David Swann statement on Earth Day

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement for Earth Day:

“No matter who we are, or where we live, we all depend on our planet for the air, water, and soil to give us life. We have a solemn duty not only to ourselves, but to all humanity, to preserve and protect it.

“Today the greatest threat to our planet is intensifying climate change, caused by human activity. While there has been much discussion about government’s role in combating this issue, we must remember that the true power to create lasting and meaningful change lies with us.

“When joined together, all of our individual lifestyle changes can have an enormous impact. By committing ourselves to conservation, energy efficiency, and reduced pollution and waste, we help lower the cumulative effects of human activity on the environment – and therefore the destructive consequences of climate change.

“This Earth Day, I urge every Albertan to reflect on how we can give back to the planet. The Earth, and all the life it makes possible, is precious. Let us ensure it flourishes for generations to come.”

David Swann statement on Yom HaShoah

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann made the following statement on the floor of the Legislature for Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day:

“This coming Sunday marks Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Today we stand in the Legislature to remember the millions of Jewish women, children, and men brutally murdered by the Nazi regime. Their only crime was being what Adolf Hitler and his government hated and feared: different. Because of their religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, they deviated from the Nazi ideal of a pure Aryan nation, and so were exterminated.

“The full official name of Yom HaShoah translates to “Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day.”

“While we remember humanity at its darkest, and mourn those lost, we also acknowledge the incredible strength of the human spirit.

“Opposition to the Nazi regime took incredible courage. Many lost their lives. Nevertheless, resistance was widespread. Once-ordinary men and women became heroes as they fought back in countless ways. Their bravery gave others a glimmer of hope – a candle in the darkness.

“As the Holocaust fades into the past, we risk forgetting the consequences of not being vigilant against racism, hatred, and genocide in all its forms, and that we must be prepared to act when we see evidence anywhere, anytime, across our world.

“‘Never again’ is more than a hope – it’s a promise to act.

“When we say these words, we promise that we will follow the example of those who stood up and resisted, to fight to ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust are never repeated.”

Statement on including teaching of consent in sex education curriculum

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann issued the following statement in support of including the teaching of consent in the sexual education curriculum:

“Alberta Liberals have advocated for a number of years to include the teaching of consent as part of the sexual education curriculum. I am proud to say that we adopted this position as formal party policy in 2014.

“That is why I am very pleased to see influential voices in the Catholic School Board showing leadership by publicly discussing this matter. In particular, I applaud Marilyn Bergstra for putting forward a motion today that would call on the Board to lobby the government to include important concepts such as safe sex and consent, as well as programming that would address a variety of sexual orientations, in the sexual education curriculum.

“Consent is a subject that sex education teachers need to start discussing with students as early and as often as possible. Teaching that yes means yes, no means no, and that permission must be sought, and given, before any sexual activity can occur is fundamental to the understanding of proper sexual, and, indeed, societal behaviour.

“As a graduate student in public health, Ms. Bergstra brings an important perspective to this debate. Her motion is aimed at equipping students with crucial, practical knowledge – not encouraging sexual activity. Concerns that providing students with such knowledge would promote promiscuity are, in my view, misguided.

“Therefore, I would encourage the Board to carefully consider approving this motion, and help to show leadership in this important area of the sexual education curriculum.”

Revenues from cannabis legalization should go to support mental health and addictions programs, drug treatment courts

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann says revenue from cannabis sales should be used to support mental health and addictions prevention and treatment programs, as well as initiatives such as the drug treatment courts.

Swann welcomes federal legislation on cannabis introduced in the House of Commons today, and calls on the province to ensure the revenue from the sale of cannabis is used appropriately.

“I congratulate the Liberal government on taking this important step to ensure children are protected and profits from the illicit sale of cannabis products are kept out of the pockets of criminals,” says Swann. “Now, it is up to NDP government to ensure these funds go to where they are needed most.”

Swann points out the province’s annual spending on mental health and addictions is well below the national average. He argues dedicating funds from cannabis taxation to prevention and treatment programs is consistent with the NDP’s practice of directing revenues from the carbon levy to reduce carbon pollution and encourage energy efficiency.

“The goal of any cannabis regulation should be to reduce the negative health impacts of drug abuse,” says Swann. “I can think of no better use of these funds than to expand prevention and treatment options.

“Addictions and mental illness often go hand in hand, so it makes sense to have this funding follow suit.”

