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Greek-Canadian Shadow Minister Loses Job Over Greek Jaunt

Niki Ashton
Canadian MP Niki Ashton from Manitoba. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Greek-Canadian Shadow Cabinet Minister Niki Ashton, whose mother is from Greece, lost both her portfolios in the Canadian government yesterday after it came to light that she had traveled to Greece without advising anyone in her party.

The shadow cabinet minister, whose father is longtime MP Steve Ashton, went to Greece to celebrate the new year, also stating in a Tweet that she was visiting her grandmother there.

The MP, who represents Churchill-Keewatinook Aski as a member of the New Democratic Party, was reprimanded by party leaders after she announced that she was celebrating the holidays in the Mediterranean country.

“Wishing everyone a better year ahead… After spending Christmas alone with our family at home in Manitoba, now I am with my ailing grandmother, my yiayia, in Greece,” Ashton posted on her Twitter account on Jan. 1, before finishing the tweet with greetings in Greek for the new year.

As a result of her indiscretion, Ashton had her roles in the NDP’s shadow cabinet taken away from her. She had been the federal New Democratic Party’s critic for public ownership and transport and the deputy critic for the area of women and gender equality.

A statement from the national head of the NDP after Ashton’s trip stated “Canadians, rightfully, expect their elected representatives to lead by example.

“While this is no family vacation, Ms. Ashton will be removed from her shadow critic roles.”

Strict travel requirements during lockdown

Of course Greece has strictly limited international travel during the pandemic, although Greek nationals and those with Greek passports who live abroad, including Canadians, may lawfully enter the country.

Indeed, Canada was on the list of countries whose residents were allowed to enter as tourists after the mid-summer point, as long as they cleared a coronavirus test.

At this point , however, another national lockdown has been imposed and only those who are engaging in “essential travel” may enter the country — and as along as they also submit a negative COVID-19 test.

Although Greek officials did indeed approve Ashton’s holiday season visit, federal officials in Canada continue to strictly limit non-essential travel outside the country at present.

An official travel advisory from the Manitoba government states “While some countries are partially opening their borders, we continue to advise against non-essential travel outside of Canada.”

Even within Manitoba there are restrictions on travel in an effort to cut down on coronavirus transmission, with only essential travel, workers or northern residents who must leave the region for what are deemed “essential purposes” being allowed in the province.

Other Canadians in hot water for Hawaii, Caribbean holidays

But the Greek-Canadian is not the only MP who found themselves in hot water over the holidays. Rod Phillips, who represents Ontario as a Progressive Conservative, was discovered to have gone to the Caribbean paradise of St. Bart’s over Christmas. He was forced to resign his office as Canadian finance Minister as soon as he landed back in the country on New Year’s Eve.

Two other Canadian politicians, Albertan United Conservative Party MLA and provincial municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard and UCP MLA Jeremy Nixon, were discovered to have gone to Hawaii over the holidays.

After these incidents, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney officially ordered all UCP MLAs to not leave the country for the foreseeable future except for the purpose of conducting official government business.

Allard, who is ironically tasked with overseeing the coronavirus vaccination campaign in Alberta, has not resigned nor been removed from her position.

Another Canadian politician, Saskatchewan Party MLA Joe Hargrave, was also discovered to have gone to Palm Springs, California just before Christmas, but he claimed at the time that he had to do so in order to sell a property there.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe stated that he had already been told about Hargrave’s travel in advance and therefor there was no problem in that regard, but the opposition NDP in the province demanded that Hargrave resign from his Cabinet post.

Ashton was coordinator at Athens 2004 Olympics

In her position since October 19, 2015, Ashton was born in Thompson, Manitoba to Hariklia Dimitrakopoulou and former Manitoba provincial NDP cabinet minister Steve Ashton. She has one younger brother, Alexander.

She attended École Riverside School and R. D. Parker Collegiate, later attending the Li Po Chun United World College in Hong Kong.  Ashton has a B.A in Global Political Economy from the University of Manitoba, an M.A in International Affairs from Carleton University. She has been an instructor at the University College of the North.

She studied human rights and social justice at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

In 2004 she was a coordinator and promoter of volunteering at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. With her knowledge of the Greek language, she assisted the Canadian and Chinese Olympic teams.

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