Dr Swann Debates Bill 30 – Investing in a Diversified Alberta Economy Act – 28 November 2016

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Wednesday, November 30, 2016.

Bill 30 – Investing in a Diversified Alberta Economy Act (Committee of the Whole)

Dr. Swann: Thanks very much, Madam Chair. I’ll be brief. One of the big questions about this government’s policies has been accountability. There’s a lot of spending, a lot of borrowing, and a lot of investments that need transparency and need accountability. Given what I’ve seen from this minister so far, I’m very encouraged that he will indeed want to both say that he stands for transparency and accountability and demonstrate that he stands for transparency and accountability.

It’s one of the constant bugbears of governments everywhere that there’s a difficulty in showing us the books and demonstrating both the costs and the benefits to Albertans and, in this case, small businesses, employment, diversification. Show us the impacts of these what look to be, on the surface, excellent incentives, excellent investment stimuli.

I’ll certainly be supporting this, and I’m hoping to see a positive response on the other side as well. Thanks, Madam Chair.


Edmonton Sun: Anti-smoking advocates push minister for further tobacco restrictions in Alberta

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman was given an award followed by a warning Wednesday from anti-smoking activists who say the province must implement even stronger measures to protect children and workers from the effects of tobacco.

… However, Hagen told Hoffman that more must be done, including implementing other sections of the legislation that remain in limbo. Interim Liberal leader David Swann also raised the issue during question period Tuesday. Read Full Article…


Dr. David Swann pleased with the approval of Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines

Edmonton, AB (November 29, 2016): Dr. David Swann made this statement on the approval of the Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines:

“I am pleased by today’s Federal approval of the Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines. This is very good news for Albertans. There is still a long road to travel before we see the jobs and investment these pipelines promise but for now it feels good to look ahead and see new growth and new opportunity.

“I and the Alberta Liberals have always supported a cost on carbon and an emissions cap on the oilsands.

“Our issue with the government’s plan has always been the lack of clarity in the way their carbon tax was to be spent and a lack of a careful analysis of the impact on Albertans and Alberta businesses. Even now, months later, we have yet to see an analysis on the potential costs of the Climate Leadership Plan independent of potential pipelines.

“We must remember that pipelines are not a sure thing. Before a shovel goes in the ground and a drop of oil goes west, the Trans Mountain pipeline must meet 157 conditions and acquire the social license of First Nations and other communities in B.C.

“Nonetheless, today is an excellent day for Alberta and Albertans.”


Dr. Swann in Question Period on Tobacco Reduction Strategy – 29 November 2016

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tobacco Reduction Strategy

Dr. Swann: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday’s second-quarter financial update contained very little good news for Albertans. A quarter-billion-dollar piece of that report was cost overruns in health care. Prevention, now approximately 3 per cent of our health budget, clearly must become a larger part of bending the curve in health care. The Premier has been quite vocal on a number of occasions regarding the health effects and costs of tobacco use to individuals, families, and the health care system. However, tobacco legislation passed in this House three years ago and supported by the Premier when in opposition remains to be proclaimed. To the Premier: what’s the delay?

The Speaker: The Minister of Health.

Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the important question. We have been able to move forward on a number of those pieces, including the banning of flavoured tobaccos, including menthol, in Alberta. We’re very proud of that, and we are continuing to work with the chief medical officer of health and others in a public health way to make sure that we’re supporting Albertans and moving forward in a thoughtful way as we move forward with implementing additional pieces of the legislation.

Dr. Swann: Given that e-cigarette use is skyrocketing and given that youth are now almost as likely to try e-cigarettes containing addictive nicotine and given that Health Canada has now specifically recognized the danger e-cigarettes pose, will the minister commit to adding e-cigarettes to the tobaccolike products list and protect young Albertans by banning them in public establishments and workplaces?

The Speaker: The Minister of Health.

Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member for a question that is clearly connected to govern-ment policy and something that I think we have heard and many of us advocated for in terms of an expansion and looking at an area for implementation. I’ve been working collaboratively with my federal counterpart, the Minister of Health for Canada, and they are looking at bringing forward a number of different precautions and safeguards in the area of e-cigarettes and vaporizers and other types of tobacco products. We’ll be looking at ways that we can have complemen-tary collaboration to provide the very best safety for Albertans.

The Speaker: Second supplemental.

Dr. Swann: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. Given that when in opposition the NDs made strong arguments against lobbyists from the tobacco industry having access to government ministers, in contravention of the framework convention on tobacco control, a global treaty of which Canada is a signatory, and given that there are still more than a dozen tobacco lobbyists currently operating in Alberta and on our lobbyist registry, will the minister commit today to ensuring that neither she nor her caucus members meet with tobacco lobbyists behind closed doors?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. That’s certainly my intention. I’m glad to have it on Hansard. That’s the way that we plan on moving forward, by making sure that we protect Alber-tans. They always deserve to be our number one stakeholder when it comes to making important decisions about their public health.


Statement from Dr. David Swann on Holodomor Remembrance Day

Edmonton, AB (November 26, 2016): Dr. David Swann made this statement on Holodomor Remembrance Day:

“In 1932 and 1933, the dictator Stalin of Russia closed Ukraine’s borders, forcibly collectivized all the food and intentionally starved to death 5 million men, women and children. This premeditated murder of millions in an attempted genocide is comparable only to the Nazi massacre of the Jews a decade later.

“The years between 1928 and 1938 have become known as the Decade of Terror. During this period, famine and persecution took the lives of 10 million Ukrainians.

“Unknown to the rest of the world because of the deliberate falsification of census data, the details of this horrific tragedy have been slow in emerging.

“For Alberta’s Ukrainian community, Holodomor Remembrance Day is about more than shining a light on history. It is about honouring the memory of friends and family who perished during those terrible years.

“Immigrants from Ukraine form one of Alberta’s strongest and most vibrant communities. I join with them in remembering the millions of lives lost in the Holodomor.”


Sherwood Park News: Addiction hardships all too real in county

A local group is acknowledging the sorrow that can accompany the holidays, rather than greetings and holiday cheer, noting that holiday gatherings are not always the happiest of events.

According to Parents Empowering Parents (PEP), a local group committed to information and helping the community in relation to drug use, noted that the ongoing problem of opioid use and abuse means many families will “put on a happy face” for the holiday season.

… Emphasizing the important role parents play in advocating for not only their own children, but for regulatory and social policy changes regarding addictions and mental health, Dr. David Swann, co-chairperson of the Alberta Mental Health Review Committee, said,” in order to see change, first you have to turn on the light. Read Full Article…


Dr. Swann Member Statement on Violence against Women and Girls – 24 November 2016

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Thursday, November 24, 2016.

Member Statement – Violence against Women and Girls

Dr. Swann: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It’s my honour to stand, too, and speak to International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Around the world mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers are at risk of injury simply because they are female. In Canada alone the statistics are horrifying. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence. On any given night in Canada 3,500 women and

2,700 children live in shelters because it isn’t safe at home, and on any given night 300 women and children are turned away from shelters that are already full in Canada. Finally, every week a woman is killed by her intimate partner in this country.

Violence includes the far more common psychological abuse, trauma every bit as damaging as physical trauma, causing fear, anxiety, and even suicide among women and their children. These may appear to be distant acts committed by anonymous people, but the women suffering, often in silence, are our friends, our neighbours, our family, our co-workers.

Right here in this Chamber the hon. Member for Calgary-North West has to be guarded physically because of the utterly contemptuous threat to her life. Tomorrow is not only a recognition of this widespread violence; it’s also a commitment to end the violence, a task that falls to all of us.

