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.”


Spectre of dark money haunts Alberta political landscape

Alberta Liberals are seeking to exorcise the spectre of dark money currently haunting Alberta’s political landscape.

“Alberta politics is being possessed by political action committees,” says Liberal MLA David Swann. “Unregulated third-party fundraising and spending has political parties and leadership contests firmly in its clutches.

“We need to drive a stake into its heart so that it cannot suck the lifeblood of our democracy: the ability of Albertans alone to decide who represents them.”

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan first raised the issue of political action committees (PACs) in June 2017, calling on the NDP government to take bold action to reduce the impact of dark money on Alberta’s political processes. He repeated his call in July, in response to the release of Jason Kenney’s leadership financial statements.

The NDP government repeatedly refused to address the issue, and in his pre-session news conference, Government House Leader Brian Mason admitted PACs are not on the NDP legislative agenda this fall sitting.

“Perhaps the NDP has its own skeletons in the closet when it comes to PACs, which would explain why it is dragging its feet,” says Swann. “Alberta Liberals have no such fears and are boldly lighting the way against this shadowy threat.”

Swann’s Bill 214 will seek to define what constitutes a political action committee, expand restrictions on third-party activities beyond the limited category of advertising, and subject PACs to the same election finance rules as every other corporation, union, and individual.


Statement on announcement of approval of safe injection sites in Calgary

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in reaction to the government’s announcement on supervised injection sites in Calgary today:

“Calgary is the city that has been hardest-hit by Alberta’s opioid crisis. As such, harm reduction measures like safe consumption sites is welcome news. And, certainly, the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre is an excellent choice for this important work.

“Finally, we are seeing this critical service that is long overdue. These sites will undoubtedly improve safety and save lives.”

“However, one is not enough, we need more of these harm reduction and treatment measures in Calgary and throughout the province, especially in smaller urban centres.

“We also need more culturally appropriate services since Indigenous peoples are a significantly impacted community.

“When nearly two lives are lost each day to this scourge, there is a clear need to move more quickly and effectively.

“We need to increase and integrate more resources if we hope to get ahead of this crisis.”


Health and safety of farm and ranch workers must be NDP’s priority

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says the NDP need to ensure farm and ranch workers get further protections following today’s release of the technical working groups’ occupational health and safety reports.

“This must be about protecting the lives and livelihoods of farm and ranch workers and their families, not just the business concerns of the agricultural industry,” says Swann. “Changes need to be aimed at enhancing safety and equity for these marginalized workers.

“For example, there needs to be a service centre dedicated solely to farm and ranch workers to help them understand their rights and protections. Fear of reprisal is a big concern for the workers when it comes to reporting an injury or refusing an unsafe practice.”

Last spring, Swann criticized the NDP government when it exempted farm and ranch workers from mandatory rest periods and overtime in Bill 17, the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, which Swann sought to amend twice, but the NDP refused.

“The NDP chose politics over people when it denied farmers and ranchers the same basic rights and benefits as every other worker in Alberta,” says Swann. “It was a big step back for a party that is supposed to support labour rights.

“The technical working groups gave the NDP some degree of political cover, but further action is needed now, especially since conservative factions are eager to turn back the clocks on these issues.”

Swann has been a tireless advocate for farm and ranch workers’ rights and safety. Recently, he wrote to the Ministers of Labour and Agriculture and Forestry to improve labour rules, regulations and practices in Alberta’s agricultural sector.

“It took us decades to come this far,” says Swann. “We cannot stop or turn back now.

“Farm and ranch workers deserve more workplace protections, safety standards and inspections need to be applied consistently to all equipment, and agricultural injuries and deaths need to be investigated regardless of where they occur and who is involved.”


Statement from Dr. David Swann on supervised consumption site approvals

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in reaction to the approval of supervised consumption sites in Edmonton and Lethbridge:

“These approvals are welcome news. I have long called for harm-reduction measures to be implemented in this province as a key component of a coordinated plan to manage the steadily worsening opioid crisis.
“However, the continued delays are deeply disappointing. I find myself asking: if federal approval was the only hold-up for a supervised consumption site, why the months-long gap between the site being approved and opening its doors?

“The lack of sites for Calgary, where opioid overdoses continue to claim the most lives, is troubling. As I’ve said before, access to harm reduction measures must be further expanded. While I’m glad to see a site opening in Lethbridge, other smaller urban centres and rural areas, where wait times are still too long and mental health care much less available, are badly in need of these facilities.”