Dr. Swann Member Statement on The Battle of Vimy Ridge – 10 April 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Monday, April 10, 2017.

Member Statement – Battle of Vimy Ridge

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. On this day a hundred years ago a great battle of triumph and tragedy was raging on Vimy Ridge. I’m honoured today to rise in this democratically elected Assembly to be able to speak freely about these brave men and women, about the survivors, their families, and pay tribute to the fallen. Indeed, this is one of the gifts these courageous warriors gave to all of us, not just freedom from oppression and tyranny but the freedom to exercise our rights of self-determination and recognition of our inalienable human rights.

The price they paid was high: an entire generation lost. Vimy Ridge remains the single bloodiest battle Canadians fought, with about 3,600 lives being laid down in the fields in France. It was a defining moment, both in terms of the Great War as well as the birthing of this great nation, Canada. It fills us with pride to remember the victory that was wrought on Vimy Ridge. It also reminds us of the preciousness of life, the duty of public service, and the eternal vigilance required to protect our rights and freedoms and the rule of law.

Finally, I’d be amiss if I did not speak about the unspeakable horror of war and the need for each of us to work always and everywhere to create the conditions for peace. The average age of Canadian soldiers in World War I was 26; the oldest, 80; the youngest reported, 10 years old. What they were to experience in those fields was unimaginable for these young minds. While many lives were lost at Vimy, many more were forever changed. Those who did not die had been surrounded by death and terror on a daily basis: unrelenting physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma.

When they returned home, they were enthusiastically welcomed by a truly grateful nation. But how could anyone who had not been there and experienced the devastation begin to understand the effect it would have on the survivors and their families? This was a time when knowledge of mental health and particularly the lasting impacts of trauma was in its infancy. To be a man often meant then and still means maintaining a bravado of strength, refusing to ask for help, and suffering in silence. Many if not all of those returning from the battlefield agonized under the torment of posttraumatic illness. Too often this led to mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, and family violence. Although the guns had gone quiet, there was still a war raging in their minds, reverberating through intimate family members, and a different peace that remained to be won.

Our understanding of this disorder has come a long way since, but there are many hills we have yet to climb together. More needs to be done to support our brave servicemen, women, and families who faced and are facing today the devastations of war. We need to end the stigma and make it clear that admitting mental illness does not make us weak. In fact, it takes great strength and bravery. Bravery comes in many forms.

Let us earnestly, then, work in this House and in our communities to preserve the peace through respectful discourse, reducing inequality, and justice for all, remembering the peace that was purchased at such a high price.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Standing ovation]

Dr. Swann Member Statement on Chronic Wasting Disease – 6 April 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Wednesday, April 6, 2017

Member Statement – Chronic Wasting Disease

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Chronic wasting disease, CWD, is a highly contagious, fatal, transmissible brain disease that threatens both wildlife and the entire agricultural sector. CWD spreads among cervids – deer, elk, moose, and caribou – and persists and remains infectious in the environment. An expert scientific panel years ago confirmed that CWD came to Alberta through captive elk imported from the U.S. in the ’80s. It is a sister disease to BSE, or mad cow disease, which crippled the agriculture sector in the U.K. and seriously compromised our own beef industry for a decade.

CWD is vastly more difficult to contain than BSE because the infectious prions move readily between living animals and have repeatedly actually jumped species barriers. The 2016 Alberta government update indicated that “the geographic distribution of CWD continues to expand” and now includes the Milk River, Red Deer River, North Saskatchewan River and northeast Alberta.

CWD poses a significant threat on at least two levels. The first is biological. In addition to animal-to-animal transfer, it persists in the environment and can infect other cervids through the soil and infect root systems of the plants growing in CWD-infected soils. This jeopardizes wildlife ecosystems and hunting- and wildlife-based communities such as our First Nations, who depend on deer and elk for food.

The second threat is economic. With the science and biological threats now documented, it’s only a matter of time before large markets such as Europe recognize CWD as a risk to their own wildlife, their landscapes, and their economies. This may result in a ban on North American agricultural products. Without immediate action to address these risks, repercussions are enormous. Only immediate, aggressive, and co-operative interprovincial control measures will mitigate this growing risk in both sectors. We need to remember the lessons from BSE and do something to get ahead of this.

