Government funding promises not enough to fill empty school lots

CALGARY, AB (March 31, 2015): Dr. Swann says the recent government’s pre-election school funding announcements are not a guarantee new schools will be built on time.

In January, Dr. Swann called on the government to allocate the necessary funds in the budget to ensure schools are built. However, claims that funding equates construction are highly dubious and are more about electioneering than proper planning.

“We called on the government to commit this funding, but that doesn’t mean these projects are on track,” says Swann. “I disagree with the premier. More promises are not confirmation that the government has kept their word.

“Having schools completed with their doors open by next year is what Albertans were promised, and this is clearly not going to be the case.”

In 2012, the government promised to build 50 new schools and modernize 70 more by 2016. Prentice increased that amount to 56 additional new schools and another 21 modernizations by 2018.

MLA Kent Hehr says none of these newly announced school projects are anywhere close to having shovels in the ground.

“The government is just managing to follow through on  projects,” says Hehr. “Claiming any success for them as a result of this new administration is simply dishonest. Not a single school promised since 2012 has been built, and the government keeps kicking the can down the road on the other schools until after the next provincial election.”

We believe the government made both sets of schools announcements for political purposes, not based on prior planning or actual capacity to complete the projects. They continue to mislead Albertans by insisting these schools are on track when, clearly, they are not.

“The government is still playing politics with our education system,” says Swann. “This has to stop, but I suspect these sorts of announcements on the taxpayer time and dime will continue until the writ is dropped.

“Albertans deserve trusted leadership, not political gamesmanship.”

Dr. David Swann response to the premier’s televised address

CALGARY, AB (March 20, 2015): Dr. David Swann has released the following statement:

“For the first time in Alberta’s history, the Premier has given an invitation, which I have accepted, to reply to his televised address, which will be broadcast on Tuesday evening.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Martha and Henry’s family at such an important fiscal, social, and political time for our province. If the last year has taught us anything, it is that an effective opposition matters. We are proud to have a strong, progressive voice both inside and outside of the legislature.

“We have always advocated for more inclusivity, less partisan bickering, and more cooperation in the legislature and in governance of this province. We’ve consistently fought for more representation on committees and more time for debate in the Legislative Assembly. The ability of Albertans to hear another voice, at the same time, and via the same medium is not only good from our perspective, it is good for democracy.

“By accepting the Premier’s offer, we are recognizing the fact that Albertans deserve to hear more than a one-side government argument. Indeed, Albertans need to know a credible alternative exists, one that provides trusted leadership for all Albertans.

“While we are thankful that the Premier has extended us this courtesy, we also understand that it’s not just about us. It’s about Martha and Henry’s families who are worried about the health and safety of their children, the burden of school fees and high tuition, the availability of child care spaces, ensuring dignity for our senior citizens, and getting better access to health care for all Albertans, young and old.

“People watching next week will be looking for leadership they can count on in the good times and in the bad. We have always been there for Albertans, and we always will be.”

Statement from David Swann: mandatory choice on vaccines

EDMONTON, AB (March 19, 2014): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement on mandatory choice on vaccines for school enrollment:

“Over the past several weeks I have called on this government to take action on a simple question of public safety: mandatory choice on vaccines for school enrollment.

“When faced with this issue the government has simply offered platitudes about the importance of vaccinations, but it refuses to show real leadership.

“It says it needs to consult with school boards and parents to ensure their rights aren’t infringed upon. Of course, this was the same argument it used against gay-straight alliances, which it later proved was inappropriate when it came to protecting the safety of our school children.

“And that is exactly what vaccines do.

“Ensuring our school children are immunized from these diseases not only protects them, but those around them who may not be able to be immunized, such as new born infants or those with allergies.

“In fact, school immunizations are a great way to protect the whole community from children and the vulnerable to senior citizens.

“Under our policy, Alberta would join four other provinces that require either proof of immunization for students registering in a public school or mandatory choice, which would require a formal decision be made by parents.

“While exceptions are made for those that cannot be vaccinated or those with religious or other objections, the result is, that once faced with a choice, parents often opt for protecting their children.

“The Minister of Health claimed provinces with mandatory choice provisions have lower vaccination rates, but he is wrong.

“Newfoundland has mandatory choice and its immunization rates for major diseases is the highest in the country.