Silence is complicity. Strong supportive voices, especially from men and boys, must be heard to say that misogyny, whether oral, in print, in social media cannot be tolerated. Awareness, education, and advocacy are tools used to fight this, but we in this Assembly have the power to do more. We can pass bills, reduce poverty, increase access to education and life skills for girls and boys, and ensure stable, safe living environments for women and children, as well as improve the criminal justice response. By speaking and acting together against violence wherever it occurs, by increasing the supports available to women and the children they care for, we will end violence against women.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Standing ovation]


Dr. Swann in Question Period on Government Policy Development – 24 November 2016

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Thursday, November 24, 2016

Government Policy Development

Dr. Swann: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. In 2016 this government brought in a host of new policies that are changing the very fabric of Alberta society, from energy and environmental transformation to large minimum wage hikes to dramatic investment decisions, in the midst of a profound recession. What is missing, of course, is a comprehensive analysis, details. Albertans and all of us are being asked to take a lot on faith. To the Premier: can you tell us why the government continues to announce massive policy change without tabling appropriate analysis, which the Legislature needs to properly inform debate?

The Speaker: The Deputy Premier.

Ms Hoffman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. We continue to address a number of problems that we’ve inherited, and I think the responsible thing for our government to do is: when you have a system that you’ve inherited, show leadership, step up, do what’s best, make determinations, work with the public service to gather the evidence, and move forward in a thoughtful way. With regard to specific items of interest, I’d be happy to respond to any of those. I think we’ve tried to do that as best we can as a government in an open way as we move forward while protecting the interests of all Albertans, Mr. Speaker. So we’re very proud of the work that we’re doing and the fact that our government is addressing a number of very serious issues.

Dr. Swann: My follow-up question is for the Energy minister. Given that the government has referred repeatedly in the media to the expected report of the oil sands advisory group and given that this group has been tasked with, quote, how government might implement the legislated 100-megatonne-per-year limit on oil sands emissions, end quote, and given that there’s no indication that the oil sands group will report while we debate the bill, what deliverables should this Legislature expect from the oil sands group?

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Environment and Parks and climate change.

Ms Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the hon. member for the question. It’s a good question. The oil sands advisory group was tasked with providing the government with advice on how to give regulatory effect to the oil sands emissions limit. Of course, the oil sands advisory group is made up of folks who asked for the oil sands emissions limit. They asked for it because it provides investment certainty going forward as we act on climate change and provide an investment climate that signals to the world that, yes, we are a carbon-constrained jurisdiction but that, yes, we are also a responsible oil and gas producer.

Dr. Swann: It’s a bit confusing that they wouldn’t report to the Legislature while we’re debating the bill. That’s all I’m saying. To the Finance minister: given that on Tuesday this week both the Education minister and the Energy minister promised carbon tax funds, one to schools and one to backstop the electricity industry, and given that the agriculture minister has promised carbon funds to farmers and given that 60 per cent of Albertans have been promised a refund cheque, can the Finance minister show us the calculations for how this tax will cover the growing list of promises ministers are making?

Mr. Ceci: Thank you for the question. We have modelled the amount of money that’ll be coming forward with the carbon levy over five years. We know what the amount of money is, and we’ve portioned, basically, a third to rebates, a third to efficiencies, and a third to innovations over those five years. So we have to, going forward, keep within those monies, that we don’t have a bigger envelope than that, and I trust the ministers to come forward with requests that fit within that envelope.


Dr Swann Debates Bill 27 – Renewable Electricity Act – 24 November 2016

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bill 27 – Renewable Electricity Act (Second Reading)

Dr. Swann: Mr. Speaker, I won’t belabour issues, but I’m pleased to speak to the second reading on this important bill, Bill 27, and enthusiastically support this in principle. This is the second reading. This is where we talk about the principle of the bill. Generally in third reading we talk about the details of the bill and how it might be implemented and what some of the problems . . .

The Speaker: Hon. member, just for clarity, you’re on the amendment.

