Gerry Ritz is in Arizona and he's not sorry

Gerry Ritz is enjoying the favourable weather of Arizona and is unapologetic about it.

The former MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster, now reeve of the Rural Municipality of Mervin, said Tuesday he’s not worried about the “optics” of travelling during a pandemic that has the Canadian government advising the public to stay home.

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“I’m not a politician anymore,” he told the News-Optimist during a telephone interview, except on a very local level. The former federal agriculture minister retired in 2017 and was elected as reeve of the RM of Mervin during the recent Nov. 9 municipal election.

As a private citizen, said Ritz, he is comfortable with his choice to head south for part of the winter, just as many Canadians do.

“It’s not illegal,” he points out, saying they have made several visits to Arizona over the last few years and decided to do so again this year because, as he said, “life goes on”.

He also said he doesn’t worry about what people say, having served in government long enough to accept someone will complain no matter what you do.

In Arizona, Ritz said, they are part of a community of about 1,000 people, and they follow the COVID-19 requirements in place there, just as they would at home.

He is also working remotely, he pointed out, just as he would at home, and often takes part in virtual meetings.

Travelling to Arizona wasn’t a problem, he said, but since then he’s cancelled trips back for work and gone virtual instead due to the return travel restrictions Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has implemented. Now he’s waiting to see what’s going to happen with the plan to quarantine travellers returning to Canada in hotels. 

Getting a test within 72 hours of flying is not unreasonable, he says, but having to take another at arrival is redundant. Then staying at a hotel at a cost of $2,000 while awaiting the test results, especially since travellers will still be required to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine, is going too far, said Ritz.

“It’s punitive,” he said.

He may not be a politician anymore, but Ritz says of the Liberal government’s return traveller plan, “It’s like using a sledgehammer to kill a mouse.”

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