Dr. David Swann wishes Albertans happy, healthy holidays

Calgary, AB (December 25, 2016): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement in celebration of the winter holidays:

“As you gather with your loved ones in the midst of another cold Alberta winter, I want to send my warmest wishes to you and yours.

“No matter how you celebrate this holiday season, this is a time to reflect on the blessings we have received, and, hopefully, to look forward to a new year of prosperity and cheer.

“We must also remember in this time that while we may be spending this season in a warm home, with food on the table and friends and family to share it with, there are many in this province that are not so fortunate. I encourage everyone to embody the spirit of giving this holiday season, and lend a hand to those in need.

“On behalf of myself and the Alberta Liberals, I want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a happy new year.”

Dr. David Swann wishes Albertans a happy Hanukkah

Calgary, AB (December 24, 2016): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement in celebration of the beginning of Hanukkah:

“Tonight marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. As families across Alberta gather to light the first candle of the menorah, I want to extend them the warmest wishes of myself and the Alberta Liberals.

“As the commemoration of the rededication of the defiled Holy Temple, Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of light in dark places, and of hope in dark times. As you observe this holiday in the company of dear friends and loved ones, I hope your own home becomes a source of light and warmth in this cold Alberta winter.

“A blessed and happy Hanukkah to you all. Chag sameach!

Calgary Herald: NDP ‘will engage with Albertans’ to decide marijuana minimum age: Notley

With cannabis legalization coming down the pipe in 2017, Premier Rachel Notley said input from Albertans will help set the minimum age to purchase marijuana…

… The report said that cannabis use during adolescence may be associated with effects on brain development. Alberta Liberal leader Dr. David Swann said the marijuana minimum age should be 21 years old, citing the same health concerns as basis for his recommendation. Read Full Article…

Edmonton Journal: Opposition parties spurn government’s child welfare panel

In a rare political move, Alberta’s opposition parties banded together Tuesday to boycott the government’s all-party ministerial panel investigating the child welfare system…

… On Tuesday following question period, McIver filed into a media conference alongside Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, interim Liberal Leader David Swann, Alberta Leader Greg Clark and Wildrose house leader Nathan Cooper to outline the framework they want to see before they take part in any all-party panel. Read Full Article…

Dr. Swann in Question Period on Opioid Addiction Treatment and Death Reporting

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Opioid Addiction Treatment and Death Reporting  

Dr. Swann: Bah. Humbug. Mr. Speaker, deaths from opiates are still increasing in year 4 of the most serious public health crisis in memory. Today I talked with a grieving mother who lost her daughter, presumably from a fentanyl overdose, in July. We still don’t know. Tragically, her daughter had been succeeding in a drug rehab facility right up until the point she was thrown out before her program was ended, allegedly because she also had bulimia, which the facility couldn’t accommodate. This girl, a college student without meaningful family input, was literally dropped off at a gas station to be picked up. Does the Premier feel that we are doing enough, that she is doing enough to create a sense of urgency . . .

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. member. The hon. Premier.

Ms Notley: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member for the question. As we’ve often discussed – but let me reaffirm – the rise of elicit opiates, including fentanyl and the more powerful carfentanyl, has created a public health crisis here in Alberta and, quite frankly, across the country. Our hearts go out to the parents, the spouses, the brothers, the sisters, and the children who have lost loved ones. This government believes in harm reduction, and we believe in offering Alberta supports, not just stigma. So we are working carefully on a number of different avenues to improve the way that, as government, we can respond to this crisis, and our members will be . . .

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. Premier. First supplemental.

Dr. Swann: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that opioid death rates in Alberta now exceed one per day – public health doctors estimate that we have approximately 40,000 to 50,000 addicts in Alberta – and given that together Calgary, Edmonton, and Cardston, the main Alberta Health Services clinics, manage only 2,500 patients a year and given that four- to six-week wait times are now the norm in our treatment centres and given that many of Alberta Health Services’ clinics close at 3 o’clock every day, does the Premier feel that the urgency of this matter is being addressed in Alberta?

The Speaker: The hon. Associate Minister of Health.

