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.”


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.”


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.”


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


Medicine Hat News: Farmworkers need help in Bill 6 transition period

The Alberta government has made and continues to make efforts to work with farm and ranch owners to adopt Bill 6. However, its implementation continues to be stalled by the legacy of a century of “wild west” attitudes, and no guarantee of safe work standards or compensation for injury.

Read More


Jill Clayton’s re-appointment should prompt more action on transparency

Today Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann praised the recent re-appointment of Jill Clayton as Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Order in Council was issued on January 31st, appointing Ms. Clayton for a term lasting to 2022.

“As Commissioner, Ms. Clayton has been a champion of accountability and strong voice for public access to information,” said Swann. “I am glad to see the office remaining under her capable direction.”

With many government departments much delayed in their obligations under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP), Ms. Clayton has a big job ahead of her.

The Ministry of Justice, despite being specifically singled out by Ms. Clayton in the past, routinely fails to meet legally mandated deadlines. An example of this can be found in its reply to a recent Liberal FOIP request, in which they warned that, “due to a high volume of requests at this office,” their response time may exceed the 30 day requirement.

Swann is calling on the government to use Jill Clayton’s reappointment to reaffirm its commitment to openness and transparency. In particular, Service Alberta should restart the practice of posting FOIP statistics publicly, which it discontinued in 2013.

“I look forward to seeing the changes Ms. Clayton will effect – not only in the Ministry of Justice, but in the Government of Alberta as a whole,” said Swann.