TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's ministry of finance called a media report that the head of the country's largest pension fund had traveled to the Middle East and received a COVID-19 vaccination "very troubling".
Mark Machin, the 54-year-old chief executive of the C$475.7 billion ($377 billion) Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), received a Pfizer Inc vaccine shot after arriving in the United Arab Emirates with his partner this month, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
"While the CPPIB is an independent organization, this is very troubling," a spokeswoman for Canada's ministry of finance said. "The federal government has been clear with Canadians that now is not the time to travel abroad. We were not made aware of this travel."
CPPIB did not respond to multiple requests for comment by Reuters. Machin was appointed president and CEO in June 2016, according to the pension fund's website.
The CPPIB was established by an Act of Parliament in December 1997, but it is governed independently from the federal government. It manages Canada's national pension fund, invests on behalf of about 20 million Canadians and reports to a board of directors selected by Canada's minister of finance.
There is no specific ban on Canadians traveling abroad, but the federal and provincial governments have advised against overseas trips to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Canada trails behind many developed nations in its vaccination drive, with under 3% of the population inoculated so far. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has come under attack from opposition leaders and provincial premiers for the slow-burn roll out..
Some Canadian federal and provincial leaders have resigned in the past month after their overseas leisure trips sparked public outrage.
($1 = 1.2620 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Stephen Coates)