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.”


OCYA’s report shows change desperately needed in child intervention process

MLA David Swann and Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan are calling the government to act on the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate’s latest report into the tragic deaths of three young children of Indigenous heritage.

David Swann points specifically to the role and support for Delegated First Nations Agencies (DFNAs) as a key part of the issue. “A successful transition of a child from government care back to their families relies on the DFNA,” he says. “However, funding for these agencies is inadequate, particularly for band designates who act as the link between the band and Children’s Services. The lack of support for the DFNAs at both the provincial and federal levels is a recurring and longstanding issue. They simply do not have the resources or time to effectively collaborate with the individuals and organizations involved.”

“Once again this report highlights the serious changes that still need to be made to the child intervention system,” adds Khan, whose legal career specializes in Indigenous Law. “In addition to his recommendations from the three cases he investigated, the Advocate repeated a call from eight months ago to enhance policies and procedures around family unification. We need to start seeing real change in how this system is run.”

“The deaths of Sarah, Anthony, and Mikwan are unspeakably tragic and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families,” Khan concludes. “We can only hope that we can learn from the circumstances surrounding their deaths and improve our systems so it does not happen again.”


Targeting of pride symbols shows more work needed to change attitudes

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says that repeated incidents of vandalism aimed at pride symbols shows more work is needed to change attitudes.

“Alberta has come a long way in accepting and celebrating the LGBTQ2+ community,” says Swann. “However, the recent burning of a pride flag in Taber clearly shows more work is needed to change some negative attitudes and behaviours.”

Swann, a native of Taber, says that he has seen steady progress since growing up in the rural community. However, acceptance of pride issues has taken longer than expected and he decries any act of vandalism or hatred targeting any individual or group, especially sexual or religious minorities.

“Living in a free society means respecting the rights of others regardless of your personal views,” says Swann. “Vandalism and other acts of hatred of this nature are simply not acceptable in this day and age. We must all strive to be better than this.”

Alberta Liberals are proud proponents of inclusivity and acceptance, and were responsible for initiating the legislation of gay-straight alliances in Alberta’s schools.

Recently, Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan took part in pride celebrations in Edmonton and Lethbridge, and, yesterday, joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Assembly of First Nations National Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for the Pride Parade in Toronto.

“Alberta Liberals will always walk side-by-side with LGBTQ2+ community,” says Khan. “The tearing down and burning of pride symbols, while deeply disturbing, also serves as solemn reminders of the importance of these pride celebrations and the work that is still left to be done.”


Statement on the World Day Against Child Labour, 2017

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann has released the following statement in recognition of the World Day Against Child Labour:

“The World Day Against Child Labour is an important time for all of us to recognize that unfair and unjust employment practices continue to harm children around the world.

“Childhood is an important time for mental, physical, spiritual and social development, which should not be sacrificed for professional development – to put it mildly.

“We need to protect children by ensuring laws are in place such as minimum age requirements and restrictions on children conducting certain types of economic activities.

“While I applaud the government for taking some of these important steps in Bill 17, the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, I am disappointed by the NDP’s repeated refusal to extend employment standards for overtime and rest periods to paid farm and ranch workers, many of whom are youth.

“Platitudes make for fine speeches, but strong, preventative government action can actually protect people from unfair labour practices. That is why I am repeating my call to remove exemptions for paid farm and ranch workers for overtime and minimum rest periods.

“Let’s mark World Day Against Child Labour this year by renewing our commitment to labour fairness right here in Alberta.”


Government should legislate timing of the release of post-disaster reports

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says that the government should legislate the timing of the release of post-disaster reports.

“Natural disasters are an unfortunately predictable occurrence in Alberta and reporting on them should be just as predictable,” says Swann. “Last night’s hastily arranged and awkward release of two independent reports on the Fort McMurray wildfire is something that should never be repeated.”

The comments come after it was revealed that the NDP government had not released a damning report into the Fort McMurray wildfire, which it received months earlier, until it was forced to do so as a result of the information being leaked to media.

