Statement on Auditor General’s Better Healthcare for Albertans Report

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the Auditor General’s report on Better Healthcare for Albertans:

“I applaud the Office of the Auditor General for conducting this insightful and timely analysis of the root causes behind lack of progress towards the effective integration of health care in Alberta. It speaks volumes about the value of a truly independent officer of the Legislative Assembly and its ability to investigate and report directly to Albertans.

“The report 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.

“We need to reduce barriers to care, involve people in their healthcare decisions, and make sure the right level and quality of care is being provided in the right place, by the right health professional at the right time.

“It is clear that much more work still needs to be done promoting wellness, injury and disease prevention, and chronic disease management. Albertans need multidisciplinary teams that are interconnected, patient-focused and follow a single, consistent care plan.

“The report also explicitly states spending more money on healthcare is not the solution. This undoubtedly means that there must be more accountability for the administrative and financial performance of our system, including physician compensation, billing, and ordering of lab and diagnostic tests.

“There is also the opportunity for innovation, better integration of clinical information systems, and use of health data analytics to inform decision-making and ensure we have the best performing public healthcare system possible.

“I share the optimism of this report. Change is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary. It is incumbent on the government of the day to embrace change, commit to honest and transparent reporting of system performance, and depoliticize healthcare funding, infrastructure projects and service delivery.

“Operating in silos has proven to be ineffective. We must work together. Alberta Health, AHS, and the all of the healthcare associations and colleges must seek to improve their communication, co-ordination and co-operation.

“Elected representatives, government officials, healthcare providers, and patients all have an important part to play in ensuring improved access, quality and sustainability of the system and making Better Healthcare for Albertans a reality.”


Advocate for Persons with Disabilities must have independence from government

Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann seeks to amend Bill 205 to establish the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities as an independent officer of the legislature.

“This bill is well-intentioned, but having an advocate report to the minister reduces the office’s independence and makes its budget subject to ministerial whim,” says Swann. “A truly independent officer will have a budget set by an all-party committee and report directly to the Assembly.”

Bill 205, Advocate for Persons with Disabilities Act, proposes the creation of an advocate’s office similar to the Health, Seniors, and Mental Health Patient Advocates, all of whom report to a minister and whose funding is determined by ministry officials.

In the past, this has led to the advocates being unable to fulfill their mandates due to lack of resources. For example, in the 2014-15 Annual Report, the Alberta Mental Health Advocate explicitly stated, “The past year posed challenges to fulfill our legislative mandate in a timely manner. This was largely due to the loss of a position and the subsequent reassignment of duties, along with the Government of Alberta’s restraint measures. It had a direct impact on the number of Albertans we served and the comprehensiveness of our investigations” (pg. 4).

Instead, Swann envisions the disabilities advocate having an expanded role similar to that of the Child and Youth Advocate. This move has the support of stakeholders such as Inclusion Alberta and Calgary’s Disability Action Hall, both of whom are also proposing the creation of an independent advocate.

Swann gave notice of his intention to amend the bill, and requested he be allowed to proceed first in the debate for procedural reasons. However, the NDP did not consent. Now in order for Swann to amend the bill, the Minister of Community and Social Services must withdraw his own pre-emptive amendment, which was moved prior to Swann’s proposal.

“I certainly hope that Minister Sabir and the NDP government do the right thing and consider establishing the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities as an independent officer of the legislature,” says Swann. “That is what Albertans I’ve talked to want and expect.”


Revenues from cannabis legalization should go to support mental health and addictions programs, drug treatment courts

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann says revenue from cannabis sales should be used to support mental health and addictions prevention and treatment programs, as well as initiatives such as the drug treatment courts.

Swann welcomes federal legislation on cannabis introduced in the House of Commons today, and calls on the province to ensure the revenue from the sale of cannabis is used appropriately.

“I congratulate the Liberal government on taking this important step to ensure children are protected and profits from the illicit sale of cannabis products are kept out of the pockets of criminals,” says Swann. “Now, it is up to NDP government to ensure these funds go to where they are needed most.”

Swann points out the province’s annual spending on mental health and addictions is well below the national average. He argues dedicating funds from cannabis taxation to prevention and treatment programs is consistent with the NDP’s practice of directing revenues from the carbon levy to reduce carbon pollution and encourage energy efficiency.

“The goal of any cannabis regulation should be to reduce the negative health impacts of drug abuse,” says Swann. “I can think of no better use of these funds than to expand prevention and treatment options.

“Addictions and mental illness often go hand in hand, so it makes sense to have this funding follow suit.”

Swann says the new legislation will also help to alleviate pressure on our overburdened justice system. He notes part of the funding from cannabis sales could go to expanding the drug treatment court system.

“Liberals believe treating drug addiction as a public health issue is far better than dealing with its consequences in the criminal justice system,” says Swann. “That is why we would also like to see an expansion of the drug treatment courts to accompany the new cannabis regulations.”


Calgary Herald: NDP vows quick action but opposition frustrated as child intervention panel meets in Calgary

Liberal Leader David Swann said he thinks the panel is working but the collaborative process involved “takes a heck of a long time.”

“There’s a lot of differences and a lot of different understandings,” he said.

“It’s as robust as I think we can make it and it’s going to take time and it’s going to be challenging to come to some concrete decisions.”

Read More


CBC: U of A students want to ensure marijuana taxes don’t go up in smoke

“Wild and Liberal leader Dr. David Swann, who co-chaired Alberta’s mental health review, are throwing their support behind the campaign.

“Targeting a tax like a marijuana tax would not be a precedent for this government,” Swann said. “We already target the carbon tax for specific environmental initiatives.””

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Amendment ensures protections for survivors of sexual and domestic violence

Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann seeks to amend Bill 2 to ensure its protections apply to a broader category of survivors.

“I support the intent of this bill, but I am concerned that its protections may not be afforded to all survivors due to a technicality,” says Swann.

Bill 2, An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, currently covers survivors who were either a minor, in an intimate relationship with or were dependent on the perpetrator at the time that the sexual misconduct or non-sexual assault occurred.

However, a relationship of dependency might not be an accurate description of incidences where the survivor and perpetrator(s) are co-workers with the same level of seniority, such as in a recent high-profile case of a female police officer who resigned from the Calgary Police Service after enduring years of harassment from her colleagues.

Likewise, it is unclear if dependency applies to harassment or exploitation of an adult student by a university professor or post-secondary instructor.

The bill cannot be amended to include references to co-workers since that would involve altering legislation not currently under consideration. Consequently, Swann proposes reducing the bill’s ambiguity by inserting an additional category of protection:

“the person who committed the misconduct was in a position of trust or authority in relation to the person with the claim,”

“It’s unfortunate that specific mention of co-workers and instructors was left out of the original proposal. Perhaps this is something the NDP can change in the future.” says Swann.

“In the meantime, I call on my colleagues to support my amendment to ensure more survivors are included under these important protections.”

Click here to view Dr. Swann’s amendment