Ms Payne: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. I have to say that I really do appreciate the member’s compassion and advocacy on this issue. Our government is working very diligently to expand access to opioid replacement therapies, which are known as best practice, in order to address opioid misuse disorders. He listed off the number of clinics that are being operated by AHS. We’re working with partners in the private clinics as well as working with doctors in the primary care setting so that stabilized patients in ODT centres can then be transferred back to the community for maintenance with their doctor.

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. minister. Second supplemental.

Dr. Swann: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, given that B.C. is managing to report on opiate deaths, emergency room visits for opiate conditions, naloxone survivors, and wait times for therapy every month but given that Alberta reports every three to three and a half months, with some families not receiving reports on their dead loved one for eight to nine months, can the Premier tell us: is she going to direct the Justice minister and the Health minister to provide more timely information on these deaths?

The Speaker: The Associate Minister of Health.

Ms Payne: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. Certainly, in B.C. they have a different set-up than we do here in Alberta. Here in Alberta we are having the information around emergency room visits reported to the chief medical officer of health, who is leading our government’s response to this very important crisis. Additionally, the reporting information that we’re getting from the Chief Medical Examiner is being reported back on a continual basis to the chief medical officer of health. They’re working quite closely. I look forward to talking more in depth with the member in our meeting later this week.


Dr. David Swann welcomes release of federal report on cannabis legalization

EDMONTON, AB (December 13, 2016):

Dr. David Swann welcomed today’s release of the final report of the federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation.

“I am pleased to see this first step towards legalization of recreational cannabis,” said Dr. Swann. “Under the current regulatory regime, this is a substance that has tied up enormous resources in our justice system to very little benefit.

“My one concern is the task force’s recommendation that the minimum purchase age be established at 18,” Dr. Swann added. “Exposure to cannabis has been shown to have harmful effects on the developing brain, which have the potential to create permanent damage that will last a lifetime. Recent evidence supports setting the limit at 21 years at minimum, which I hope the federal government will consider.”

Now that the report has been published, Dr. Swann is waiting to see what legislation is tabled in the new year. 

“The Task Force has done excellent work, but it is now Parliament who decides which recommendations become law. We need a responsible legal framework around recreational cannabis use, in particular on matters of regulating vendors, monitoring and enforcement, and taxation.

“I commend the federal government for beginning the process of legalization, and look forward to further developments.”


Edmonton Journal: Federal government cracks down on illicit fentanyl shipments

The federal government is cracking down on illicit shipments of fentanyl and the equipment used to make pills and capsules, in a move lauded by the Alberta government on Monday.

… Interim Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann said the crisis is so bad that he has had people contact his office seeking medical help. He has taken up the cause in the legislature, demanding more information from the government and more frequent reporting on overdose deaths, emergency room visits, waiting times and the number of lives saved with the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone. He’s meeting with the government this week to encourage more transparency on the issue. Read Full Article…

Dr. Swann Debates Bill 35 – Fair Elections Financing Act

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Monday, December 12, 2016.

Bill 35 – Fair Elections Financing Act (Committee of the Whole)

The Deputy Chair: Are there any comments, questions, or amend-ments to be offered with respect to this bill? The hon. Member for Calgary-Mountain View.

Dr. Swann: Thank you, Madam Chair. I move an amendment to Bill 35, the Fair Elections Financing Act, and I have the appropriate number of copies to circulate before I speak to it.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, hon. member. Your amendment will be referred to as A9.

Dr. Swann: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Let me know when you’d like me to proceed.

The Deputy Chair: Please go ahead.

Dr. Swann: Thank you, Madam Chair. I move that the bill be amended in section 43 in the proposed section 44.1 by striking out subsection (1)(c)(i) and substituting the following:

(i) the production of an election advertising message or political advertising message in the format in which the message is to be transmitted, and

by striking out subsection (1)(d)(iv) and substituting the following:

(iv) the transmission by a person, corporation or group, on a non-commercial basis on the Internet, of the political views of that person, corporation or group,

next, by striking out subsection (1)(g)(iv) and substituting the following:

(iv) the transmission by a person, corporation or group, on a non-commercial basis on the Internet, of the political views of that person, corporation or group,

and by adding the following after subsection (2):

(3) The Chief Electoral Officer may issue guidelines respecting the application of this Part and shall publish any guidelines on the Chief Electoral Officer’s website.

