David Swann statement on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement on International Day of Persons with Disabilities:

“On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities we take the time to appreciate the unique struggles faced by those with disabilities, who are all too easily forgotten. One in six Albertans live with a disability, and need support to overcome the various barriers that face them. Sadly, that support is all too often lacking.

“Here in Alberta, changes need to be made to the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program; as well, a Disability Advocate remains to be appointed. The government needs to move now to make people with disabilities a higher priority, and offer them the support they need.

“Albertans with disabilities deserve the same happiness and prosperity afforded any other Albertan. As we celebrate this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we must pledge to do more so disabled Albertans have access to the same opportunities as everyone else.”


Liberal bill will shine a light on dark money influencing Alberta’s democracy

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann has introduced Bill 214, An Act to Regulate Political Action Committees, which clearly defines political action committees (PACs) and regulates them in accordance with the same rules as other political entities.

“I am very proud of the proposals being put forward in Bill 214,” says Swann. “Alberta Liberals are, once again, leading the way on this very important issue by being an impetus for change.”

The bill is the culmination of months of strong advocacy by Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan, who first raised the issue in June. If passed, Bill 214 would make Alberta a national leader with the most comprehensive law in Canada governing PACs.

“We need to shine a light on the unregulated dark money that is corrupting our democracy,” says Khan. “Albertans deserve to know who has donated and who is donating to PACs, how much they are donating, and where this money is going afterwards. It’s the only way they can be confident that big money is not buying and selling our democracy.”

Swann sought input from the Chief Electoral Officer on some aspects he incorporated into Bill 214, such as: the definition of a PAC, anti-collusion provisions between PACs and the political entities they support, standardizing the election finance and disclosure rules to include PACs, and banning corporation, union, and out-of-province donations.

He also consulted with the government on the matter by sharing the intent of his bill and discussing various approaches to resolving the issue of dark money in Alberta politics.

“Now is the time for us to get serious about protecting the integrity of our democracy by closing legislative loopholes,” says Swann. “No matter the fate of Bill 214, I expect swift and meaningful action from the government and all Members of the Assembly to protect our democracy from those who are more concerned with winning than ensuring the voice of the people is heard and the public interest is served.”

Please click here for more detailed information on Bill 214.


David Swann statement on the approval of clearcutting in Kananaskis Country & Highwood Pass

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in reaction to the government’s decision to allow clearcutting in the Kananaskis Country and Highwood Pass:

“I’m deeply disappointed by the NDP’s decision to allow clearcutting of vast swaths of trees in the Kananaskis Country and the iconic Highwood Pass.

“Rather than show the kind of environmental leadership Albertans expect from an NDP government, they have proven to be no better than the Conservatives before them by bulldozing over the valid concerns from the municipalities and residents who are directly affected.

“Clearcutting in these areas poses an enormous threat to endangered local wildlife and the watersheds that are the lifeblood of southern Alberta. The potential negative impact on recreation and tourism in the region, highlighted by the municipal councils of Okotoks, Turner Valley and Black Diamond, cannot be overstated.

“During Question Period, and in letters to the Minister’s office, I repeatedly called on the government to put a stop to this plan, review the contracts, and examine other sites, but it refused to listen.

“Now, thousands of trees will be clear-cut in one of Alberta’s true natural jewels, leaving the landscape scarred for generations to come.

“This is a bad decision and must be reversed. Stop the clearcutting of Kananaskis!”


David Swann response to the Q3 Opioid Report

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in response to the Q3 Opioid and Substances of Misuse Report:

“With each passing quarterly report, it becomes painfully obvious that the NDP government does not have a handle on the opioid crisis. A nine per cent increase in fentanyl overdose deaths from last quarter is unacceptable, and a forty per cent yearly increase is nothing short of a disaster.

“Despite these troubling facts, the NDP fails to treat this with the urgency and importance it deserves, choosing, instead, to rely on a piecemeal, reactive response to this crisis.

“It has rejected my call for the reinstatement of a Chief Addictions and Mental Health Officer to manage this crisis and guide actions on the frontlines in favour of an advisory commission.

“It refuses to declare a state of emergency, which may not give any additional legal powers, but would be of immense symbolic value. Affected families and organizations – as well as all opposition caucuses – have advocated for this declaration, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

“As Alberta approaches two overdose deaths per day, every report, and awareness event organized by groups such as Moms Stop the Harm and Changing the Face of Addiction remind us of the tragic impact of these preventable deaths and the trail of sorrow that follows in their wake.

