David Swann statement on 2017 second quarter opioid report

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in response to the release of the 2017 second quarter opioid report:

“I am deeply troubled and saddened that another 119 Albertans tragically lost their lives in the last three months to opioid overdose.

“The number of people in the province dying from fentanyl overdoses each quarter remains unacceptably high. Over the past six months, fentanyl alone has taken 241 lives, and this number is projected to reach 480 by the end of year – and this without adding in deaths due to other opiates.

“This dramatic increase in fentanyl deaths over the previous year illustrates the fact that, despite its best efforts, the NDP government still does not have a handle on this mental illness and addiction crisis.

“While the report calls this year’s number of overdose deaths ‘significant,’ I find it horrifying, especially given that they are entirely preventable.

And, while the government claims the trend appears to be ‘stabilizing’ since there were three fewer deaths from the previous quarter, I see the overall number of deaths as further evidence of a lack of progress.

“In short, this report shows that the NDP government is failing to significantly improve access to harm reduction and treatment services.

“What Alberta need is an evidence-based, coordinated plan, including wrap-around housing, social and psychological services that makes proper use all of the tools at the government’s disposal. This includes declaring a state of emergency and treating the issue as such.

“Whatever the NDP may think about the technical aspects of it, the symbolism alone of calling this what it is, an emergency, will go a long way in addressing harmful stigma, creating awareness and mobilizing resources.

“We need increased public education campaigns for all demographics, improved access to harm reduction measures, and we need to make these resources more readily available, especially outside of our major urban areas. These wait times continue to be too long.

“As we approach two deaths per day, we still must wait months for federal approval of safe consumption sites. I keep asking: what is the holdup here? This is supposed to be a national emergency. It is time for our provincial and federal governments to treat it as such.”


NDP must stop clearcutting of Kananaskis Country and Highwood Pass

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann is calling on the NDP government to stop the clearcutting of Kananaskis Country and Highwood Pass.

“There is a responsible way and a place for logging. This is neither,” says David Swann. “They are rapidly clearing massive swaths of trees from well-known tourist and recreation areas.

“The NDP must show better environmental leadership. They must put a stop to this immediately, review the contracts, and examine other sites.”

Swann first raised concerns about the proposed logging in Question Period in May.

He followed up in a letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry on behalf of residents of Black Diamond, Turner Valley and High River, expressing concerns about the pace of the timber harvest. The harvesting of a five-year quota in a single season, the threat to the local economy, and the negative environmental impact on water and wildlife – specifically the endangered cut-throat trout – were raised in the letter.

The Minister replied that all these activities were acceptable and would proceed this month according to plan.

“The government isn’t getting the message,” says Swann. “The municipal councils of Okotoks, Turner Valley and Black Diamond have all asked for delay and review of the licence on the iconic Highwood route. The impact of this clearcutting will be devastating for these communities, and the Minister should heed this clarion call.

“I am also particularly concerned with the threat to the watersheds in the area, which are particularly relevant in this extraordinarily dry summer. Water quality and quantity must be the top priority for the management of the southeastern slopes so as to protect our southern Alberta communities.”

Swann recently surveyed the area to see first-hand the devastating effects of the clearcutting in the region. Photos are available below.

Polling has shown that Albertans recognize the danger the logging activities in this region pose to the local environment and economy. I call on the Minister to visit the affected areas, so he can plainly see for himself that these logging practices are unacceptable.

“This needs to stop before the damage is irreversible.”


NDP attempt at City Charters fails to establish equal partnership

Alberta Liberals say the NDP government’s recent City Charter announcement falls well short of their expectations for an equal partnership with a clearly defined framework for jurisdictional, financial, and electoral reform.

“Alberta Liberals were the first to propose doing away with the paternalistic relationship between the provincial and municipal governments,” says Liberal MLA David Swann. “Compared to the relationship major municipalities in other Canadian jurisdictions enjoy, this falls well short of our expectations.”

Alberta Liberals first proposed the creation of Big City Charters in 2008. That call was repeated in 2012, and reaffirmed as official Liberal policy in 2015. Over that period, successive Progressive Conservative governments failed to make substantial progress on the issue, choosing instead to make repeated piecemeal amendments to the Municipal Government Act.

Swann points out that the NDP also promised to tackle controversial interjurisdictional issues such as oil and gas drilling within municipal boundaries. Yet, there appears to be no mention of them in the proposed changes.

“Liberals view Alberta’s two major cities as equal partners, not dependents who must come cap in hand to the provincial government,” says Swann. “They shouldn’t have to beg for permission or resources to meet the needs of their citizens, but be empowered through their own unique acts which resolve these jurisdictional issues, and clearly establish revenue generating and/or sharing powers.

“At the end of the day, the most important element here is municipal funding, and there is no new funding formula or commitment to establish one in this agreement.”