“Newfoundland has a 95.5 % immunization rate for Mumps, Measles and Rubella, Alberta rate is only 74%.

“Newfoundland has a 96.5% immunization rate for Meningitis, whereas almost a 1 in 5 Albertans are not immunized from this life-threatening disease.

“While no one would be forced to take any vaccine, an informed decision should be made.

“The discomfort my conservative colleagues have with this issue is obvious, but the need to address this issue is real.”

Statement by David Swann: Repeal of Bill 45

EDMONTON, AB (March 19, 2015): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement on the government’s announcement that they would repeal Bill 45:

“We welcome today’s announcement that the government will repeal the anti-union, anti-worker Bill 45. This unconstitutional piece of legislation should never have been passed by this government and I will support its speedy repeal.

“The repeal of Bill 45 is the correction of a mistake. However, much more work is needed to repair the government’s tattered relationship with Alberta’s frontline workers.

“For the past several months the premier has gone on a lecture tour across Alberta blaming Alberta’s doctors, nurses, teachers, paramedics, and other public servants for the budgetary crisis created by government fiscal mismanagement.

“The repeal of an un-proclaimed anti-worker bill will make little difference if, next week, this government brings forward a budget that attacks frontline workers once again.

“I support frontline workers and will oppose any effort to cover the government budget crisis at their expense.”

Government action on long term care only a drop in the bucket

EDMONTON, AB (March 16, 2015): Dr. David Swann says the government is not doing enough to create more seniors care alternatives in this province.

“The lack of nursing home beds is a direct cause of our long wait times in hospitals,” says Swann. “As a result of poor planning, we have an incredible need for these beds and the government simply isn’t doing enough.”

Swann’s comments come in response to a new report by Dr. Donna Wilson, Professor of Nursing at the University of Alberta, which found that 20,000 more nursing home beds are needed in Alberta.

“Our inability to move patients out of hospital beds and into their needed level of care is preventing the proper functioning of our system, and costing us hundreds of millions of dollars per year,” says Swann. “We need to get more beds opened, and find ways of getting patients out of hospital and where they should be.”

The Government recently promised an additional 1,500 seniors spaces by handing out ASLI grants mostly to private, for profit providers of seniors care. These spaces will not provide the higher level of care that many seniors need, and will leave many still waiting in hospital.

“Given the government’s record with new schools, Family Care Clinics, the Calgary Cancer Centre and Highway 63, I’m skeptical we will see those 1,500 spaces,” says Swann. “But the truth is those spaces, even if built, still will not provide the care that our seniors need.  We need nursing homes not seniors’ condos.”

I would better fund prevention, provide more funding for home care and continuing care, support for frontline workers, and ensure better management of Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services.

Government rejects mandatory choice for childhood vaccines, puts student safety at risk

EDMONTON, AB (March 12, 2015): Dr. David Swann says the government is ignoring basic science and public safety warnings by refusing to require parents to vaccinate or make an informed choice and sign a waiver for a child entering the public school system in Alberta.

In Question Period this week, Swann repeatedly asked the ministers of education and health why they have yet to mandate proof of immunizations or approved exemptions before students can enroll in school. This is the case in all American states and three Canadian provinces. At first, the ministers said they were still consulting, but, today, Health Minister Stephen Mandel admitted his government would not make vaccines mandatory.

“Saving lives and protecting people’s health is a rather straight forward question,” says Swann. “We have laws about seatbelts to protect drivers and passengers, why on earth would we not ensure protection of children from preventable diseases?”

The failure of individuals to get vaccinated contributed to outbreaks of measles and whooping cough last year.

“This is about the safety of Alberta’s students. The government says they recognize that vaccines save lives, but they don’t intend to ensure lives are saved?”

Government still only treading water on flood mitigation

EDMONTON, AB (March 11, 2015): Dr. David Swann says today’s report by the Auditor General is a disturbing indication that the government is failing on flood mitigation.

“The Auditor General’s words and findings are chilling,” says Swann. “It raises grave doubts about the government’s ability to manage another flood, less than two years after the worst flood disaster in Alberta history.”

The Auditor General report confirms what I have long argued, that the flood mitigation maps being used by the government to identify flood plains are outdated and ineffective, with some maps over 20 years old and some areas not even mapped.