Thanks, Mr. Speaker.

Dr. Swann Member Statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – 21 March 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Tuesday, March 21, 2017.

Member Statement – International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On behalf of the Liberal caucus I’m very pleased to stand in observance of today’s international day against racial discrimination. It’s taken on increasing relevance in light of recent events here in Alberta and around the world. Unfortunately, there are still too many examples of hatred and discrimination based on race and religion. Just last week police in Calgary were called to investigate anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic graffiti in an off-leash park. And a recent attack in Quebec in the mosque has demonstrated that hatred has a cost, a cost that is paid in human lives. That is why we take a stand today to support and promote the Albertan and Canadian values of mutual respect, inclusion, and diversity. We must be clear that such hatred is not acceptable.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to call our attention to more subtle forms of racial discrimination, particularly against indigenous people. Already burdened with the long and destructive legacy of residential schools and racism, that we have only just begun to address, First Nations people continue to struggle with racial discrimination and stigma that robs them of opportunity, contributes to isolation, mental illness, suicide rates five times the average, and violence. I acknowledge the leadership of this provincial government and the federal government in this regard.

A recent Maclean’s article compared aboriginal Canadians to African-Americans and found that aboriginal Canadians were in a worse state on almost every metric, from median income to incarceration rate to life expectancy. We cannot be complacent about this racial discrimination happening beneath our noses, Mr. Speaker. So I stand with the members of this Assembly in condemning any and all forms of discrimination. All people among us are worthy and have the right to live free of discrimination. Clearly, we must do more individually and collectively to put these fine words into action with policies and funding every day.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Dr. Swann Member Statement on Opioid Use – 9 March 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Member Statement – Opioid Use

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This week in a rare display of nonpartisan co-operation we held an important debate on the opioid crisis, and I thank my colleagues across both sides for that.

We also heard from two courageous advocates for better education and more action on the devastating effects of opioid abuse and addiction. Petra Schulz, who lost her son Danny, works with Moms Stop the Harm, a network of Canadian mothers and families whose loved ones have died from substance misuse. Rosalind Davis, who lost her partner Nathan, started the Changing the Face of Addiction organization, a not-for-profit seeking political change and reduced stigma on drug and addictions issues. They say that the government’s refusal to recognize a state of emergency is unacceptable. It perpetuates stigma about opioid-related deaths.

To its credit, the government has taken a number of positive steps, but its approach has mainly been reactive, not integrated across government and nongovernment organizations. Opioid-related overdoses and deaths are reaching unprecedented levels and have now become a national crisis. We don’t have the whole picture yet because the data is simply not available, but what we do know is deeply troubling. In 2016 there were 343 deaths just from fentanyl and many more from other opioids yet to be classified. This 33 per cent increase in one year shows that the crisis is growing at an alarming rate.

If we were getting ahead of it, then I might agree with the NDP, but we’re five years into this, and the government, by its own admission, is still developing the strategy. We require focused leadership and a crossdepartment strategy that would provide co-ordination between all government ministries and nongovernment sectors of society.

Finally, we need to recognize this for what it is, an emergency, and use every means at our disposal to save Albertans’ lives.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Dr. Swann Member Statement on International Women’s Day – 8 March 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

Member Statement – International Women’s Day

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. An honour to stand with the Liberal caucus on this important day of celebrating women. Today we celebrate the achievements made in gender equality over many years. Just over 100 years ago women did not have the right to vote. Even 50 years ago the franchise was still withheld from our First Nations women. Today women hold 1 in 3 seats in this House. While there is still much progress that needs to be made on many women’s issues, this is an encouraging trend. I look forward to seeing it continue into the future.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is Be Bold for Change. Across Canada, Alberta, and the world individuals and organizations are honouring this day by encouraging women to be bold and, by doing so, with the full support of real men, create real change.

I particularly want to acknowledge the work of Ask Her, a group in Calgary that’s working to encourage the greater representation of women in municipal politics. Ask Her recognizes that one of the reasons so few women hold public office is that they are too rarely asked to run. As such, they encourage Calgarians to seek out strong, qualified women in their communities and ask them to take leader-ship roles. This year Ask Her will ask 20 women to run for Calgary city council. At present only two of the city’s 14 councillors are women, a meagre 14 per cent. Ask Her aims to achieve 50 per cent female representation on council after this fall’s election, and they have my full support.