Madam Chair, I think this amendment is helpful for clarifying what should be captured under third-party advertising by doing three things. First, the amendment would clarify that the definition of production of election advertising should be focused on expenses that are directly associated with the making of a third-party political or election advertisement. The reason I believe this is necessary is that I don’t think we want to hamper organizations who perform work that is not meant to be captured. Civil society is important, public discourse is important, and these things should be protected. I also believe in making sure that we provide as much clarity as possible within our legislation, and I hope the government will agree with this approach.

Second, this amendment offers clarity to ensure that third-party advertising does not include the noncommercial transmission of political views expressed by individuals or organizations on the Internet, where there is no paid expense. We don’t want to inhibit that. We know that regulating third-party advertising helps improve transparency and confidence in the electoral system. However, we do not want to restrict individuals or organizations from engaging in public discourse through the Internet where election or political advertising is not in fact taking place. Some may argue that this intent is already clear in legislation, but I would submit to the House that we should be as strong and clear as possible in our language. This amendment clarifies that we intend to capture paid advertising where the third party, an individual or organization, is engaged in an advertising buy that comes in an expense, whether the expense is in-house or from a hired individual or firm.

The third rationale, Madam Chair, is that in order to ensure that third parties understand fully the letter, spirit, and intent of the legislation, I’m proposing that we make a change to allow the Chief Electoral Officer to issue guidelines with respect to this part from time to time. This will follow the common practice in federal elections financing, which allows the Chief Electoral Officer to work with the parties and issue important guidelines from time to time with respect to the application of these new rules.

Madam Chair, these are big changes, and I believe these amendments will help to ensure the smooth transition to a more transparent system, which will provide clarity and balance to our electoral system and public discourse. I encourage all members to consider this amendment.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, hon. member.

Are there any members wishing to speak to amendment A9? The hon. Member for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.

Mr. Nixon: Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to rise today. Actually, I probably have a couple of questions for the hon. member through you about his amendment. I do think that this emphasizes the concern that the opposition has had the entire way through this piece of legislation. As you know, Madam Chair, the work that the government members did during the Ethics and Accountability Committee to try to bring forward amendments to be able to get their campaign expenses paid for and the party expenses paid for ultimately derailed the entire process before it could complete its work on third-party advertisement.

Now, third-party advertisement was one of the most important things that the committee was undertaking. There are some con-stitutional issues with that. As well, there are some clear examples across the country and across North America, for that matter, where things like PACs have had some serious issues that we have to make sure that we get right. I think the member is touching on some of

December 12, 2016 Alberta Hansard 2517

those areas that it would’ve been nice to have seen completed to make sure that we did get it right and that we were understanding the issue completely.

I probably will have some more to say in a second, but first I would like to ask through you, Madam Chair, to the member if the intent of this is to make sure that individuals could protect their right to free speech on concerns they have through things like social media and mechanisms that they may have on this. First, I would support that intent, and I believe the committee made it clear that they support that intent. But my concern in the way that I’m reading this right now – and I’ve only had it for a short time – is that this would allow a PAC to complete their $150,000 cap on billing content of some sort for a general election, let’s say, and then we allow something like a trade union or a corporation to be able to unlimitedly use social media and their resources to push that content out across the sphere, which I think would be counter-productive to what we’re trying to do on third-party advertising.

If the member is trying to make sure, again, that an individual or an individual corporation could share something on Facebook or say that they agree with something, that would be freedom of speech, something that I think we should protect. But the way I’m first reading this right now, Madam Chair, is that this will leave a bit of a loophole and allow trade unions and corporations to be able to use their financial resources, et cetera, to push this out on social media.

So I’d like to get a little feedback on that, and I’ll probably have a few more comments to make after that, Madam Chair.

The Deputy Chair: The hon. Member for Calgary-Mountain View.

