Scheer and family joined other MPs on crowded flight to Ottawa, ignoring social distancing rules

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Last week, parliamentarians got into a small nine-seat government plane – ignoring pandemic health guidelines to keep two meters apart – in a hurry to get to Ottawa for a vote on emergency federal economic legislation which was passed on Saturday.

Outgoing Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who lives in British Columbia, boarded the Challenger with the British Columbia Liberals. Cabinet Minister Carla Qualtrough, Conservative Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer, his wife and five children are in all seats on the plane on Friday.

Health guidelines encourage people to stay two meters away from others to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. But on the Challenger flight last week, the passengers sat side by side with only a few inches between them, according to one of the passengers on board.

“I have to say I was worried,” May told CBC News.

Usually, the House of Commons pays for members to travel to Ottawa for business purposes. In this case, the federal government sent a plane to pick up May, Qualtrough and then Scheer to attend a rare meeting on Saturday Saturday for a vote on extended emergency benefits for Canadians affected by the pandemic.

Initially, the flight would carry only the three MPs, but later Scheer’s wife and children were added to the plan.

WATCH: Elizabeth May talks about her flight to Ottawa with the Scheers

Green Party Elizabeth May thanked Minister of Employment Carla Qualtrough and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Saturday for offering to fly to Ottawa on one of the federal government’s Challenger aircraft. 0:55

Why did all the Scheers steal?

The press secretary to the Conservative leader of the opposition, Denise Siele, did not answer several questions from CBC News. However, she said in an email that it was cheaper for the family to fly together.

“This one-way trip resulted in fewer trips than Mr. Scheer did in both directions each time the House sat, or on the whole family on commercial flights through multiple airports using MP travel points,” said said Siele.

The Scheers, said Siele, have returned to Ottawa after spending several weeks in Regina during the March holidays and will now remain in the capital for the remainder of the spring session.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer gives the boost as he and his wife Jill board the party’s election campaign plane in Ottawa on October 14, 2019. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

May said she didn’t know why either. Last week, the Green MP said the Prime Minister’s Office had told him that a government plane would come to pick her up, as well as Qualtrough and Scheer. She said she was relieved because she did not want to travel for business.

May later said that Prime Minister’s Office staff informed her that Scheer had requested space for his wife and family.

“It would mean that each seat would be occupied,” said May. “And they (PMO) also said that Jill and the kids would have to travel by commercial plane otherwise and I thought, ‘Why should I ask Jill and the kids to go through all these airports?’ “

May said the Prime Minister’s Office told her that she could refuse to allow the Scheer family to go on board, but she agreed.

The CBC’s questions about the theft were addressed to the office of the House leader, but the press secretary, Simon Ross, did not respond.

“Following a request from the official opposition, arrangements have been made to allow the Leader of the Opposition to go one-way to Ottawa to attend the House of Commons emergency sitting,” said Mr. Ross in an email.

However, a senior government source, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said that physical distance was taken into account when planning the flights.

“Generous impulse”

May said she took a calculated risk by ignoring the rules of physical distance because it was the compassionate thing to do.

“Social distance is really important, and we want to live it and prove it,” said May. “But it was either (Scheer’s family) passed through commercial airports, or we let them travel safer together as a family. “

The cabin of the jet plane, when full, does not allow passengers or crew much room to maintain the required two-meter distance, said May.

May said she took precautions to minimize exposure on the nine-seat Challenger jet. May – a talkative MP who is not afraid to cross party lines to collaborate – said she had taken the unusual step of fleeing to keep to herself.

“I was very anti-social,” said May laughing. “I worked on my laptop until I ran out of work. And I made myself as small as a ball and fell asleep. “

This image shows a layout of the Challenger jet that Elizabeth May carried herself, Minister of Employment Carla Qualtrough, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer and her six family members in Ottawa at the end of the week last. (Bomber)

When the plane stopped in Regina, May greeted the Scheers as they boarded, and Scheer’s wife Jill spoke briefly with May and Qualtrough. The two B.C. Deputies sat in the front of the plane in a pair of facing seats, while the Scheers occupied the rest of the plane.

“Jill wanted to say that they (the family) cut themselves off from home,” said May. “She was sure they were fine. We kept our distance as best we could. “

While May wore a mask during the flight, she said the Scheers had not. May said everyone used sterile wipes to clean all surfaces.

“Everyone works so hard,” she said. “I don’t want to create a negative story from what has been a generous push from everyone involved. “

MPs and the Scheers weren’t the only ones with an elevator on a government aircraft. A Cessna Citation chose the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Don Plett, in Winnipeg. Unlike the situation aboard the Members’ flight, Plett said, he was able to meet the two-meter rule.

“Oh, there was a lot of social distancing. I was alone, “he said.

Are the Trudeaux breaking the rules?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could also violate at least one public health directive. Trudeau, his wife Sophie and their three children spent time at Harrington Lake, the Prime Minister’s lake retreat and official summer residence in Quebec, about 30 kilometers northwest of Parliament Hill.

Quebec public health officials have asked Ontarians not to go to their country residences on the other side of the provincial border.

CMP Deputy Director of Communications Chantal Gagnon said the Prime Minister traveled to Harrington Lake to spend Easter with his wife and children.

“They continue to follow all of the public health guidelines,” said Gagnon.

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