The report also confirms that the government is not managing development in flood zones, which will escalate the cost and human risk should another flood occur.

“The government is failing to restrict or regulate development in flood zones,” says Swann. “As a result, they must adopt our proposal of creating a mandatory public flood insurance policy in order to mitigate the financial cost of another flood.”

I am calling on the government to swiftly implement all of the Auditor General’s recommendations and report on their progress to the legislature.

“The safety of Albertans is at play here,” says Swann. “The government must act immediately to update their flood maps, along with implementing all other recommendations.”

Statement by David Swann: Government needs to address lack of spaces with real solutions, not political Band-Aids

EDMONTON, AB (March 11, 2015): Dr. David Swann released the following statement on the government’s announcement on the use of ASLI grants to create more bed spaces:

“This government needs to look beyond Band-Aid solutions to the root causes of our health care backlog.

“Martha and Henry’s children have grown up in a province where long wait times, poor management, and lack of access to our health care system has been the norm. Spending millions more on private providers is not going to improve our chronically mismanaged public system.

“I support the creation of new beds, however this is only a short-term solution to the bed shortage. The real issue is that they are not moving patients out of hospital to their needed level of care.

“The government employed this exact strategy in 2011, then AHS ended up closing the beds.

“Unless we address this issue, these new beds will soon be filled up as well, and we will be right back to where we started.

“Health care is already our largest expenditure, yet we still have broken hospitals, a lack of home care, and plugged emergency rooms. Simply throwing more money at the problem hasn’t solved it in the past.

“Today’s announcement also puts more responsibility on Alberta paramedics, who are already understaffed, overworked, and overstretched. Yet, the government has failed to provide additional supports for these front line workers.

“I have called for more funding for prevention, more funding for home care and continuing care, support for frontline workers, and better management of Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services.

“We can do better by addressing the problem head-on, not just by making a series of funding announcements on the eve of an election.”

Low-income Albertans deserve better protection when borrowing from payday loan companies

CALGARY, AB (March 6, 2015): Dr. David Swann says the government must take action to protect Albertans from high interest payday loan companies.

“These businesses disproportionately serve low-income people that find themselves in dire circumstances and in need of quick cash,” says Swann. “However, for many borrowers, the hope afforded by that easy money quickly fades when they find themselves hit with obscenely high interest charges. These are families in need, post-secondary students, and individuals with addiction issues.

”The government needs to dramatically tighten up its regulation of the industry to ensure that people are better protected.”

Swann’s comments come after Momentum Community Economic Development, a non-profit organization in Calgary, recommended the government lower the current maximum interest rate of 23 percent.

“These loans are predatory and lock many unsuspecting borrowers into a spiraling cycle of debt from which there is no easy escape,” says Swann. “There are common sense regulations that the government can and should enact to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable Albertans.”

Last fall, we passed a policy resolution calling on the government to prohibit high interest charges and fees for payday and car title loans, and encourage financial institutions to offer low-interest, short-term credit to people in need of smaller-size loans.

Statement by David Swann: International Women’s Day

CALGARY, AB (March 6, 2015): Dr.David Swann released the following statement to mark International Women’s Day:

“30 years ago, the equality rights clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights Freedoms came into force, guaranteeing equality to all women in this country. Sadly, our governments have too often failed to live up to this promise to the generation of women who have grown up since.

“There are still far too few women elected to public office, far too few women judges, CEOs, senior public servants, politicians, engineers, and trades people. In short, far too many women are told that they are not entitled to follow their dreams because they are women.

“Just this week, a report by the Parkland Institute found that women working full time in Alberta only make 68% of what a man makes, compared to 80% in Saskatchewan. Women still, on average, perform 35 hours of unpaid work per week, compared to 17.1 hours for men. Alberta also spends less on child care than seven other provinces.

“This is not good enough. It is not good enough for a society that constitutionally guaranteed gender equality 30 years ago. It is not good enough for my granddaughters, or our daughters to be told that their gender is something that will prevent their success.

“There is action that we can, and must, take to ensure equality for women in Alberta. Proper funding for child care, better enforcement of gender discrimination laws, and legislation to ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

“I am committed to these goals, and will continue to work towards them.”