal.
“I wanted to make sure he wasn’t acclaimed, that our members had a choice and I thought it was time for me to step up and do that."
When someone is in a position of leadership they need to lead, and Barnhart's trip was not doing that, and that members of the provincial municipal organization opted for a new voice shows the members stepped up to show the leadership Barnhart did not.