Government’s First Budget Just not What was Needed

EDMONTON, AB (October 27, 2015): Dr. David Swann says the budget table today by the NDP fails to address the needs of the Alberta economy.

“Albertans were looking for a proactive budget that would meet the needs of Albertans and be a driver for stimulating and diversifying our economy,” says Swann. “Unfortunately, this budget falls short.”

Alberta Liberals had called for the elimination of small business taxes, incentives for the private sector to create new, green technologies and for all debt financing to come with a debt repayment plan. Today’s budget contains no repayment plan, tax and fee increases that will hurt the middle class, and pilfering of the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund.

“This is not the budget that Alberta needed,” says Swann. “We now have a massive and growing operational deficit with no action to address the root cause of the deficit. Our economy and our budget remain on the resource revenue roller coaster and we will continue to see deficits year after year.”

Alberta Municipalities Require More Continuity From Government

CALGARY, AB (October 22, 2015): Dr. David Swann congratulated MLA Danielle Larivee on her appointment as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Service Alberta but expressed concern about the repeated changes in leadership at Municipal affairs.

“I have enjoyed working with Ms. Larivee as we have examined ways to improve our mental health system. In particular her commitment to addressing the housing needs of vulnerable will be of great value in her new role,” says Swann. “However, while Ms. Larivee is a talented and hard-working individual, I am deeply concerned about the revolving door of ministers at Municipal Affairs. Ms. Larivee is the 6th Minister of Municipal Affairs in less than two years, our cities require more continuity than that.”

Swann added that he was concerned that the constant changeover of ministers will further delay important projects like the creation of Big City Charters to empower the governments of Edmonton and Calgary.

“This project has been delayed again and again,” says Swann. “While I know the new minister comes in with the best of intentions, it is long past time to get Big City Charters signed.”

Statement by David Swann: Federal Election Results

CALGARY, AB (October 20, 2015): Dr. David Swann released the following statement on the results of the federal election:

“After one the longest and most intense elections in Canadian history, change has come to Canada!

“I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Prime Minister-Designate Justin Trudeau. Last night’s decisive victory is a testament to the power of hope and hard work.

“I would also like to offer my thanks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his service to our country. All parties are committed to the betterment of this wonderful country. While we may differ in our visions, our goal for a stronger Canada is the same.

To all candidates who put their names forward to represent their fellow Canadians in the House of Commons, thank you for your commitment to public service. In particular, I must congratulate my dear friends, and former colleagues, Darshan Kang and Kent Hehr on their victories in Calgary – they will make remarkable Members of Parliament.

“Today is a great day to be a Liberal, and a great day for the values of democracy, human rights, transparency, and diversity. I wish our new government all the best.”

Economic Advisory Council Comes Too Late for Budget

CALGARY, AB (October 14, 2015): Dr. David Swann welcomed the announcement of a new premier’s economic advisory committee but expressed it comes too late for the provincial budget, scheduled to be tabled in less than two weeks.

“This government has been in power for almost five months and they are just now seeking advice on how to stimulate and diversify our economy?” asks Swann. “The provincial budget is going to be presented in less than two weeks and obviously none of the valuable expertise from this committee will find its way into that document.

“Clearly the government has put the cart before the wagon in its budget preparations.”

Swann added that he hopes that, when the budget is tabled, it will reflect the need for a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach aimed at stimulating the Alberta economy.

Alberta Liberals have called for the following budget measures to be implemented:

  • Boosting infrastructure spending to repair Alberta’s roads, bridges, and hospitals and build new schools, waste water facilities, affordable housing, and public transit. This spending can be debt financed but there must be a clear debt repayment plan.
  • Eliminating the small business tax  by immediately lowering the rate by one percentage point and reduce it by an additional point every year until it is eliminated.
  • Shield Innovation and Advanced Education from any cuts in the upcoming provincial budget and ensure that their budget keeps up with inflation and population growth. This will encourage economic diversification and new technology initiatives.
  • Create financial incentives to encourage the creation of new, clean technologies in the private sector.

“Alberta families want to see an investment in their needs and government leadership to stimulate and diversify our economy. This work should have begun months ago.”

Statement by David Swann: Tragic Deaths of Three Children on Alberta Farm

CALGARY, AB (October 14, 2015): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement:

“I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the deaths of three young girls on a farm near Withrow, Alberta. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of these children, and I can only imagine what they are going through.

“Regrettably, this tragedy speaks to how dangerous farms can really be and, perhaps more importantly, raises serious questions as to why Alberta continues to resist adopting basic health and safety standards in agricultural settings.

“We are literally decades behind other jurisdictions in this regard, and can no longer point to notions of heritage or nostalgia to justify our inaction. It’s time for Alberta to stop excluding farms and paid farmworkers from occupational health and safety regulations, including child labor standards. We must adopt rules that are commensurate with the very real dangers that exist in these settings.

“While legislation alone likely would not have prevented this tragedy, there is arguably so much more that we could be doing to make our farms safer places to live and work. My sincere hope is that, after years of delay, the Alberta government will finally enact long-promised regulations to do just that.”

Swann Calls for Reform of Corporate Tax Administration

CALGARY, AB (October 9, 2015): Dr. David Swann is calling on the government to act in the best interests of Alberta’s public finances and return administration of corporate tax collection to the Canada Revenue Agency [CRA].