Dr. Swann: Well, thank you, Madam Chair. I’m puzzled as to why that would be the interpretation. I think it’s relatively clear in the amendment that what we’re trying to do is ensure a level playing field for all in a nonwrit period, especially, to express themselves, their views, their political views, their economic views freely. This amends the original bill in order to ensure that we include corpora-tions and not exclude them from their rightful role in society, again limiting that role in the writ period but allowing it in the prewrit period so that everyone is indeed on the same level playing field, social media notwithstanding.


Dr. Swann: Thank you, Madam Chair. I, too, remember this discussion in committee and felt at the time that this was a solution in search of a problem. I don’t think we’ve really seen the evidence that the cost of this relative to the benefits of this is really a reasonable approach. I’m quite convinced by the Member for Vermilion-Lloydminster, with his very passionate and clear argument, that this a step too far, that this is a bridge too far. We have not seen this as a significant problem. It’s going to cost very substantially in terms of manpower and dollars, and as far as I’m aware, no other jurisdiction is following this guideline.

Yes, indeed. After someone is nominated, after someone is running for election, we have every right to know everything about where this potential new member of the Legislature or Parliament is receiving their support, but I think it’s just a step too far. And I hope the members in the government will consider this in terms of the balance between the right to know everything and the costs to the public purse and the relevance of nomination processes. In the vast majority of cases for Albertans it’s simply not substantive enough to require this, what I would also echo as an overreach in terms of what is a legitimate concern about transparency and accountability. I have yet to see the evidence that it is a problem that requires this magnitude of intervention and solution.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dr. Swann Debates on Motions Other than Government Motions: Downstream Water Security

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Monday, December 12, 2016

Motions Other than Government Motions: Downstream Water Security

Dr. Swann: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Very pleased to rise in support of this motion. It’s an easy motion to support. It’s our lifeblood, after all. The eastern slopes provide all the water to Alberta and to the rest of the prairie provinces, in fact, and it’s the source of all life and productivity, whether it’s agricultural or industrial. So it’s very clear that this really should be a higher priority than it has been for decades.

Peter Lougheed back in the ’70s established an eastern slopes policy that actually restricted industrial and commercial activity on the eastern slopes. Somehow over time that has gradually fallen away, and we’re in a state now where the designated areas for protection have not only become – what would I say? – thwarted or incompletely implemented but certainly misunderstood and certainly violated by past governments since Peter Lougheed. All manner of development has gone on now on the eastern slopes that not only threatens the quality of our water and the cost of cleaning the water, in Calgary for example, but all urban areas downstream of the mountains have to spend more and more dollars to clean the water because of not only more depositions from erosion but also from industrial and agricultural, even recreational use up there. Certainly, logging has added to the erosion and the loss of capacity to control high levels of flow or, as the hon. Member for Banff-Cochrane mentioned, control the flow for drought circumstances as well.

Dr. Brad Stelfox is a neighbour and has been an adviser to me for a decade. He has visited most environment and agriculture ministers since I got into this Legislature and has presented his ALCES model, which is recognized around the world as a wonderful visual indication of cumulative impact over many decades of development and has helped us get a sense of just how the pace of our development is threatening not only our water supplies but our industrial activities and all manner of activities that we are associating with economic development. By failing to manage the eastern slopes, we are failing to manage our economy in a very fundamental way. It’s a reminder that the economy is a subset of the environment. It’s not the other way around. If we don’t preserve the environment, we do not have an economy, and certainly we do not have our health.

Three levels of importance to water: not only the quality, not only the quantity of water but the in-stream flow needs, the so-called adequate volume that has to be maintained in streams and rivers for life to be supported there. Fish life, plant life, animal life: all of these require a minimum in-stream flow, which is threatened every fall. With the glaciers being limited further and further as years go by, there is a real threat, especially in southern Alberta, which has been known as the desert part of Alberta in past generations. The area that early explorers felt was uninhabitable and potentially desert has been close to that, especially through the Depression. We cannot assume anything for our future, especially with the unpredictability of climate change and the extremes that we can expect in terms of rain and water loss.

