Alberta Liberals call for a credible deficit reduction plan in response to Q1 Update

In response to the First Quarter Fiscal Update, Alberta Liberals are calling on the NDP government to produce a credible plan to tackle the province’s unsustainable borrowing and debt load.

“The NDP’s record level of borrowing and debt is seriously concerning, especially without a credible plan to pay it back, says Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan. “The Minister of Finance is simply crossing his fingers and hoping that rebounding oil prices will bail him out before the next election.

”We need to concentrate on controlling operational costs and focus on smart investments in infrastructure instead of borrowing to keep the lights on. The NDP’s approach to managing our province’s finances is shockingly short-sighted.”

Khan points out the NDP are liquidating their contingency fund and promising $400 million in unspecified “savings” to paper over their ballooning deficit.

“This is just fudging the numbers to make it appear their spending and revenue problems are under control,” says Khan. “Even their projection of $49 per barrel oil is rosier than the market projections of $47.53 – $49.32.”

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann is also concerned with NDP spending practices and priorities, specifically in the areas health care, infrastructure projects, and government contracting.

“The government has missed yet another opportunity to look at waste in the health system,” says Swann. “Health spending continues to be the largest line item in the budget and we need to be looking for efficiencies.

“The government also needs to take a close look at the contracting and monitoring of delivery on infrastructure projects,” says Swann. “I have heard from numerous stakeholders about inappropriate spending and mismanagement of government contracts.

“The government must not only work to restrain its spending, but also make sure that public funds are being put to the greatest effect.”

Both agree that the NDP needs to have a credible deficit reduction plan if it hopes to salvage Alberta’s long-term financial outlook.

“We urgently need an adult conversation about closing the gap between government revenue and spending,” says Swann. “The NDP’s over-reliance on volatile resource revenue is not sustainable nor realistic, and we simply cannot continue to borrow at this rate.”

“Alberta Liberals believe in fiscal responsibility and fairness to future generations,” says Khan. “These fiscal policies manage to be unfair to both current taxpayers and future generations of Albertans.”


David Swann Statement on MLA expense disclosures

Alberta Liberal MLA for Calgary – Mountain View David Swann has released the following statement regarding his MLA expense disclosures:

“My office staff and I have conducted an audit of all of my MLA expense disclosures and we are satisfied that all expenses are appropriate.

“Fiscal responsibility starts at the top, with elected officials leading by example. Alberta Liberals respect public funds and spend them wisely, refusing to exploit loopholes to use taxpayer money for personal gain.

“On MLA expenses, it is the Alberta Liberal position that all publically-funded expenses need to be tied to public duties, must be a necessary expense for a responsible dollar amount, and be reflective of the actual costs incurred, not simply claiming the maximum allowance.

“We support the call to have the Members’ Services Committee review all MLA expenses and allowances, especially the living and travel allowances, to ensure they are all related to legitimate public business.

“Furthermore, discussion of MLA expenses does not need to be a race to the bottom. We should view these events as a call for accountability, transparency and respectful, responsible administration of Albertans’ tax dollars.

“I look forward to further dialogue and scrutiny of this important matter.”


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.”


CBC: Alberta Health cancels funding for Pure North nurse-practitioner clinic

Following a request in May from Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann, Saher’s office said it would include the $4.2 million grant in a review of how Alberta Health approves, pays, and records grants. In June, a spokesperson for the auditor general said no decision had yet been made on whether there will be a separate performance audit to determine if the funding itself was merited and provided value for the public money spent.

Read More


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.”