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Canada pension fund CEO resigns after flying to Dubai for Covid vaccine

The head of Canada’s largest pension fund has resigned after disregarding public health advice and travelling to Dubai for a dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board announced on Friday that its CEO, Mark Machin, had stepped down from his position, after the Wall Street Journal first reported Machin’s trip late on Thursday.

“After discussions last evening with the board, Mr Machin tendered his resignation and it has been accepted,” CPPIB said in a statement. The fund, which has manages C$475bn (US$373bn) in assets, invests on behalf of the Canada Pension Plan.

While travelling abroad is not against the law, Canadians have been asked by the government to avoid international trips.

Machin’s trip comes as most Canadians are also waiting to receive their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine as the country struggles to administer jabs. Despite securing millions of doses, only 4.5% of the country is vaccinated.

It is unclear how Machin, a British citizen with no clear ties to the UAE, was able to get a vaccine meant for residents of the emirate. Earlier this month, he received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and is staying in Dubai until he receives his second dose.

A number of provinces have announced plans to begin vaccinating anyone over the age of 80 in the coming weeks. Machin, a resident of Ontario, is 54 years old, meaning he would have likely received his first vaccine in early summer.

In a memo sent to staff late on Thursday, Machin admitted he had taken the trip for a number of reasons, including some that were “deeply personal” in nature. He also expressed disappointment that his queue-jumping had become the focus of “expected criticism”.

A former Goldman Sachs investment banker who took the reins of Canada’s pension fund in 2016, Machin is the latest senior figure to face criticism for personal conduct during the coronavirus pandemic.

In December, Ontario’s former finance minister took a trip to St Barts over the holidays, despite government pleas against international travel. Soon after, the CEO of a hospital also stepped down from his role after travelling to the Caribbean. A number of politicians were punished for making trips outside of the country in December.

Last month, Canadians expressed shock after a CEO and his partner chartered a private bush plane to receive vaccines meant for elderly Indigenous residents.

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