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By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta, Canada, Thurs. Jan 7, 2021 (Reuters) – Eight Canadian politicians have resigned or were demoted after travelling internationally over the Christmas holidays despite urgings from government officials to avoid non-essential trips during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conservative member of parliament David Sweet resigned as chair of the House of Commons’ ethics committee after he travelled to the United States to deal with a “property issue” but stayed on for leisure, federal opposition Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole’s office said in a statement.

In the western province of Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney said on social media he accepted the resignation of Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and asked his chief of staff Jamie Huckabay to step down after they travelled to Hawaii and the United Kingdom respectively.

“I have listened to Albertans who are sending a clear message that they want real consequences for these actions,” Kenney said. “By travelling abroad over the holidays, these individuals demonstrated extremely poor judgment.”

Pictures on social media showed a large banner reading “Welcome Home, Aloha Allard” hung outside Allard’s constituency office in Grand Prairie. Local media reported angry constituents had put it there.

Five other legislative assembly members of Alberta’s ruling United Conservative Party have been demoted for travelling abroad over the holidays, violating coronavirus travel warnings issued by federal and provincial governments.

Scott Moe, premier of Saskatchewan, said in a statement he accepted the resignation of Highways Minister Joe Hargrave, who visited California. Hargrave’s claim that he travelled to finalize a home sale was questioned by the opposition party.

Last week, Ontario’s Finance Minister Rod Phillips resigned after public outrage over a Caribbean vacation he took in December.

As of Jan. 3, Canada had reported 601,663 COVID-19 cases, up 6,578 on the day, and 15,865 deaths, up 41 on the day.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent Christmas at home with his family over the holidays and no federal cabinet ministers travelled either, a government official said.

(Additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Steve Scherer in Ottawa Editing by Alistair Bell and Sam Holmes)

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