“Allowing the CRA to administer our corporate tax collection simplifies the process and allows us to get the money we are owed up front,” says Swann. “It is in the best interest of the government and Albertans and would reduce our collection administration costs.”

Only Quebec and Alberta administer the collection of corporate taxes. In all other provinces, the CRA processes all returns, calculates the amount a province is owed and transfers that amount to the province up front. The CRA then takes responsibility for collecting outstanding taxes and fees.

Last October, the Auditor General reported that Alberta had a total of $885 Million in uncollected corporate taxes. In the most recent report, released this week, the Auditor confirmed that despite some cases being closed the Alberta Tax & Revenue Administration “does not have comprehensive policies and processes to ensure corporations file their returns or to issue a default assessment”.

“Returning administration to the CRA is a win-win for Albertans and the government,” says Swann. “I am calling on the Minister to do what’s best for Alberta’s finances.”

Swann Releases Recommendations on Payday Loan Regulations

CALGARY, AB (October 7, 2015): Dr. David Swann today released his recommendations to the government on strengthening payday loan regulations in Alberta.

“Alberta’s current payday loan fee cap of $23 per $100 borrowed … translates into an annualized interest rate of 600 per cent,” wrote Swann.

Swann’s letter to Service Alberta Minister Deron Bilous recommends establishing an annual interest rate cap of 35 per cent, noting this will discourage payday loan operators. Swann expressed his support for a pilot project between First Calgary Financial and Momentum Community Economic Development, which is offering a 12 per cent annualized interest rate short term loan to borrowers and suggests that the government consider getting ATB Financial to fill the resulting void in short term lending opportunities.

Failing this approach Swann recommends tougher restrictions on fees and interest rates.

Swann also recommended a centralized payday loan tracking system that could allow more tailored services to borrowers, requiring lenders to post fees and annualized interest rates, and allowing borrowers to pay back loans in installments.

“Whatever measures the Alberta government chooses, we must remember that it is our responsibility as legislators to protect and help our most vulnerable populations,” concluded Swann.

At the End of the Day, Schools Still Need to get Built

CALGARY, AB (October 6, 2015): Dr. David Swann expressed his frustration this morning that over 100 promised school openings will be delayed because of PC mismanagement and added that these projects must now be a top priority for the NDP.

“To the detriment of Alberta parents and children, we have now confirmed what most in the province already knew: that the PC promises on school construction were pure fantasy,” says Swann. “At a time when enrollment continues to grow, ands school costs and fees continue to rise, Alberta parents are now being asked to put up with overcrowded schools and long school bus rides for even longer.”

While Swann agreed that blame for these delays lies with the previous PC regime, he added that the desperate need for new and modernized schools is now the sole responsibility of the new government.

“This is now the NDP’s mess to cleanup,” says Swann. “These schools are the top infrastructure need for Alberta families and it is the NDP’s responsibility to ensure they get fully built, fully staffed, and fully operational. Albertans can be assured that I will asking this government for full transparency and regular updates on these projects.”

October 27th Budget Must Contain Comprehensive Stimulus Plan

CALGARY, AB (October 5, 2015): Dr. David Swann says he is encouraged by early signals from the Minister of Finance that the October 27 budget will contain stimulus measures but adds that such measures must be comprehensive and multi-pronged.

“I am pleased that the Minister seems to be heeding the Alberta Liberals’ calls for infrastructure spending to help stimulate the economy,” says Swann. “Of course, we want to see that infrastructure spending be prioritized based on need – not political considerations – and include repairing existing infrastructure as well as new projects. We also hope to see it spent on variety of needs including public transit and affordable housing.”

Swann added Alberta Liberals support the use of debt to finance infrastructure spending but said Budget 2015 must contain a long term debt repayment plan in order to be responsible.

Swann says that infrastructure spending is one piece of a wider stimulus package that is needed in Alberta and recommended the following measures:

  • Eliminating the small business tax  by immediately lowering the rate by one percentage point and reduce it by an additional point every year until it is eliminated.
  • Shield Innovation and Advanced Education from any cuts in the upcoming provincial budget and ensure that their budget keeps up with inflation and population growth. This will encourage economic diversification and new technology initiatives.
  • Scrap plans to give businesses $10,000 for low wage hiring. Alberta Liberals argue this is not a sustainable approach to job creation and will cost the government funds better spent on other prioritize
  • Create financial incentives to encourage the creation of new, clean energy technologies in the private sector.

“Albertans are looking for a vision to stimulate and diversify our economy,” says Swann. “They expect all of us as legislators to work towards that goal, regardless of political stripe.”

Swann Calls for Control and Elimination of Chronic Wasting Disease

CALGARY, AB (October 5, 2015): Dr. David Swann is calling on the government to protect Alberta’s agricultural industry and take action to control and eliminate Chronic Wasting Disease in Alberta.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a devastating and incurable prion disease found in deer. The disease has also been identified in animal waste found on wheat and plants consumed by cattle, which presents a theoretical risk that the disease could spread into our beef industry.

“What is required is action on the part of the federal and provincial governments to control this disease,” says Swann. “There is real threat here that the international community could see the danger of this disease and take steps to boycott our agricultural products.

“If we do nothing, we are risking an epidemic that could negatively affect the health of our wildlife and Alberta’s international trade interests.”

Swann repeatedly called on the former PC regime to investigate the risk of Chronic Wasting Disease. However, the former regime refused.