Swann is calling on the NDP to amend the Municipal Government Act to require the public release of any such disaster event reports within a specified time period.

“The government amended the Municipal Government Act three times in as many years, yet chose not to make this a requirement,” says Swann. “There should be a specific amount of time, perhaps one year, in which all post-disaster reports must be released to the public.

“Leaving the release of disaster event reports up to those may be most embarrassed by its contents undermines the process and politicizes a matter of critical public importance.”


Statement on the conclusion of the Spring Sitting of the Legislature

Alberta Liberal Opposition caucus leader David Swann has released the following statement on the conclusion of the Spring Sitting of the Third Session of the 29th Legislature:

“The Spring Sitting saw the government introduce a number of new initiatives as well as amendments to previous legislation. There were a few common-sense administrative changes, some welcome improvements, which I supported, and a couple of politically-motivated pieces that I did not believe were in the best interest of Albertans.

“Budget 2017 did not strike the right balance. While it protected public services, it increased deficit spending to record levels with no clear plan to pay down the debt or save for the future. Overall, it rewarded government allies at the expense of taxpayers and the principles of sound fiscal management.

“There was broad support when the government announced it would eliminate school fees for all students. However, once Bill 1, An Act to Reduce School Fees, was introduced and the details examined, it was clear that the NDP were creating two sets of rules – one for ‘public’ schools, and another for charter and private schools. I challenged them on not being transparent about their plans and not treating all students equally.

“In Bill 2, An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, the government wisely expanded limitation periods for seeking justice in the courts based on sexual misconduct, assault or battery. I introduced an amendment to try to broaden the categories of survivors to include those in positions of trust or authority such as relationships between professors and adult students.

“The NDP introduced an ideologically-driven ban on paid plasma donations in Bill 3, Voluntary Blood Donation Act, which will not ensure a safer or more sustainable supply of plasma. Alberta currently imports 80 per cent of its plasma products from clinics in the United States which pay donors. There is absolutely no way for the government to replace this capacity with volunteer donors. Systems allowing for paid plasma donations have had success in other jurisdictions without any of the adverse effects that the NDP are raising as justification for this bill.

“For many years, Alberta Liberals proposed the creation of a builder licensing system with an online registry. Bill 12, New Home Buyer Amendment Act, made this a reality, but stopped short of including information about warranty claims against a builder and any legal proceedings against a builder for structural defects, defects in materials or labour or any deficiency related to the construction of a new home.

“My Motion 502 was aimed at changing the way the Regulated Rate Option is calculated to the weighted average of the wholesale pool price, which, as significant research has shown, would deliver lower overall prices to consumers and reinforce the competitive market. The NDP chose instead to put a price cap on the rate, which hides the true cost of power, and ultimately has to be paid by the taxpayer.

“Bill 205, Advocate for Persons with Disabilities Act, was a well-intentioned Private Members’ Bill that the government adopted, but it did not go far enough. I proposed the creation of a new officer of the legislature, much like the Child and Youth Advocate, citing concerns over independence from government and having the necessary budget to fulfill its mandate.

“From day one, I advocated for a stronger, more co-ordinated response to the opioid crisis, including declaring a state of emergency, appointing new leadership, better data reporting, and investing more resources into prevention and treatment. I am pleased that the government has finally taken much-needed action, but there is still more to be done. We need to see a comprehensive plan to get ahead of this, one that isn’t based on what is politically palatable, but what is medically necessary.

“The Auditor General released a report on Better Healthcare for Albertans, which gives us some valuable insights into the long-standing flaws of our healthcare system. It clearly highlights a need to better co-ordinate our primary, acute and continuing care systems to ensure improved access to care and communication among care providers, smoother navigation through the system, and better overall health outcomes.

