Dumb, Dumb, Dumb: Canadian Pension Official Forced To Resign Over Vaccine Tourism

About four months ago I wrote that we should expect to see vaccine tourism, with doses available in places like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

That was before we had effectiveness data on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and before the U.S. and U.K. had approved any shots. For all of the failures of the U.S. rollout, it’s far more robust than much of the world. So vaccine tourism has been a bigger phenomenon elsewhere.

One place that’s markedly behind in vaccinations is Canada. The country’s China deal fell through and they didn’t invest quickly enough in their own manufacturing capacity. President Biden won’t allow vaccines to be exported to Canada until all Americans have had shots.

The CEO of the fund that manages investments for Canada Pension Plan, a part of Canada’s social security, took a trip to the U.A.E. and got his shot, presumably the highly effective Sinopharm inactivated virus vaccine. This became public, and he’s been forced to resign.

He says that he “followed all travel protocols related to his role as head of the pension fund” while traveling to Dubai. However a Finance Ministry spokesperson calls the trip “very troubling” when the Canadian government is telling people “now is not the time to travel abroad.”

This is dumb. The trip isn’t the Mayor of Austin telling people to stay home for the holidays in a live video from a timeshare in Cabo, or the Mayor of Denver telling people to stay home as he boarded a United Airlines flight (nor is it Ted Cruz taking his family across the border in search of a better life, like so many others before him).

The concern with travel abroad is that someone might become infected by the virus, including a new variant, and bring it back with them when they returned. But in this case the CEO was being vaccinated and the inactivated virus vaccine is highly likely not just to protect from symptoms but also infection (and spread). He’ll be less of a risk than most Canadians when he returns to the country. Getting vaccinated is a public benefit, not just a private one.

Furthermore, he’s now one less dose that Canada needs to provide for, meaning one more Canadian will get vaccinated more quickly. In places where vaccines aren’t widely available yet, three cheers for vaccine tourism!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. You’re missing the political context. The federal government has taken a hard stance on international travel. All agents of government have been told to not travel.

    This guy traveled despite the hard line.

  2. Canada has made it pretty clear they would rather lockdown their citizens than vaccinate them. Despite having preordered 5x the number of doses needed, driving up the price and creating scarcity in the 3rd world.

    They are also the only G7 nation to insist upon getting their share of Covax program.

    The Covax program is meant to help developing countries have access to vaccines.
    Canada has sercured 5 times more doses of available vaccines than it has citizens. Yet still insists it should take available doses meant for poor countries while completely botching their own vaccine distribution.

    All while passing judgement on how other nations have handled the pandemic.

  3. People are traveling within the US to get vaccinated, as different states have different vaccination priorities. Some vaccinate by age, others give priority to politically powerful groups.

  4. As best I can determine Canada is well on the way to turning its whole population into human barnacles. Permanently attached to Canada and immobile.

  5. While I like Canadiens who tend to usually be very friendly and hospitable they’re Prime Minister needs to GO. His policies are ridiculous!

  6. Gary, the impact of the vaccination is not immediate. Assuming he returned quickly to Canada he did not have immunity yet, and likely no reduced likelihood to spread either, until the passage of the buildup period.

  7. Vaccines take a minimum of 2 weeks, usually 4 or more to become effective. So not only did this fool violate national policy he also potentially came back infected, maybe with a new strain. Firing is the least that should happen to him.

  8. @Jim smith
    You are wrong
    He is still there waiting for the second dose
    He flew on his own dime
    He did not fly to vaccinate, he flew since his partner apparently lives there so he just took the opportunity
    The problem here is not this guy, it is the majority of canadians who are petty, jealous and sheepish and the government that wants to shame travelers as smoke and mirrors to cover their stupidity
    I live here, it is a beautiful country, but people here are the worst, passive aggressive selfish shit
    This guy should sue the government for firing him, he did not break any law

  9. @Avery – but this is travel that improves Covid safety and doesn’t put anyone at risk, this ‘hard line’ is dumb if it discourages vaccination.

  10. While I think the U.S. vaccine rollout has been mediocre at best, it is Usain Bolt compared to the Canadian fiasco. Canadians love to moralize about their superiority vis a vis the nation to the south (and often with good enough reason), but when it comes to COVID vaccination they have been an absolute failure.

    I can’t fault someone for wanting to get out and get his shots. His mistake was in not keeping quiet about it.

  11. On so many levels the Canadian government has failed in its handling of the COVID epidemic. This example is just one hock in the spit-bucket. How did it happen? Canada made the mistake of electing a trust-fund frat boy who wins in the good looks department but in not much else. Justin Trudeau surrounds himself with a crew of advisors who are largely detached from the real world experience of most Canadians. The COVID vaccine fiasco is only the latest in a string of avoidable disasters orchestrated by his inept handlers.

  12. @Gary Leff but it’s counter to public equity if government agents are privately paying for the vaccine. There isn’t an appetite here for the hypocrisy of a government agent traveling despise severe national restrictions nor is “jumping the line” culturally acceptable.

  13. @avery
    He did not privately pay for the vaccine, he probably got it for free
    Unlikely he flew to dubai just to get the vaccine
    He did not jump any line as he did not get ahead of any canadian in canada
    It is not illegal to travel
    The problem with bitter canadians is that anything that does not fit their own pseudo utopian wish is considered anti social
    He should sue the government

  14. Seems like the real issue here is that this guy’s actions openly demonstrate that the wealthy and privileged are not subject to the same frustrating limitations as everyone else, even with something as serious as a pandemic. Everyone is sick of this BS and annoyed to be at the back of the line. Right or wrong, this guy paid the price—and, even so, he’s still better off than most.

  15. @Tim L
    wrong Tim
    any canadian can get on an airplane and go to dubai, and most likely you will be able to get vaccinated there
    nothing stopping canadians from flying out of Canada

  16. This seems to be a very US versus Canada point of view clash. Here is a good read on what the likely majority Canadian point of view is:


    I will say that I disagree about the lasting damage to his career, precisely because Gary has laid out the American perspective, pretty much the exact opposite of the Canadian perspective in the article. The CEO came from Goldman Sachs and likely will be able to return to a US investment bank without any concerns about what Canadians (not every Canadian, don’t flame me, I am talking collectively) view as an ethical lapse. Multiple Canadian politicians have been turfed for the sin of travelling internationally, never mind jumping the queue for a vaccine, so it should not be surprising that he was dismissed (sorry, “resigned”) pretty rapidly.

    @DaveS, he tried to stay quiet about it, the Wallstreet Journal outed him. There is little doubt that if they had not, he would never have said anything and would have returned to the country just as quietly as he left it.

  17. Dead Canadians = 10% more in 2020 than typical year
    Dead Americans = 25% more in 2020 than typical year.

    Canada 1, America 0

    @farnorthtrader you’re dead on; Canada has a solidarity ethos which Americans lack (and don’t understand) and enabled the massacre of 2020

Comments are closed.