A Langford councillor recently travelled to his home in Phoenix, Arizona, despite a provincial warning not to undertake non-essential travel, the mayor has confirmed.
Mayor Stew Young said Coun. Matt Sahlstrom spoke to him before making the trip, and he cautioned Sahlstrom about staying safe, but Young said he doesn’t have the power to stop him from travelling.
“I guess he’s down there fixing up his house or something like that. He hasn’t been there for a year and a half. That’s what he’s saying,” Young said.
Sahlstrom has not responded to interview requests by phone, email or text.
Sahlstrom left in late April after Langford’s most recent council meeting, on April 19, Young said. He will be able to participate in upcoming council meetings virtually.
Young said he didn’t want comment on whether Sahlstrom’s travel was essential.
“I’m staying out of it with him. He’s a grown man. And as I said before, he’s got to make his own decisions and do what he’s got to do, right?” Young said. “If it’s essential — if that’s what he had to do — then, you know, that’s his decision.”
Young noted that, despite strong warnings against travelling internationally, it remains legal, and Sahlstrom will be expected to quarantine when he returns. Young said he doesn’t know when Sahlstrom plans to return.
Coun. Lillian Szpak said she found out her fellow councillor was out of the country after being asked to sign some city cheques, a job Sahlstrom would normally take care of as chair of the administration and finance advisory committee.
She said his absence was confirmed to her by Young and city staff, and she has not heard from Sahlstrom.
Without hearing his reasons directly, Szpak said she was reluctant to judge whether the travel was essential.
Szpak said she does not condone non-essential travel and that no one is above the province’s rules and guidelines.
“I don’t think anyone should be bucking guidelines. The travel ban is there to protect all of us. We’re in the third wave of a pandemic. And Dr. Bonnie Henry and our provincial leaders and our health authority have been very clear that we stay in our home communities,” she said.
Coun. Lanny Seaton said he was not aware that Sahlstrom had left the country, and that they had not been in communication since the last council meeting.
B.C. has been discouraging non-essential travel since November. The province issued an emergency order in April to prohibit people from travelling between the Island and the mainland and between the Lower Mainland and the rest of the province for non-essential purposes.