“People are dying. I cannot emphasize enough that the decisions government makes are literally a matter of life and death. We need better leadership, more coordinated and comprehensive action, and we need it now!”


More action needed to drive down Alberta’s high-cost dental care

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says more action is needed to drive down unacceptably high-cost dental care.

“We need a strong mandate for change in order to drive down unacceptably high-cost dental care in Alberta,” says Swann. “Instead, the NDP seems content just to tweak the status quo.

“They made an easy decision, rather than showing the real leadership Albertans need from their government today.”

Swann’s comments come in reaction to a government announcement unveiling revisions to the new fee guide that the Alberta Dental Association and College (ADAC) released to the public without ministerial input in August.

“Having a fee guide that more accurately reflects average prices and client expectations is good, but does little to resolve the problem of high, unregulated dental costs, including outrageous hygienist fees,” says Swann. “It will take a year or more to see if the guide will have any effect. Meanwhile, Albertans will still pay through the nose, since dentists can ultimately charge whatever they want.”

Swann points out there are many obstacles to overcome even with a new fee guide in place.

“Making an informed consumer decision is harder than both the ADAC and the government would have you believe,” says Swann. “Dentists should be required to discuss prices up front and publicly list their standard prices in comparison to the Fee Guide.

“If the government is serious about making dental health care affordable for the majority of Albertans, it needs to apply more pressure to lower costs, encourage open competition and ensure greater accountability for these high fees.”

Swann has been a vocal advocate for reducing dental fees in Alberta. He recently wrote to the Minister of Health to encourage her to take a stronger stand and press the ADAC to liberalize dental advertising rules, as well as consider separating the ADAC into separate entities.

Given the extreme demands on public dental services there is also clearly a need to increase public funding for services to children and low-income Albertans.

Swann’s letter and the Minister’s reply are available for viewing here on the Liberal Opposition website.


David Swann statement on the Standing Committee’s discussion of PACs

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement regarding last night’s meeting of the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices with Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler:

“I thank the Chief Electoral Officer for sharing his concerns with us regarding third parties and Political Action Committees (PACs) in Alberta.

“I was particularly interested in Mr. Resler’s comments on the exemption of the non-commercial transmission of political views on the Internet in the definition of ‘political advertising.’ In his words: ‘You can have a corporation spending several hundred thousand dollars on a lavish campaign on the Internet and they’d be exempt from reporting.’ Given the increased prominence of the internet in elections today, this is a sizable loophole.

“It is clear that, by failing to address the lack of regulations surrounding PACs in its first attempt at electoral finance reform, the NDP intentionally or unintentionally left the back door wide open for dark money to subvert our democracy. Therefore, it is incumbent on them to help close it as quickly as possible.

“I was also heartened to hear Mr. Resler’s comments echoed those of Alberta Liberals, who have been the strongest – and only – voice warning of the dangers of dark money influencing our elections since our Leader David Khan first raised the issue this past June.

“Building upon the leadership he has shown, I am proud to sponsor Bill 214, which is the first and only attempt in Canada to define what a PAC is, expand election finance restriction beyond advertising, and make them subject to the same rules as everyone else.

“Finally, I share the concerns that some UCP Members raised in the committee about the NDP’s sudden interest in this issue just prior to the by-election in Calgary-Lougheed, but for completely different reasons.

“If it follows the same pattern as the municipal election in Calgary, we may soon witness the massive, devastating impact that wealthy, unaccountable and unregistered PACs such as the Alberta Advantage Fund, Progress Alberta, and Alberta Together, all of which have been allegedly linked to the UCP, NDP, and Alberta Party, can have on a provincial election campaign.

“That is why I am calling on all Members of the Legislative Assembly to take action as soon as possible to limit these effects by unanimously supporting my bill before more damage is done to our democracy.”


Swann to question Chief Electoral Officer on PACs

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann will attend tonight’s Standing Committee on Legislative Offices to review the 2016-17 Report of the Chief Electoral Officer and ask about Political Action Committees (PACs).

“I share the concerns of the Chief Electoral Officer about the potential for money to be funnelled through PACs to avoid spending limits and create an uneven playing field,” says Swann. “As the officer charged with safeguarding our democracy, Mr. Resler is an invaluable resource in determining how we can limit the ability of these groups to circumvent the rules and manipulate our elections.”

Since Liberal Leader David Khan first raised the issue in June 2017, the Alberta Liberals have been the only voice calling for action on PACs.

“We need to shine a light on the unregulated dark money that is corrupting our democracy,” says Khan. “Albertans deserve to know who has donated and who is donating to PACs, how much they are donating, and where this money is going afterwards. It’s the only way they can be confident that big money is not buying and selling our democracy.”