Those are some of the key elements of this. It’s one thing, though, to pass a motion that is motherhood; it’s another thing to actually put in place clear limits to activities and zones of development and protection against development. I applaud the hon. member’s efforts to highlight this yet again. In my time, 12 years in the Legislature, this is probably the fourth or fifth time that it’s been highlighted. It needs now to move on to much more substantive protection measures: bills, I would argue, regulations.

Off-highway vehicles have been a big issue in the eastern slopes that continue to be a damaging factor, especially in southwestern Alberta. But I think that on up the eastern slopes it’s going to be a growing problem as we get – I think Alberta has the most off-highway vehicles per capita of anywhere in Canada if I’m not mistaken, perhaps not including the Northwest Territories. We are increasingly using off-highway vehicles for recreational use in the mountains, and it’s causing very substantial impacts.

I would welcome the chance to move this forward in the next phase to some very clear guidelines, beyond what the South Saskatchewan River basin plan has done. It has made some steps towards limiting development and identifying protection areas like the park and wildland that have been established in southwestern Alberta, but I think it’s clear that we have to do more in relation to better logging practices, designating trails for off-highway vehicles instead of letting people go wherever they want, wherever there’s a trail, and designating recreational use, which is a tremendous possibility for our future economic development. Recreational tourism and the film industry out in the mountains have to be long-term economic drivers for us, which will have that as a side benefit, the primary benefit being, of course, protection of quality and quantity of water for all of us and indeed for recreational activities such as fishing and so on.

If any area of the province is absolutely dependent on better eastern slopes management, it’s the south part of this province. We don’t have a lot of water here. Most of our water is in the north. Most of our population and demands are in the south. It’s very clear, from all the reports that this member has referred to and others, that we neglect this at our peril. There have been no new water licences issued since 2006. It’s 10 years ago that we realized we’d reached the limit of our water capacity. Surely that’s the writing on the wall that says: folks, we’ve gone too far too fast. Especially in southern Alberta, what has to be the primary focus of policies on the eastern slopes is water protection for the future.

With that, I’ll take my seat. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Dr. Swann in Question Period on Chronic Wasting Disease – 8 December 2016

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Thursday, December 8, 2016

Chronic Wasting Disease

Dr. Swann: I’m shifting topics to the Alberta prion institute, that just received $11 million from Genome Canada to trace chronic wasting disease in deer, elk, and moose in Alberta. We need to act now to prevent a catastrophe not only in wildlife but in our agri-culture community. CWD is a fatal brain disease like mad cow disease. It’s spreading across western Canada since its introduction in game farms, and 15 years ago, the experts said that BSE, mad cow disease, would never cross species. Now, several hundred people have died from BSE.

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. member. [interjection] Your time is allocated, hon. member. Is there a minister who would like to announce . . . [interjection] Hon. member, your time is up. Please proceed, hon. minister.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the very important question. You know, as a government we absolutely recognize the importance of keeping our livestock – our tame livestock, our domestic livestock, wild livestock – safe from any form of disease. It’s important for biosecurity reasons, for our markets, for everything. We’re continuing to work with the industry – the farming industry, the wildland farming industry, other livestock industries right across the province – on all our biosecurity issues and continue to be working with the member with the question as well on making sure we can do all we can. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Dr. Swann: It’s been a decade since I started raising these issues. When will you ban the movement of all potentially wasting-disease-infected carcasses, live animals, products, equipment, or other sources of infectious materials across this province?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and the member for the question. The odd time that, you know, those biosecurity issues do come up in the province, the department takes it very seriously and reacts very quickly. Those operations do happen not that often, but we do take action on it. Continuing to work with the member, we welcome the member’s input in going forward to do much more if we could.

Dr. Swann: No action. No action in 10 years. Given there’s now evidence that thousands of citizens are unknowingly consuming infected animals, including First Nations, will the minister mandate and implement now convenient, cost-free testing of all animals harvested in the CWD-affected areas?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. The member I think does realize that there is testing going on. It is true that we have over the past few years, you know, picked up a couple of incidents when this has happened. It isn’t the doomsday scenario that he’s trying to make us believe. Incidents do happen. We have control of it. We continue with those controls. I have all the confidence in our public servants to do what they do best, and that is to make sure that we’re all safe. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.