Statement on International Overdose Awareness Day, 2017

Calgary, AB (August 31, 2017): Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement for International Overdose Awareness Day:

“Today I join far too many Albertans in mourning those whose lives were cut short by drug overdoses, specifically fentanyl.

“With the skyrocketing pace of overdose deaths due to the ongoing opioid crisis, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers and lose track of the real cost in life and suffering.

“People struggling with addictions are not just junkies – each one is someone’s sibling, someone’s friend, someone’s child. Every death plunges a community into grief.

“On this day we remember those who have died of drug overdose not as statistics, not as addicts, but as fellow humans. We must work in their memory to break the stigma surrounding this disease, and make sure that those struggling with addiction in the future have the help they need.

“Of course, the single greatest way to raise overdose awareness would be for the NDP government to declare a state of emergency in response to the opioid crisis – something it has refused to do despite repeated calls from the opposition and stakeholders such as Moms Stop the Harm and Changing the Face of Addiction.

“Declaring a state of emergency would send a signal to every Albertan about the seriousness of the issue itself and the government’s commitment to putting all resources at its disposal to stop the needless deaths of so many of our friends and family.”


Government emails show NDP in damage control mode over transportation concerns

Calgary, AB (August 30, 2017): Alberta Liberals are releasing internal emails showing the NDP were in damage control mode over school transportation concerns in Calgary.

“It is troubling to see the government call the serious concerns of parents in Calgary ‘noise and confusion’,” says Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann. “The NDP were clearly aware of problems with the implementation of Bill 1 but chose spin over real action.”

The internal NDP email exchange was initiated by a parent urging the government to attend an information session with representatives from the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and Calgary Transit Service (CTS). The individual shares a personal story of the logisitical challenges and child safety concerns of using public transit for school, as well as the financial impact the transportation changes will have on struggling families. The emails ends with plea to “do the right thing for our children.”

The ministry admits the situation is challenging but directs NDP constituency offices them to “hold still on communicating” until a messaging strategy is devised.

“Calgary MLAs recognize the problem is wide spread and specifically hurts students in language schools,” says Swann. “But the problem remains. There’s been no indication of help for the CBE to solve these problems that the government created.”

A redacted copy of the email exchange is available for viewing here.


Calgarians sound the alarm over school transportation and bell times

Calgary, AB (August 30, 2017): Alberta Liberals are calling on the NDP government to take immediate action to address serious concerns over changes in transportation and bell times as a result of Bill 1.

“Minister Eggen needs to do more than just stage a photo op today,” says Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan. “He needs to come down to Calgary and listen to parents’ concerns, then take immediate action to rectify this completely unacceptable situation his government created by making a political decision without the necessary consultation.

“The unintended consequences of good, Liberal ideas being poorly implemented by the NDP is a pattern we’ve seen all too often.”

Alberta Liberals have heard repeated concerns from parents and the Calgary Board of Education (CBE), stemming from the CBE’s attempts to accommodate the requirements imposed on it by Bill 1.

“Many parents are expressing real anxiety – not to mention serious doubts – that they’ll be able to make it all work,” says Calgary – Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann. “For some, it could mean needing to dramatically alter their work schedules, or even re-evaluating their employment situations entirely. In other cases, before and/or after school care may be required to help bridge any gaps. Regrettably, not every family has viable options in these areas.

“If getting a break on school and busing fees means one parent having to quit a job or a family having to spend more money on child care, it’s hard to see that as progress.”

Swann points out that most parents affected have children in alternative programs, which includes French immersion. The issue becomes particularly problematic in situations involving feeder/affiliated schools, where families find themselves with children in more than one CBE school.

“The NDP are waging a war of attrition on non-traditional public education,” says Swann. “We saw a clear example of this when I proposed Bill 1 be amended to include public charter schools and the government refused.”

“Parents need clarity and predictability when it comes to their children’s education. So far, they have yet to receive either from the NDP.”


How to Reduce the Cost of Basic Dentistry

Opinion/Editorial by Dr. David Swann, MLA Calgary-Mountain View

Albertans understand that dentists operate as private businesses and are free to charge whatever the market will bear. However, with approximately 20 per cent of Albertans lacking access to preventive dental care and treatment, something needs to change.

The recent release by the Alberta Dental Association and College (ADAC) of a fee guide may assist some patients to negotiate, but this is not a solution. There is a large disconnect between the ADAC proposals and the expectations of the government, the public and a growing number of dentists including an emerging movement called Alberta Dentists for Change (ADFC.com).

So, the question remains: how can we make dental services affordable for all?

First, the excuse that it is more expensive to operate in Alberta just doesn’t cut it anymore. While most people understand cost pressures in terms of staff salaries, there is little public sympathy for these concerns given a health ministry review indicated, not only are Alberta’s dental fees the highest in the country, but our dental hygienist fees are the highest in North America. Like many, I am outraged by the fact that cleaning and scaling services can be billed at a rate of $280 per hour!

