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.”


Edmonton Journal: Opposition fears credit rating downgrade in wake of red-ink budget

“Acting Liberal leader David Swann said he generally agrees with the government’s reasoning on why it has to run deficits, but he wants to see a clear plan on how to get back to balance. That’s something the ratings agency will also be looking for, he said.

“There’s no question we’re going to see more questions about our spending as it’s going up and up with no plan to reduce it,” said Swann.”

Read More


Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann responds to Budget 2017

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to Budget 2017:

“I would like to applaud the government on investing in public services and infrastructure, eliminating school fees, and committing to address climate change and protect the environment. These are priorities that Alberta Liberals share.

“However, like many Albertans, I am concerned about the increasing deficits and debt our province is accumulating as a result of government borrowing for operational costs. This budget sees the NDP government borrowing $15.2 billion for operating costs this year – the beginning of a steady upward trajectory towards $30 billion in 2019-2020. In the past, we have compared this approach to paying the mortgage with a credit card or selling the family farm to pay the monthly bills. It simply does not make financial sense.

“Of course, anything is possible when you’re paying by credit, but this is not sustainable in the long-term. In this budget, as with every previous budget since this government took power, we see more spending with no plan to pay it back. Alberta’s total liabilities now sit at $85.7 billion, and higher interest rates associated with further credit rating downgrades will make this task even more difficult. I have no confidence that the NDP approach will do anything but add to the $1.4 billion in debt servicing costs Albertans are already paying.

“Fairness to future generations is a Liberal value. The NDP legacy of debt is anything but fair. We need to have an adult conversation about spending and revenue. The government cannot continue to spend at this rate while relying on volatile resource revenue.

“We would like to see the government make strategic decisions and targeted investments in areas that will reduce costs in the long run. Getting ahead of the cost curve is preferable to bending it.

“This is particularly the case for our province’s health care system. We need massive investments in home care, disease and injury prevention, wellness and mental health. This will not only save money and lower wait times by reducing the strain on the acute care system, but it will also improve quality of care and patient outcomes.

“Alberta’s legal system also needs an injection of cash to remove barriers and improve access to justice. Alberta Liberals have championed increasing funding to Legal Aid Alberta. Chronic underfunding has led to unnecessary backlogs, delays, and slower trial process when people try to self-represent. The government has committed some money to this program, but not enough to bring it out of its $10-million deficit.

“Alberta Liberals also support expanding the Drug Treatment Court program, which received no mention in this budget. The program badly underfunded for the valuable results it delivers in terms of keeping addicts out of prison and getting them back on the road to recovery.

“The Metta Clinic, which is the only specialized clinic for transgender youth, only receives enough funding to operate for half a day per month. This is totally unacceptable. We urge the government to increase funding so that these vulnerable youth can get the services they so desperately need.

“Finally, we need a savings plan. Over the last number of years, we have seen our trust and contingency funds depleted at an alarming rate – the contingency account will be gone by this time next year. We need to reverse this trend today and start saving for tomorrow.

“Overall, Alberta Liberals support the government’s attempt at protecting public goods and services, but we are calling on the NDP to show more fiscal restraint, make better investments and savings, and produce a plan to diversify our revenue and pay down the debt.”


Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann welcomes US executive order advancing Keystone XL pipeline

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann welcomed today’s decision in the United States to advance Keystone XL.

“Alberta Liberals have long been in support of pipelines to get the province’s energy resources to international markets, so long as the best environmental protections are included and First Nations communities are properly consulted.

“In light of the significant challenges Alberta has faced relative to the prolonged slump in oil prices, the importance of this project proceeding cannot be overstated. Today’s decision is a positive development for both our province and our country.”


David Swann calls for a pause on energy changes in Alberta until intentions of new administration in America are better understood

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann made this statement to the Alberta Legislature on November 10, 2016:

“Thank you Mr. Speaker,

“I stand today to speak on a very difficult issue for all who believe the science of climate change. Those who know me, know I’ve lobbied for, and some might say crusaded for, environmental change here in Alberta. I’ve felt that strong leadership was long overdue and all of us must share in the cost of reducing emissions.

“Above all, I knew this was never going to be easy. It is even less easy following the election of an unpredictable US president who denies man-made climate change.

“Strong leadership will be needed now, more than ever.

“While I support the targets and timelines for cleaner energy development with its triple benefit for climate, new jobs and alternate economy, the Alberta government must hit pause on other parts of its energy-focused agenda. Given Alberta’s deep dependence on oil and gas, our current economic weakness and the new economic threat from the United States, I see merit in pausing and allowing the new reality and expert views to further inform our decision on the bills we have before us.

“Not stop, just pause.

“I’ve heard the premier say that her Carbon Plan was developed independently and that the actions of our biggest customer – and competitor – will have no effect. Even so, I don’t believe that anyone planned for the United States to go full speed in reverse. Proposals announced by Trump in his truth-challenged campaign have already begun to unfetter the US fossil fuel industry and may drastically alter the investment climate here in Alberta.

“The ramifications of his election are sending shock waves through the Canadian economy. From free trade to softwood lumber to energy, US policies that seemed relatively stable are now in doubt.

“We have no idea what economic effect these changes will have on Alberta. We, in opposition, have not yet been adequately informed as to what effects our own carbon policies might have.

“Much is being taken on faith.

“Here in this house, we serve Albertans. We are mandated to craft for them the best possible laws, policies and regulations after a comprehensive analysis. Our already struggling economy and uncertain investment climate are now faced with an unpredictability that will be better understood in the New Year.

“Sometimes, the strongest leadership is shown by patience and the wisdom to realize that circumstance can alter even the best laid plans.”