Dr. David Swann welcomes expanded Sunshine List, reiterates call for merit-based appointments to agencies, boards, and commissions

CALGARY, AB (June 30, 2016): Dr. David Swann today welcomed the publishing of the province’s expanded “Sunshine List,” and reiterated his call for the government to implement a merit-based system for appointments to Alberta’s agencies, boards, and commissions (ABCs).

Today marks the deadline for ABCs to publicly release their executive salaries. Going forward, ABCs will now be required to publicly disclose all compensation paid to board members – a change that should help restore at least some measure of accountability to a system where patronage and entitlement were allowed to fester under previous administrations. While Swann applauds the progress on compensation transparency, he warns that more can and should be done to depoliticize the appointment process for ABCs.

“These financial disclosures help shine a light on the political culture promoted by previous PC governments, which routinely used appointments to ABCs as a way to reward political insiders and maintain control,” said Dr. Swann. “Unfortunately, the NDP has demonstrated that it too is not beyond political favouritism when it comes to making government appointments.

“Once again I am calling for the government to take the appointments process out of the government’s hands and introduce an independent, merit-based appointment system for Alberta’s agencies, boards, and commissions,” Swann concluded. “Only by having all ABC candidates recruited and vetted through an independent appointments commission can we ensure a system that works for Albertans rather than the government in power.”

Dr. David Swann calls on government to recognize small business owner concerns over minimum wage

CALGARY, AB (JUNE 30, 2016): In light of today’s announced increase to the minimum wage over the next two years, Dr. David Swann called on the government to listen to the concerns of business owners and recognize that timing and scale of change are important for both business solvency and employment.

The minimum wage increase comes not only in a serious recession with higher taxes, Swann noted, but also in the wake of an increase in Canadian Pension Plan premiums that was agreed to on June 20th. With many small businesses already struggling with the economic downturn, a dramatic increase in the minimum wage could be the end of a dream for many entrepreneurs.

“Despite all its consultations, this government is clearly not attuned to the needs of business owners,” said Swann. “Either they’re simply refusing to listen to what businesses have to say, or they’re too ideologically driven to acknowledge the timing of their plan needs to be reconsidered; either way, they are not paying attention to the reality of the business climate today.

“I urge the government to take its head out of the sand and recognize the concerns of those that will be negatively affected by their policy,” Swann concluded. “This one-sided, top-down approach to the issue threatens to do more harm than good.”

Dr. David Swann marks the first PTSD Awareness Day in Alberta

CALGARY, AB (June 27, 2016): Dr. David Swann released the following statement to mark Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day:

“Today is the first PTSD Awareness Day in Alberta. This day was declared unanimously in the Legislature this year to raise awareness about those among us who suffer from PTSD, sometimes without anyone knowing.

“Traumas happen in life, in death, and in all ages. How we manage them depends on personal resources, family support, and professional services. No judgement or shame should be attached to the different expressions of trauma in our lives, only help.

“This inaugural PTSD Awareness Day reminds us all of life’s fragility and our need for each other. It is not weakness to struggle with trauma, nor is it failure to reach out to others for support. Today I encourage all Albertans to educate themselves about the effects of trauma. I also call on organizations in fields with high risk of trauma to step up their awareness efforts and access to appropriate, evidence-based programs for those at high risk.

“When we show sufferers of PTSD that their community understands and cares for them, we make it easier for them to connect through honest relationships and find the help they need.”

Dr. David Swann calls for action on dental fees

CALGARY, AB (June 23, 2016): Dr. David Swann is calling on the Minister of Health to take action on Alberta’s expensive dental fees.

“Alberta suffers from the most expensive dental fees in the country, which excludes many families from both preventative and treatment services,” said Dr. Swann. “This results in avoidable visits to the emergency room and expensive surgical procedures, which put needless strain on our health system and add to wait times for all services.

“It is time for the Government of Alberta to take action to properly support dental services for middle and low-income families as a matter of public health,” Dr. Swann added. “Public health dental services also have been eroded in the past 15 years and are being overwhelmed, despite dedicated front-line professionals, by growing demand. Access to routine treatment services and dental health education, which are crucial in preventing more serious issues downstream, must be improved.

“The government must also take the lead in fostering change within the Alberta Dental Association and College, which at present is a barrier to improved competition, access, and accountability for Albertans.

“I have written to call on the Minister to intervene on this issue to defend the public interest,” Dr. Swann concluded. “Dental health is an important part of overall health, and Albertans deserve a system that values their needs over any other considerations.”

Dr. David Swann speaks on National Aboriginal Day

CALGARY, AB (JUNE 21, 2016): Dr. David Swann released the following statement to mark National Aboriginal Day:

“On this 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, I am pleased to join Canadians across the country in paying tribute to the unique and vital contributions that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis have made, and continue to make, to our society.

“Over the past few years, the political and social landscape has changed dramatically for Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. Now more than ever we are seeing a widespread interest in aboriginal well-being from Canadians and their government, and an earnest desire to see their traditional rights respected and their quality of life dramatically improved.