Dr. Swann: We’re on the amendment. I will be speaking against the amendment. This is a critically important time in Alberta history. You know, we are almost the last ones to the game here in Alberta. The rest of the world is going on way ahead of us. I was wanting to just illustrate that by some numbers from the United Nations environment program which indicate public market investment in renewable energy was up 21 per cent last year, $13 billion. This is a market that is booming. This is an investment opportunity that’s growing. It is recognizing that we are moving on from a fossil fuel dependent province to something that’s a better mix. Obviously, we’re going to need fossil fuels for decades, but let’s start, at least, to make a serious commitment to renewable energy.

So let’s not toss this bill out quickly. We are being asked to support, in the first phase, 400 megawatts of renewable energy in 2017 on a competitive bid process. There’s nobody that’s going to build new renewables without a longer term commitment, and we don’t want people to bid without a competitive bid process. So if we want to see any start, any indication to the rest of the world that we’re serious about shifting our energy dependency from coal-fired power to renewables, let’s start now.

There may be many details that are untenable, depending on how this market unfolds. I agree in many ways that we haven’t been given the details that we need to ensure that the energy that we are going to be paying for is competitive and that it’s not going to cost more. But, frankly, as somebody who has been waiting for legislation for 12 years in my own political life and even before that, before I got into politics, we have to start making progress not only to convince our partners in Canada as well as internationally that we’re serious about climate change but that we see the writing on the wall for energy savings, cost savings in the long term, jobs.

Increased numbers of jobs will be associated with renewable energy – that’s a fact – two to three times more jobs associated with renewables than with the traditional fossil fuel energy. When people like our esteemed Calgary Economic Development director speak so positively about the opportunities even in Calgary to start moving in this direction for jobs and diversifying our economy, becoming less dependent on this single resource, I think we have to take notice. I think my concerns, like many, are that if we lose control over this building and if we, as a result of going too quickly, don’t attract either the investment or have to start subsidizing investment because of artificial targets that aren’t met with the phase-out of coal, then we’re all going to be very uncomfortable with what happens in an already difficult economy.

But this is the time to talk about, in my view, the important message we’re sending if we’re now talking about the principle of the bill, slamming it at this level and punting it at this level without talking about all the dimensions that we need to, including how it’s going to be, what the bidding process is going to be like, how much we’re going to have to subsidize in some cases if the price is too low. If the price of electricity continues to be as low as it is, there is no question that those who are in contracts to produce renewable energy are going to have to be subsidized because they are going to have to make some money over the next 20 years or they’re not going to build. That’s just the reality.

Frankly, I’m willing to pay, as the Stern report from the U.K. has said, 1 per cent of GDP today so that my children don’t have to pay 20 per cent of GDP to deal with the extreme weather events, the new infectious diseases, and the massive migration of people that are going to be coming here looking for a place to stay because they are flooded out of their own homes and can’t get the access to the resources. I am willing to pay more to try and make sure that we move along this line.

This is a baby step, folks. This first 5,000 megawatts particularly is a baby step. Let’s make sure that we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Let’s give this a chance to see what it can do. We obviously don’t have all the facts, but we’re going to have to hold it accountable. We’re going to have to have checks and balances. We’re going to have to see what the timelines are with the coal phase-out.

But let’s get serious about what is the most serious threat according to many institutions, including the United States Defense department. It says that global warming is the most serious threat to stability on the planet today. That’s pretty impressive when the United States Defense department says that this is something that we have to get serious about.

I misspoke, Mr. Speaker. It’s only 400 megawatts at the first bidding. I said 5,000. It’s a 5,000 surplus. That’s what we have right now, and that will be keeping our prices so low, but it’s 400 megawatts that’s actually being proposed in the first competition.

I just wanted to get my views on the record because it sounds so negative right now. We can see the holes so far in the lack of detail, the lack of costs and benefits and how it’s going to work in terms of sequencing, but I guess at this stage in the debate, pending more information, that I’m hoping we will see over the course of this debate, I am in principle very much in support of finding a way to move forward on renewable energy for our sakes and for future generations and for the sake of our pipelines. This seems to be an issue for much of Canada, that Alberta has not been responsible in managing its carbon, has not been responsible in enforcing good environmental regulations, has not been responsible somehow in ensuring that the health of the environment, which is the basis of our economy, has to be paramount if we’re going to have an economy and if we’re going to have a healthy population.