Swann will also be seeking input from the Chief Electoral Officer on some aspects he plans to incorporate into his Bill 214, such as: defining what a PAC is, expand restrictions on third-party activities beyond the limited category of advertising, and subjecting PACs to the same election finance rules as every other corporation, union, and individual.

The Standing Committee on Legislative Offices will meet from 6:30 to 8:30 PM in the Rocky Mountain Room, 2nd floor of the Edmonton Federal Building.

A backgrounder on Political Action Committees can be found here.


NDP must step up for public fertility services

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann has released the following statement on the cutting of services at the Edmonton Regional Fertility and Women’s Endocrine Clinic at the Royal Alexandra Hospital:

“Yesterday, I was immediately concerned when we were contacted by email with concerns about potential service cuts at the Edmonton Regional Fertility and Women’s Endocrine Clinic at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Later that evening, a document surfaced on Twitter appearing to confirm this rumour.

“Today, I join with affected patients and the Friends of Medicare in expressing my disappointment with this decision. And, while I appreciate this maintains support for existing public programs, I am calling on Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman to step up for public health care and bolster public fertility services.

“According to the federal government, roughly 16 per cent, or 1 in 6, of couples in Canada experience infertility. This number has doubled since the 1980s. In Alberta, the cost associated with fertility treatments are completely borne by patients.

“That is why, prior to the 2015 provincial election, Alberta Liberals identified infertility funding as a major policy priority and recognized that funding of fertility treatments such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was necessary to ensure families who require treatment have reasonable and fair access to treatment.

“The NDP must do more to help Albertans facing infertility in the public health care system, instead of offloading them onto the private sector.”


David Swann statement on Political Action Committees

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann made the following statement on the floor of the Legislature today:

“Unregulated third-party fundraising and spending are corrupting Alberta’s democracy, as they have south of the border. Big and dark money is getting funnelled into leadership contests, municipal and provincial elections, and overtly partisan advertising campaigns, so much so that political action committees, or PACs, now rival mainstream political parties’ ability to raise funds, support candidates, and get their message out.

“Rules governing them are inconsistent with how other political entities are treated. In fact, Elections Alberta has raised serious concerns that PACs are now being used as a way to get around campaign finance laws.

“This government has appropriately banned corporate and union donations, but it permits a parallel unregulated system, which the NDP may be benefitting from already themselves and is making a mockery of the new rules the government recently put into place.

“If there is one system that limits contributions and requires disclosure and another that is largely free of oversight, where do we think the money is going to go?

“Integrity of our democratic processes, fairness demand that PACs come under more scrutiny and regulation. That’s why the Alberta Liberals are bringing this issue to the forefront and calling on the government to close the loopholes by supporting Bill 214.

“Alberta has the opportunity to be a national leader in democratic accountability and electoral finance reform by doing something no other jurisdiction has yet done: actually defining what a PAC is and expanding the scope of restrictions to go beyond just political advertising.

“Both the NDP and the Conservatives say that clamping down on PACs could violate the Charter right of free speech, but this has nothing to do with limiting speech or preventing third parties from participating legitimately in the democratic process. It’s about making sure that the same rules apply equally to all political players and getting money further out of politics.

“Allowing this free-for-all to continue means our democracy stays on sale to the highest bidder. Bold, all-party action is needed to get dark money out of Alberta politics.”


David Swann statement on Project Red Ribbon

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement on Project Red Ribbon:

“Project Red Ribbon was launched thirty years ago to raise awareness about the risks and consequences of impaired driving. The campaign was timed to coincide with the beginning of the holiday season, when plentiful parties and celebrations dramatically raise the risk of deaths and injuries that are all the more tragic for being so, so preventable.

“This thirtieth anniversary takes on special significance when we consider that we are on the verge of a major change in law: the upcoming legalization of cannabis, a drug that poses a new danger to those on the road. As cannabis becomes readily available, Albertans must know that driving while high is not consequence-free, and an accident while impaired can be just as deadly whether the driver is under the effects of alcohol, cannabis, or both together.

“Ultimately the Red Ribbon campaign reminds us that the most effective way to reduce tragedies from impaired driving is through urging those around us to take personal responsibility for their decisions. As we all know, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

“We wear red ribbons to remind ourselves and others that choosing to drive impaired is choosing to put lives at risk. I join with my colleagues in the Legislature in wearing a red ribbon, to commit to driving sober and call on others to do the same.”