“Alberta’s history is deeply rooted in the aboriginal experience, and its future will be as well. I invite all Albertans to join myself and the Alberta Liberals in celebrating our aboriginal friends and neighbours. We are all treaty people, and must be part of contributing to healthier communities. Together we can work in partnership to build a better future for all of us.”

Dr. David Swann speaks on World Refugee Day

CALGARY, AB (June 20, 2016): Dr. David Swann released the following statement to mark World Refugee Day:

“Today is World Refugee Day. On this day we recognize the strength, courage, and perseverance of refugees around the world, and remember our responsibility to defend the universal human right of security of the person and freedom from fear.

“Canada has always been a welcome refuge for those fleeing war, famine and strife. From Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, to Ukrainians fleeing the Communist regime, to Syrians today fleeing war in the Middle East, Canada has continued to embrace those in need.

“Refugees want the same things we do: safety, community, and a future for their children. By opening our doors and welcoming them into our society, we give them the opportunity to build a better life not only for themselves, but for all of us.”

Dr. David Swann disappointed NDP did not publicly release report on economic effects of carbon tax

Edmonton, AB (June 17, 2016): Dr. David Swann made this statement on today’s leaked financial report detailing possible economic effects of the government’s Climate Leadership Plan:

“For three months in the spring legislature session I asked the government repeatedly for the cost benefit analysis of the carbon tax. For three months we were told that all the information was in the budget, in the business plans and that the potential economic effects of the proposed carbon tax were negligible.

“Today, a leaked report from the government’s own financial advisors has indicated possible serious repercussions on an already ailing Alberta economy as a result of this proposed system.

“Even now, the government is disputing the accuracy of the report but have not produced updated figures. We are told, yet again, that all will be made clear in the next budget, the next business plans and in the coming years.

“‘Just trust us’ isn’t good enough. Albertans deserve to know the possible effects of a combination of the carbon tax, the accelerated coal phase-out and the high-cost electricity transmission build out.

“Albertans deserve the right to make informed decisions and they deserve the right to a transparent process.

“This is the reason I could not support the government’s carbon tax this spring and we will continue to fight for a more accountable, transparent process in the months and years ahead.”

Dr. David Swann calls for action on education funding for Syrian refugees

CALGARY, AB (June 15, 2016): Dr. David Swann expressed his concern with the lack of additional provincial or federal funding to Alberta school boards to help them handle new Syrian refugee students.

“Syrian refugee students have experienced serious disruption in their lives and their educations, and still carry the trauma of being forced out of their homes by war,” said Swann. “It is vital that our schools receive appropriate resources to meet the extraordinary educational, psychological, and linguistic needs of these children.

“There was a commitment by all levels of government to not only transport refugees to Canada, but ensure that they were properly settled in their new homes,” Swann continued. “We cannot leave this financial burden on school boards that are already struggling to provide adequate services for students.

“The federal and provincial governments need to decide who is responsible for providing this support sooner rather than later,” Swann concluded.

Dr. David Swann speaks out against elder abuse

CALGARY, AB (June 15, 2016): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day:

“Elder abuse is a serious issue that is all the more dangerous for its invisibility. It happens behind closed doors and is often committed by the family of the victim. It comes in many forms – financial, psychological, emotional, physical, and more – robbing people of their agency and self-respect.

“Here in Alberta we live in a society where every person has a right to dignity and freedom from fear. No person loses that right when they reach a certain age. Victims of any kind of abuse are often too scared or ashamed to ask for help, which means it is up to us to act when we know something is wrong. I urge all Albertans to report elder abuse as soon as they see it, so it can be stopped at the first possible opportunity.

“The Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Network’s theme for this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is ‘Random Acts of Kindness for an Older Adult.’ I encourage Albertans to participate by reaching out to seniors in their lives. When we come together around our elders, we build strong communities, protect our most vulnerable and make all of our lives better.”

Dr. David Swann repeats call for merit-based appointments following dismissal of AFSC Board

CALGARY, AB (June 14, 2016): Dr. David Swann repeated his call for an independent merit-based process for appointments to Alberta’s Agencies, Boards, and Commissions (ABCs) after the Agriculture and Forestry Minister’s announcement yesterday.

Minister Oneil Carlier dismissed the Board of the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) and suspended three of its executives for financial impropriety. While employed by the AFSC, the executives received meals, alcohol, golf games, and entertainment from a brokerage company working a contract for their company, in clear contravention of the rules by which public agencies are expected to abide.

David Swann and the Alberta Liberals have long called for an end to the practice of using ABC appointments as political favours, recommending either an arm’s-length independent committee or a non-partisan, transparent process to avoid cronyism and corruption.

“This is a perfect opportunity for this government to start fresh on ABC appointments,” said David Swann. “Abuses of power such as we saw yesterday are all but certain to continue until we can select our ABC members based on their own merits, and not their relationship with the party in power.”