Next, dental advertising rules should be liberalized. Dentists should be allowed to advertise more competitive pricing (with checks on false advertising of course), but the promotion of special rates is banned, even if they’re aimed at lower-income Albertans. Current codes also prohibit ‘claims of superiority’ or expertise unless the dentist is a recognized specialist. This prevents general dentists from offering reduced fees with demonstrated extra training in areas such as jaw pain and minor orthodontics. The Competition Bureau has already reviewed these advertising rules and suggested changes.

The government also needs to seriously consider separating the Alberta Dental Association and the College. The Association’s mandate is to protect and promote the dental business and the interests of dentists; the College’s role is regulatory, overseeing matters related to licensing, professional conduct and quality of care. There is a built-in conflict of interest here, which is why many other professions have separated these two functions. An independent College that is less concerned about protecting industry profits may be more willing to produce a guide that is better aligned with the public interest.

Finally, the NDP government must expand publicly-funded dental services through community clinics to meet the growing needs of thousands of children and low-income Albertans. These clinics have been crucial for providing basic dental needs, but simply have not kept pace with population demand. Improved dental health will prevent serious health complications later on, and reduce pressures on our already overburdened health care system.

The clock is ticking for both the profession and the government to show genuine leadership that will finally make basic dental prevention and treatment services affordable for all Albertans.


Need for a credible deficit reduction plan in response to Q1 Update

Calgary, AB (August 23, 2017): In response to the First Quarter Fiscal Update, Alberta Liberals are calling on the NDP government to produce a credible plan to tackle the province’s unsustainable borrowing and debt load.

“The NDP’s record level of borrowing and debt is seriously concerning, especially without a credible plan to pay it back, says Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan. “The Minister of Finance is simply crossing his fingers and hoping that rebounding oil prices will bail him out before the next election.

”We need to concentrate on controlling operational costs and focus on smart investments in infrastructure instead of borrowing to keep the lights on. The NDP’s approach to managing our province’s finances is shockingly short-sighted.”

Khan points out the NDP are liquidating their contingency fund and promising $400 million in unspecified “savings” to paper over their ballooning deficit.

“This is just fudging the numbers to make it appear their spending and revenue problems are under control,” says Khan. “Even their projection of $49 per barrel oil is rosier than the market projections of $47.53 – $49.32.”

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann is also concerned with NDP spending practices and priorities, specifically in the areas health care, infrastructure projects, and government contracting.

“The government has missed yet another opportunity to look at waste in the health system,” says Swann. “Health spending continues to be the largest line item in the budget and we need to be looking for efficiencies.

“The government also needs to take a close look at the contracting and monitoring of delivery on infrastructure projects,” says Swann. “I have heard from numerous stakeholders about inappropriate spending and mismanagement of government contracts.

“The government must not only work to restrain its spending, but also make sure that public funds are being put to the greatest effect.”

Both agree that the NDP needs to have a credible deficit reduction plan if it hopes to salvage Alberta’s long-term financial outlook.

“We urgently need an adult conversation about closing the gap between government revenue and spending,” says Swann. “The NDP’s over-reliance on volatile resource revenue is not sustainable nor realistic, and we simply cannot continue to borrow at this rate.”

“Alberta Liberals believe in fiscal responsibility and fairness to future generations,” says Khan. “These fiscal policies manage to be unfair to both current taxpayers and future generations of Albertans.”


David Swann statement on MLA expense disclosures

CALGARY, AB (AUGUST 18, 2017): Alberta Liberal MLA for Calgary – Mountain View has released the following statement regarding his MLA expense disclosures:

“My office staff and I have conducted an audit of all of my MLA expense disclosures and we are satisfied that all expenses are appropriate.

“Fiscal responsibility starts at the top, with elected officials leading by example. Alberta Liberals respect public funds and spend them wisely, refusing to exploit loopholes to use taxpayer money for personal gain.

“On MLA expenses, it is the Alberta Liberal position that all publically-funded expenses need to be tied to public duties, must be a necessary expense for a responsible dollar amount, and be reflective of the actual costs incurred, not simply claiming the maximum allowance.

“We support the call to have the Members’ Services Committee review all MLA expenses and allowances, especially the living and travel allowances, to ensure they are all related to legitimate public business.

“Furthermore, discussion of MLA expenses does not need to be a race to the bottom. We should view these events as a call for accountability, transparency and respectful, responsible administration of Albertans’ tax dollars.

“I look forward to further dialogue and scrutiny of this important matter.”


David Swann statement on 2017 second quarter opioid report

Calgary, AB (August 16, 2017): Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in response to the release of the 2017 second quarter opioid report:

“I am deeply troubled and saddened that another 119 Albertans tragically lost their lives in the last three months to opioid overdose.