Our province, our country, our society are made better when strong, passionate, engaged women are involved in their communities and bring their voices to the table. This International Women’s Day we have much to celebrate in the progress women have made. I encourage women, especially young women, to continue to press forward, be bold, and take the lead in creating the change we all so desperately need.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Standing ovation]

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 Member Statement on Hon. Peter Eric James Prentice – 21 November 2016

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Monday, November 21, 2016.

Member Statement – Hon. Peter Eric James Prentice, PC, QC July 20, 1956, to October 13, 2016

Dr. Swann: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The passing of Jim Prentice and three others in the tragic airplane crash last month is a loss to us all. Jim’s story is quintessentially Canadian, the blue-collar son of a hockey player who worked the mines to pay for law school, a lawyer who chose to direct his career towards the most challenging and perhaps least glamorous area of Canadian law, helping First Nations. Jim was a statesman whose principles demanded his participation in the public sphere, both federal and provincial, and whose talent brought him to the highest levels. Above all, Jim was an Albertan who saw his province in need and returned to make peace where there was division and unrest.

Jim and I disagreed on many things – after all, he was a Conservative and I’m a Liberal – but our ridings overlapped, and on the occasions where we worked together, I saw what so many had. Jim was kind, earnest, hard working, intelligent. His constitu-ents had no greater advocate than Jim.

For Jim’s family he was a devoted father and husband rather than the great politician the rest of us knew, and his passing is certainly one of personal tragedy. Their home is a stone’s throw from my own, and I know our community has mourned with the family. Words, of course, are insufficient, but please know that you, the family of Jim, are in our hearts, thoughts, and prayers.

The world is changing quickly, and there are tumultuous times ahead for Alberta and for all of Canada. Jim’s passing has taken from us someone whose guidance, patience, and experience will be missed sorely. I believe, though, that his legacy as coal miner turned lawyer turned statesman will inspire in us all a belief that we’re all in this together, and it is celebrating our differences, not trumpeting our similarities, which makes Jim Prentice’s Canada strong and free.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Dr. Swann Member Statement on Oil Sands Emissions Limit Act – 10 November 2016

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Thursday, November 10, 2016.

Member Statement – Oil Sands Emissions Limit Act

Dr. Swann: I stand today to speak on a very difficult new reality for Albertans who believe the science of climate change and the urgent need for greenhouse gas mitigation. Strong leadership was long overdue in Alberta. All of us must share in the cost of reducing emissions. This government has shown welcome leadership, but real change is never easy. It’s even less easy following the election of an unpredictable U.S. President who denies man-made climate change.

While I support the targets and timelines for cleaner energy development with its triple benefit for climate, jobs, and an alternate economy, we must hit pause on other parts of our energy-focused legislation, especially on less urgent bills such as Bill 25. Given Alberta’s deep dependence on oil and gas, our current economic weakness, and the yet unknown economic threat from the U.S., I see merit in pausing and allowing the new reality and expert views to inform further our decision on the bill before us. Not stop, just pause, a pregnant pause, perhaps.

I’ve heard the Premier say that her climate plan was developed independently and that actions of our biggest customer and competitor will have no effect. Even so, I don’t believe that anyone planned for the U.S. to go full speed in reverse. Proposals announced by Mr. Trump in his truth-challenged campaign have already begun to unfetter the U.S. fossil fuel industry and may drastically alter the investment climate and competitiveness here in Alberta. The ramifications of this election are sending shock waves through the global and Canadian economies. From free trade to energy, many U.S. policies are now in doubt. We have no idea yet what economic effect these changes will have on Alberta, nor have we in opposition yet seen a reasonable analysis of the effects our Alberta carbon policies might have.

Here in this House we serve Albertans. We’re mandated to craft for them the best possible laws, policies, and regulations. Our struggling economy and uncertain investment climate are now faced with unpredictability that will be better understood in the new year, when the oil sands advisory group reports.