I will be voting against this amendment, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker: Under 29(2)(a)? Cardston-Taber-Warner to the Member for Calgary-Mountain View.

Mr. Hunter: Yes. I was interested to hear the points made by the Member for Calgary-Mountain View. He says that he’s very much willing to pay more, but the question this House has to ask is: are we willing to tell other Albertans that they have to pay more? My question to the member is: are you so sure that you are right that you are willing to trump the 80 per cent that are against this and tell them that they have to pay more for their price on electricity?

Dr. Swann: Well, that’s a fair question, Mr. Speaker. I’ve wrestled with this ever since I got into the Legislature. The population of Alberta in certain polls has said that they want to see business as usual. What does leadership look like when you see the writing on the wall and you see that many Albertans are not fully informed? In this case none of us are fully informed about the details of this issue. I guess they elected me to lead, to represent not only their interest but their children’s interests. They elected me to ensure that I looked not only at short-term economics but the longer term economics and environment and health. That’s part of the reason I was a champion for getting coal out of our electricity sector.

I think the question has not been asked: how much would you be willing to pay to ensure a better future for our children? It’s usually presented to the population as, “Are you willing to pay substantially more for cleaner energy?” without saying what the health impacts might be and what the long-term impacts will be in terms of our pipeline opportunities. It’s always a black-and-white question that seems to be asked in polling without kind of the nuances that people, I think, need. “Well, compared to what? What benefits am I going to get, and what costs am I willing to pay?” It’s a much more complex question than just: are you willing to pay more or less for your electricity? It’s kind of like asking people: are you willing to pay more taxes? Well, very few people will say yes unless it’s going to deliver something more to their lives.

It’s a difficult question. We have to wrestle with it as legislators. Are we going to kind of follow the polls, or are we going to actually lead on something that we know at a very deep level has been neglected for many years, particularly in Alberta, where we have the technology, we have the money, we have the smarts, we have all the resources we need to lead on this issue rather than be dragged along with the rest of the world, that are moving way ahead? As I mentioned, the UN environment program indicated a very substantial increase in renewable investment all over the planet. People are looking for business opportunities not only because it’s making money for them but also because it’s moving us in the right direction as a planet. Thank you.

The Speaker: Any other questions under 29(2)(a)? The Member for Calgary-Greenway.

Mr. Gill: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you very much to the hon. Member for Calgary-Mountain View. That is very, very important and insightful information that you shared, those data. I’m not saying that we’re against that. All the intent of this amendment is: let’s call a time out because we have seen the behaviour of this government. We have seen the behaviour of this government on Bill 6 , on the MGA, on the carbon tax. Can we consult on it with the stakeholders? That’s the whole idea. Just delay it six months so that we can consult. Every single Albertan will be impacted. We recognize climate change, and we recognize that this is important. The whole world is going towards this direction, and we need to be there. I understand that, and we support that. All I’m saying is: why is the hon. member opposing that we do more consultation, sir, if I may? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Dr. Swann: I wasn’t going to speak about Trump, but I guess I have to. He has thrown a wrench, I think, into a lot of our thinking and planning. He has certainly raised a lot of questions about how competitive we’re going to be. If the coal industry gets a huge spur from Trump in the States, it raises real questions about our ability to compete in our own petroleum industry, and it highlights, again, our overdependence on the U.S.


CBC News: Father of brain-damaged girl says he needs public support to get answers

A father is ready to stage a protest at the offices of the Alberta Dental Association and College and says the public must join him if he is ever to learn what happened to his four-year-old daughter.

… “There is a clear need for the college of dentists to separate themselves now from the association. This is another indication that having them together creates at least the appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann.

“The college is supposed to be acting very definitely in the interests of the public and the ethical practice of dentists. And the association is primarily there to serve the interests of the members.” Read Full Article…