A billionaire megadonor to Donald Trump, who has publicly criticized coronavirus restrictions, was granted an exemption from Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for foreign travelers when she visited the country by private jet.
Liz Uihlein, the president of US packaging company Uline, visited Canada through the Pearson airport in Toronto on 25 August to visit one of her company’s warehouses, according to CBC News.
The 75-year-old was accompanied on the two day visit by senior company executives, Phil Hunt and Glenn Quaiver.
A company spokesperson told CBC that the three of them were granted a formal exemption from the quarantine rule, which has been active in Canada since March, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
CBC reported that the waiving of the rule, known as a national interest exemption, can only be issued by five officials in the country.
The officials approved to issue exemptions are the minister of public safety Bill Blair, minister of foreign affairs François-Philippe Champagne, minister of health Patty Hajdu, minister of immigration Marco Mendicino, and chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam.
On Thursday, Mr. Blair said that the officials were not involved in waiving the quarantine and confirmed that the decision was made by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers.
“No special entry exemptions were provided to Uline executives, nor were any National Interest Exemptions. This was not a political decision. A decision was made by officers based on the information provided. Entry should not have been permitted.”
The news drew criticism from political figures in the country, and Jagmeet Singh, leader of the leftwing New Democratic party, directed his anger at Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
“While Mr. Trudeau’s been asking Canadians to follow public health advice, behind closed doors he’s been giving exemptions to billionaires,” he tweeted.
Mr. Singh added: “We know he thinks there’s one set of rules for him and his rich friends, and another for the rest of us – but this is something else.”
Ontario premier Doug Ford also criticized Ms. Uihlein’s visit and said:
“It doesn’t matter who you are. I don’t care if you have fifty cents or ten billion dollars,” and added: “It doesn’t make a difference: the rules are the rules.”
Combined, Ms. Uihlein and her husband Richard are the biggest donor to the Republican Party and have so far donated $40bn (£30.96bn) in this fiscal year, according to CBC.
Ms. Uihlein has also been a vocal critic of coronavirus guidelines and told the Guardian in April that lockdown procedures have been “overhyped.”
The 75-year-old added: “And I don’t wish anybody ill will. You know I don’t wish that, but I think it hurts certain ages in certain places and largely in a lot of parts of the world.
“In the country it’s not as rampant as the press would have you make it.”
Although Canada is only a tenth of the size of the US, it has so far recorded at least 142,000 Covid-19 cases and 9,201 deaths, while its neighbor has announced more than three 6.6 million positive tests and 197,946 fatalities.
While Mr. Trudeau’s been asking Canadians to follow public health advice, behind closed doors he’s been giving exemptions to billionaires.
We know he thinks there’s one set of rules for him and his rich friends, and another for the rest of us — but this is something else. https://t.co/isnbu4PmB2
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) September 17, 2020