Swann says the new legislation will also help to alleviate pressure on our overburdened justice system. He notes part of the funding from cannabis sales could go to expanding the drug treatment court system.

“Liberals believe treating drug addiction as a public health issue is far better than dealing with its consequences in the criminal justice system,” says Swann. “That is why we would also like to see an expansion of the drug treatment courts to accompany the new cannabis regulations.”

David Swann statement on the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann made the following statement in the Legislature today to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge:

“On this day, 100 years ago, a great battle of triumph and tragedy was raging on Vimy Ridge.

“I am honoured today to rise in this democratically-elected Assembly and to be able speak freely about these brave men and women, about the survivors and their families, and pay tribute to the fallen.

“Indeed, this is one of the gifts these courageous warriors gave to all of us here – not just freedom from oppression and tyranny, but the freedom to exercise our rights of self-determination and recognition of our inalienable human rights

“The price they paid was high. So many of them were killed that an entire generation was lost. Vimy Ridge remains the single bloodiest battle Canadians have ever fought, with about 3,600 lives being laid down on the fields of France.

“It was a defining moment both in terms of the Great War as well as the birthing of this great nation, Canada.

“It fills us with patriotic pride to remember the victory that was wrought on Vimy Ridge, but it also reminds us of the preciousness of life, the duty of public service, and the eternal vigilance required to protect our rights and freedoms, and the rule of law.

“Finally, I would be amiss if I did not speak about the unspeakable horror of war and the need for each of us, always and everywhere, to work to create the conditions for peace.

“The average age of Canadian soldiers in WWI was 26. The oldest was 80 and the youngest reportedly just 10 years old.

“What they were to experience in those foreign fields was unimaginable for their young minds. While many lives were lost on Vimy Ridge, many more were forever changed.

“Those who did not die had been surrounded by death and terror on a daily basis. Unrelenting physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma was their lot.

“When they returned home, they were enthusiastically welcomed by a truly grateful nation, but how could anyone who had not experienced such devastation begin to understand the effect it would have on the survivors and their families?

“This was a time when study of mental health, and particularly the lasting effects of trauma, was in its infancy. To be a ‘man’ often meant – and still means – maintaining a bravado of strength, refusing to ask for help, and suffering in silence.

“Many, if not all, of those returning from the battle field agonized under the torment of post-traumatic illness. Too often, this led to mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, and family violence.

“Although the guns had gone quiet, there was still a war raging in their minds, reverberating through their family members, and a different kind of peace that remained to be won.

“Our understanding of this disorder has come a long way since then, but there are hills we have yet to climb together. More needs to be done to support our brave service men, women, and families who face the devastation of war.

“We need to end the stigma, and make it clear that admitting mental illness does not make us weak. In fact, it takes incredible strength. And, bravery comes in many forms.

“And above all else, let us earnestly work in this House and in our communities to preserve the peace through respectful discourse, reducing inequality and justice for all; remembering the peace that was purchased at such a high price.”

David Swann statement on interim opioid report, increased fentanyl deaths

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the release of the interim Opioid and Substances of Misuse first quarter report:

“It is very troubling that the number of Albertans who have died has almost doubled over the same period last year, especially since these deaths are preventable.

“It is clear that we are not getting ahead of this crisis. In fact, we are starting to see the same trends witnessed in British Columbia, but without our government taking similar emergency measures.

“While I welcome the addition of $6 million in federal funds to help Alberta’s opioid-crisis response, as well as the NDP’s willingness to enhance treatment options in the critical stages of opioid abuse, I believe new, focused leadership is required.

“This includes the reinstatement of the Provincial Mental Health and Addiction Officer, along with a comprehensive and coordinated strategy involving other governmental and non-governmental agencies.

“For example, regulatory bodies such as the College of Physician and Surgeons of Alberta need to ensure their guidelines are being followed in order to prevent further opioid addictions resulting from abuse of prescriptions.

“We need increased public education efforts and timelier access to harm reduction, including opiate replacement therapy and safe injection sites. We also need to expand the availability of these resources outside of our two largest cities. Lethbridge, for instance, has a four month wait list – this is unacceptable.

“Once again, I urge this government to declare a state of emergency. Let’s do everything in our power to get ahead of these deaths so that more lives are not lost with each new quarterly report.”

