Advocate for Persons with Disabilities should be a higher priority for government

Alberta Liberals say the government needs to make the creation of an office of the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities a higher priority.

“Ensuring a better quality of life for Albertans living with disabilities should be a far higher priority for this government,” says Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann. “The rush to create a new elections watchdog proves the NDP can push an issue when it wants to, or when it is politically expedient to do so.”

Yesterday, a committee approved a budget of $1.3 million for the office of an election commissioner, which was made possible by Bill 32 – an act that was introduced in the legislature during the final weeks of the Fall Sitting. Meanwhile, a bill to create an Advocate for Persons with Disabilities, which was passed in June, still has yet to be proclaimed.

The need for an Advocate for Persons with Disabilities was obvious following a scathing 2016 report by the Auditor General, in which he criticized the government’s management and delivery of the AISH program.

“There is a clear need for an advocate to help Albertans with disabilities navigate the system,” says Swann. “I am disappointed there hasn’t been more done to help some of the most vulnerable get the government services they deserve.”

Urgent action needed to stop suicide epidemic in Maskwacis

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says urgent action from all levels of government is urgently needed to stop the suicide epidemic in Maskwacis.

“I am deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life,” says Swann. “My heart goes out to this community, which has endured immense suffering and witnessed so many preventable and senseless deaths.”

A recent CBC News report said the community has experienced 14 suicide deaths in less than 2 months. This echoes a previous story from May, 2015 that warned about a dramatic rise in Maskwacis suicide rate, which had reached one or two every week.

A local health worker and community members alike are asking for the area’s leadership to declare a state of emergency, a measure Swann believes may be needed to raise awareness and mobilize additional resources.

“This is clearly an ongoing crisis that hasn’t garnered the attention and action it deserves, especially given the scale of death occurring in this particular community,” said Swann. “All levels of government, must use whatever means at their disposal and work with the community and the affected families to put an immediate stop to this.

“We need the provincial and federal governments to provide increased access to affordable housing, education, health and child care, mental health and addictions services, as well as increased professional development and business opportunities.”

Yesterday, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate also released a five year summary showing that, of the number of suicide deaths during involvement with child intervention services, Indigenous young people accounted for 71.4% of deaths and 37.5% of serious injuries from suicide attempts. Among the suicide risk factors it identified were depression and exposure to suicide within their families and communities, as well as the impacts of intergenerational trauma and colonization.

“Maskwacis is particularly vulnerable given the particularly high presence of all of the risk factors associated with suicide,” says Swann. “The Advocate’s report should be a clarion call to invest in culturally appropriate care and activities to strengthen individual identity and connection to the community.”

NDP breaks the bank for Christmas spending spree

Alberta Liberals are raising concerns about the NDP borrowing billions just before the holiday break.

In an Order in Council late yesterday afternoon, Cabinet removed the restriction on the use of foreign currency and authorized the Minister of Finance to borrow money up to $37 billion. The move comes just hours before the civil service goes on an extended holiday period.

“Did the NDP really think no one would notice the piggy bank was broken into and $37 billion was missing?” asks Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan, who says the decision puts the government’s cynicism on full display.

“This is extremely disrespectful to taxpayers,” says Khan. “I expect the government to tell us why billions of dollars in new debt is needed now, what it will be used for, and, most importantly, how it plans to pay it back so that Albertans aren’t saddled with this debt for Christmases to come.”

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann agrees.

“I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that this information was released without any fanfare whatsoever just before the ultimate holiday long weekend,” says Swann. “Albertans should be concerned about how, and how much, the NDP is borrowing for a Christmas spending spree.

“There is certainly going to be some sticker shock when the bill comes due in the New Year.”

UCP plan to privatize health care is wrong for Alberta

Alberta Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann has released the following statement regarding the UCP’s plans to privatize health care:

“Those who have a better understanding of how health care works in Alberta know that introducing more private options at this time is wrongheaded. In fact, experience has taught us that the profit motive has not served us well in health care. A properly managed public system can and will deliver a higher quality of care for a lower cost.

“Before making drastic, fundamental changes to health care deliver, Alberta first needs to address the systemic issues from increasing physician and pharmaceutical costs, unnecessary waste and bureaucracy, to long waits at every stage along the spectrum: primary, acute and continuing care.

“The issue of wait times stems directly from the fact that there is a severe lack of investment in disease and injury prevention and a chronic underinvestment in public community care and home care.

“The Health Quality Council of Alberta’s Focus on Emergency Departments website clearly indicates that acute care facilities are consistently running near capacity, at times overcapacity, due to the exceedingly high number of alternate level of care patients.

“Long waits and surgery cancellations are a direct result of acute care hospitals being used to warehouse patients who are better served elsewhere. The NDP has failed to deliver on its pledge to build 2,000 new public long-term care spaces. This is just the first step in the process of getting caught up on our backlogs, which it still hasn’t taken.

“Until the government address these root causes, no amount of investment in public or private service providers will alleviate this problem.

“Alberta Liberals know how to fix health care by making these strategic investments and eliminating waste. It is certainly not by asking the sick to pay more or setting up a systematic queue-jumping scheme.

“Albertans should reject the UCP based on this proposal alone. It is not in line with our values as a society, and it will ultimately exacerbate the challenges in our universal health care system.”