“The number of people in the province dying from fentanyl overdoses each quarter remains unacceptably high. Over the past six months fentanyl alone has taken 241 lives, and this number is projected to reach 480 by the end of year – and this without adding in deaths due to other opiates.

“This dramatic increase in fentanyl deaths over the previous year illustrates the fact that, despite its best efforts, the NDP government still does not have a handle on this mental illness and addiction crisis.

“While the report calls this year’s number of overdose deaths ‘significant’, I find it horrifying, especially given that they are entirely preventable.

And, while the government claims ‘the trend appears to be ‘stabilizing’ since there were three fewer deaths from the previous quarter, I see the overall number of deaths as further evidence of a lack of progress.

“In short, this report shows that the NDP government is failing to significantly improve access to harm reduction and treatment services.

“What Alberta need is an evidence-based, coordinated plan, including wrap-around housing, social and psychological services that makes proper use all of the tools at the government’s disposal. This includes declaring a state of emergency and treating the issue as such.

“Whatever the NDP may think about the technical aspects of it, the symbolism alone of calling this what it is, an emergency, will go a long way in addressing harmful stigma, creating awareness and mobilizing resources.

“We need increased public education campaigns for all demographics, improved access to harm reduction measures, and we need to make these resources more readily available, especially outside of our major urban areas. These wait times continue to be too long.

“As we approach two deaths per day, we still must wait months for federal approval of safe consumption sites. I keep asking: what is the holdup here? This is supposed to be a national emergency. It is time for our provincial and federal governments to treat it as such.”


The Government must stop clearcutting of Kananaskis Country and Highwood Pass

CALGARY, AB (August 14, 2017): Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann is calling on the NDP government to stop the clearcutting of Kananaskis Country and Highwood Pass.

“There is a responsible way and a place for logging. This is neither,” says David Swann. “They are rapidly clearing massive swaths of trees from well-known tourist and recreation areas.

“The NDP must show better environmental leadership. They must put a stop to this immediately, review the contracts, and examine other sites.”

Swann first raised concerns about the proposed logging in Question Period in May.

He followed up in a letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry on behalf of residents of Black Diamond, Turner Valley and High River, expressing concerns about the pace of the timber harvest. The harvesting of a five-year quota in a single season, the threat to the local economy, and the negative environmental impact on water and wildlife – specifically the endangered cut-throat trout – were raised in the letter.

The Minister replied that all these activities were acceptable and would proceed this month according to plan.

“The government isn’t getting the message,” says Swann. “The municipal councils of Okotoks, Turner Valley and Black Diamond have all asked for delay and review of the licence on the iconic Highwood route. The impact of this clearcutting will be devastating for these communities, and the Minister should heed this clarion call.

“I am also particularly concerned with the threat to the watersheds in the area, which are particularly relevant in this extraordinarily dry summer. Water quality and quantity must be the top priority for the management of the southeastern slopes so as to protect our southern Alberta communities.”

Swann recently surveyed the area to see first-hand the devastating effects of the clearcutting in the region. Photos are available on the official website.

Polling has shown that Albertans recognize the danger the logging activities in this region pose to the local environment and economy. I call on the Minister to visit the affected areas, so he can plainly see for himself that these logging practices are unacceptable.

“This needs to stop before the damage is irreversible.”

All documents and photos are available on the Alberta Liberal Opposition website.


Government attempt at City Charters fails to establish equal partnership

Calgary, AB (August 10, 2017): Alberta Liberals say the NDP government’s recent City Charter announcement falls well short of their expectations for an equal partnership with a clearly defined framework for jurisdictional, financial, and electoral reform.

“Alberta Liberals were the first to propose doing away with the paternalistic relationship between the provincial and municipal governments,” says Liberal MLA David Swann. “Compared to the relationship major municipalities in other Canadian jurisdictions enjoy, this falls well short of our expectations.”

Alberta Liberals first proposed the creation of Big City Charters in 2008. That call was repeated in 2012, and reaffirmed as official Liberal policy in 2015. Over that period, successive Progressive Conservative governments failed to make substantial progress on the issue, choosing instead to make repeated piecemeal amendments to the Municipal Government Act.

Swann points out that the NDP also promised to tackle controversial interjurisdictional issues such as oil and gas drilling within municipal boundaries. Yet, there appears to be no mention of them in the proposed changes.

“Liberals view Alberta’s two major cities as equal partners, not dependents who must come cap in hand to the provincial government,” says Swann. “They shouldn’t have to beg for permission or resources to meet the needs of their citizens, but be empowered through their own unique acts which resolve these jurisdictional issues, and clearly establish revenue generating and/or sharing powers.

“At the end of the day, the most important element here is municipal funding, and there is no new funding formula or commitment to establish one in this agreement.”