David Swann Statement on World Health Day

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement to mark World Health Day:

“The theme for this year’s World Health Day is depression. All of us have a friend or family member who has struggled with this illness – or may even be in the midst of it right now. Scared of being shunned or dismissed, too often they suffer alone and in secret.

“In the past, I have spoken out about my own experience with depression, and today I encourage those with similar experiences to do the same. As well, have the courage to reach out to those showing signs of distress, and offer your support; that is what community is all about. On this World Health Day, let’s promote mental health by breaking down the stigma surrounding it, so that those who are suffering can seek help without shame.”

Swann seeks to amend Bill 1 to include charter schools in fee reduction

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann is proposing an amendment to Bill 1, An Act to Reduce School Fees, to remove a clause which enables the NDP to exclude charter schools from school fee reductions.

“Alberta Liberals certainly support making life more affordable by reducing school fees; in fact, we would eliminate them completely,” says Swann. “However, we feel that all parents with students in public schools should benefit equally from these changes.

“My amendment ensures all public school student fees are reduced, which is what the NDP government had originally promised to do.”

The Charter Schools Handbook clearly defines a charter school as “a public school that provides a basic education in a different or enhanced way to improve student learning.”

Public Interest Alberta, a lobby group with extremely close ties to the NDP government, refers to charter schools as private schools, which “are not necessary or helpful.” It advocates eliminating their funding to “reallocate the money to fulfill [NDP] education-related campaign promises.” These proposals were included in a backgrounder to a release opposing Motion 504, which has been removed from Public Interest Alberta’s website. A copy was obtained by the Alberta Liberal Opposition and is available here.

Swann points out that this is exactly the scenario Bill 1 makes possible.

Yesterday, in Question Period, Swann pressed Education Minister David Eggen to clarify the government’s position on charter schools, but the Minister evaded the questions.

“The NDP is being unfair to the parents of charter school students and its decision to exclude them from this fee reduction is not based on fiscal or social realities; rather, it is ideologically motivated,” says Swann. “The government needs to be transparent about its plans for charter schools, not do it on the sly through regulations.”

Swann introduces Motion 502 to save Albertans money on electricity bills

Today, Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann will introduce Motion 502, which is aimed at providing Albertans with significant savings in electricity costs by modifying how the Regulated Rate Option (RRO) is calculated.

“I want to ensure that the default option for electricity is affordable, protects consumers, encourages industry participation and reinforces proper market functioning,” said Swann. “Motion 502 is an evidence-based solution that strikes the right balance and provides saving for the majority of Albertans on their power bills.”

Currently, the RRO is calculated based on a process called “forward pricing.” Electricity providers buy power in advance and retailers bid on it. Retailers then sell this electricity to consumers. Often, the forward price is higher than the actual price of power during the month it is used.

Changing how the rate is calculated to reflect the cost of electricity at the time of consumption results in an overall lower price and significant savings for Albertans.

Motion 502 will be debated in the Assembly this afternoon at 5 p.m.

Detailed information on the motion can be found here.

David Swann statement on Ministerial Order to allow Gay-Straight Alliances

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the Ministerial Order directing two schools to allow gay-straight alliances (GSAs):

“I thank the Minister of Education for his decision to enforce the law permitting gay-straight alliances to be established in all schools where students request them.

“However, I admonish him for not having taken a firmer stance from the beginning on this matter. By allowing a situation of open defiance to continue for as long as it had, he empowered a willful act of discrimination. This is something that he should not and must not permit.

“The incident further highlights the fact that many school board LGBTQ policies simply do not make the grade – the Minister even called them ‘clunky’. In some cases, students are even discouraged from using the terms LGBTQ or GSA. This goes against both the spirit and the letter of the law.

“One way to ensure transparency and accountability in this matter is to require all school boards, including private schools, to make their GSA policies publicly accessible. That way, parents, students, and the community can review them.

“The investigation that led to the Ministerial Order also raised concerns about a school’s ability to “out” LGBTQ students by notifying parents if students attend GSAs. If true, this is deeply troubling.

“Therefore, I call on the Minister to do everything in his power to protect these vulnerable students, and ensure their privacy and confidentiality is explicitly safeguarded.

“Finally, let us not forget that GSAs save lives. While students have the legal right to form GSAs, more needs to be done to remove all barriers to establishing these safe and inclusive student-led initiatives.”

Video of David Swann questioning Minister Eggen on Gay-Straight Alliances on March 14th can be found here.