“Twice, I advocated to amend Bill 17, Fair and Family-Friendly Workplace Act, to extend employment standards such as overtime provisions and mandatory rest periods to paid farm and ranch workers. Shockingly, the NDP took the easy way out, fearing a backlash from the agricultural lobby, and failed to protect these workers when it mattered.

“The Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention met numerous times with stakeholders to listen to those affected by their interaction with the child intervention system. Bill 18, Child Protection and Accountability Act, incorporated the first phase of the panel’s recommendations related to reviewing the deaths of children and young people in care.

“Finally, the Session ended with the selection of a new Alberta Liberal Party leader, David Khan, who will have the responsibility of leading the party forward into the next provincial election. In the meantime, I have the honour of continuing to lead all caucus activities in the Assembly.”


NDP reject overtime and rest periods for paid farm workers and ranchers

David Swann is shocked and disappointed by the NDP government’s repeated refusal to extend employment standards for overtime and rest periods to paid farm workers and ranchers.

“Giving paid farm workers and ranchers the same rights as every other employee in the province is fair and reasonable,” says Swann.  “Clearly, the government is gun shy from the fallout from Bill 6 and is not willing to do what is necessary to protect these workers.

“The NDP is hiding behind the Technical Working Groups as an excuse not to do the right thing.”

Swann proposed two amendments to Bill 17, the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, to remove exemption from the legislation for paid farm workers and ranchers, first for overtime, and, then, that an employer must provide each employee 30 minutes of rest for every five hours worked.

“This is a government that says it wants the bill to be fair and family-friendly,” says Swann. “It is anything but fair to deny all workers the same basic rights and benefits.”


Statement on 30th anniversary of Seniors’ Week in Alberta

David Swann has released the following statement to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Seniors’ Week in Alberta:

“What began 30 years ago as a local event, has now become a province-wide week of celebration of seniors.

“This is a week to recognize the valuable contribution of seniors in our society and to reaffirm our commitment to improving the lives of every senior citizen in Alberta.

“As a senior myself, I can think of no better way to honour our contribution than to provide humane and comprehensive seniors’ care in this province. We must stop warehousing our seniors in acute care facilities. We need to invest more in home care and community care that treats our seniors with the dignity they deserve.

“We would also be wise to follow the traditions of our First Nations peoples by ensuring elders are included in more community activities, shown respect and valued for their experience, wisdom and guidance.

“Seniors have given much to build this province, but there is still much more we have yet to contribute. Let’s all commit ourselves to combating ageism and ensuring seniors remain active participants in our society.

“On behalf of the Alberta Liberal Opposition, I wish you a safe, healthy and happy Seniors’ Week!”


Statement on Announcement to create an Opioid Emergency Response Commission

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the creation of an Opioid Emergency Response Commission:

“This announcement is a clear admission that the government’s piecemeal response to the opioid crisis has not been sufficient.

“There has been a dramatic increase in opioid-related deaths in Alberta over the last four years, claiming close to two lives per day. Thirteen deaths are being prevented daily by life-saving interventions.

“If this is not an emergency, I do not know what is. Yet the government still refuses to send a formal message to the public about the seriousness of this crisis by declaring a state of emergency.

“The minister repeatedly said it was not necessary because the government already had enough resources to deal with this crisis. Now, she claims this new plan will give her expanded powers, but it is unclear what they are, if they will be enough, and how this is superior to declaring a state of emergency.

“Instead of releasing a clear, comprehensive strategic plan with clearly defined targets, timelines, and accountability measures, the NDP chose to pass the buck to an advisory panel that will provide the minister with political cover.

“While the commission is comprised of accomplished experts, all of whom are standouts in their fields, surely the government has already consulted with these experts in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

“This is another level of bureaucracy that reports to the minister instead of guiding action on the frontlines, which is what the re-establishment of a chief mental health and addictions officer and the declaration of a state of emergency would do.

“At the very least, we should have received an update on the recommendations of the Valuing Mental Health Report submitted 16 months ago, several of which directly address this issue.”