Statement on including teaching of consent in sex education curriculum

Edmonton, AB (April 18, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann issued the following statement in support of including the teaching of consent in the sexual education curriculum:

“Alberta Liberals have advocated for a number of years to include the teaching of consent as part of the sexual education curriculum. I am proud to say that we adopted this position as formal party policy in 2014.

“That is why I am very pleased to see influential voices in the Catholic School Board showing leadership by publicly discussing this matter. In particular, I applaud Marilyn Bergstra for putting forward a motion today that would call on the Board to lobby the government to include important concepts such as safe sex and consent, as well as programming that would address a variety of sexual orientations, in the sexual education curriculum.

“Consent is a subject that sex education teachers need to start discussing with students as early and as often as possible. Teaching that yes means yes, no means no, and that permission must be sought, and given, before any sexual activity can occur is fundamental to the understanding of proper sexual, and, indeed, societal behaviour.

“As a graduate student in public health, Ms. Bergstra brings an important perspective to this debate. Her motion is aimed at equipping students with crucial, practical knowledge – not encouraging sexual activity. Concerns that providing students with such knowledge would promote promiscuity are, in my view, misguided.

“Therefore, I would encourage the Board to carefully consider approving this motion, and help to show leadership in this important area of the sexual education curriculum.”


Revenues from cannabis legalization should go to support mental health and addictions programs, drug treatment courts

Edmonton, AB (April 13, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann says revenue from cannabis sales should be used to support mental health and addictions prevention and treatment programs, as well as initiatives such as the drug treatment courts.
Swann welcomes federal legislation on cannabis introduced in the House of Commons today, and calls on the province to ensure the revenue from the sale of cannabis is used appropriately.

“I congratulate the Liberal government on taking this important step to ensure children are protected and profits from the illicit sale of cannabis products are kept out of the pockets of criminals,” says Swann. “Now, it is up to NDP government to ensure these funds go to where they are needed most.”

Swann points out the province’s annual spending on mental health and addictions is well below the national average. He argues dedicating funds from cannabis taxation to prevention and treatment programs is consistent with the NDP’s practice of directing revenues from the carbon levy to reduce carbon pollution and encourage energy efficiency.

“The goal of any cannabis regulation should be to reduce the negative health impacts of drug abuse,” says Swann. “I can think of no better use of these funds than to expand prevention and treatment options.

“Addictions and mental illness often go hand in hand, so it makes sense to have this funding follow suit.”

Swann says the new legislation will also help to alleviate pressure on our overburdened justice system. He notes part of the funding from cannabis sales could go to expanding the drug treatment court system.

“Liberals believe treating drug addiction as a public health issue is far better than dealing with its consequences in the criminal justice system,” says Swann. “That is why we would also like to see an expansion of the drug treatment courts accompany the new cannabis regulations.”


Swann statement on proclamation of off-highway vehicle safety legislation

Edmonton, AB (April 13, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the Order in Council proclaiming Bill 36, An Act to Enhance Off-highway Vehicle Safety:

“Requiring off-highway vehicle operators to use helmets on public land is an important first step, especially since Alberta was the only province not to have such legislation. However, much more needs to be done to ensure the safe operation of these machines.

“Despite being powerful motor vehicles, Alberta has virtually no rules for OHVs use. There are no age restrictions, mandatory training, testing or licencing requirements for operating an OHV. Neither is there any explicit prohibition against consuming alcohol while operating these vehicles on private land in Alberta.

“The statistics are sobering. Each year in Alberta, there are nearly 6,000 off-highway vehicle-related emergency room visits, and an average of almost 20 Albertans are killed each year while operating them.

“Sadly, many of those are children. In 2015, more than 1,000 children under the age of 16 were injured while riding OHVs. Between the months of April and August last year, 44 children were seen in Alberta’s two pediatric emergency departments due to OHV-related injuries. 13 were injured seriously enough to require admission to hospital, and two of them died as a result of their injuries.

“During the debate, I proposed two amendments to the bill to include standards for safety training, including the proper use of helmets, to be completed prior to a person driving, operating, riding in or on or being towed by an off-highway vehicle. The NDP government chose to vote against them.

“Having a very personal connection to this issue – my nephew was killed while operating an OHV without a helmet – it is my earnest desire that no family experience such a terrible loss, which can easily be prevented by ensuring proper training and requiring the use of helmets while operating off-highway vehicles.”


David Swann statement on interim opioid report, increased fentanyl deaths

Edmonton, AB (April 7, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the release of the interim Opioid and Substances of Misuse first quarter report:

“It is very troubling that the number of Albertans who have died has doubled over the same period last year, especially since these deaths are preventable.

“It is clear that we are not getting ahead of this crisis. In fact, we are starting to see the same trends witnessed in British Columbia, but without our government taking similar emergency measures.

“While I welcome the addition of $6 million in federal funds to help Alberta’s opioid-crisis response, as well as the NDP’s willingness to enhance treatment options in the critical stages of opioid abuse, I believe new, focused leadership is required.

“This includes the reinstatement of the Provincial Mental Health and Addiction Officer, along with a comprehensive and coordinated strategy involving other governmental and non-governmental agencies.

“For example, regulatory bodies such as the College of Physician and Surgeons of Alberta need to ensure their guidelines are being followed in order to prevent further opioid addictions resulting from abuse of prescriptions.

“We need increased public education efforts and timelier access to harm reduction, including opiate replacement therapy and safe injection sites. We also need to expand the availability of these resources outside of our two largest cities. Lethbridge, for instance, has a four month wait list – this is unacceptable.

“Once again, I urge this government to declare a state of emergency. Let’s do everything in our power to get ahead of these deaths so that more lives are not lost with each new quarterly report.”

 


Swann introduces Motion 502 to save Albertans money on electricity bills

Edmonton, AB (April 3, 2017): Today, Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann will introduce Motion 502, which is aimed at providing Albertans with significant savings in electricity costs by modifying how the Regulated Rate Option (RRO) is calculated.

“I want to ensure that the default option for electricity is affordable, protects consumers, encourages industry participation and reinforces proper market functioning,” said Swann. “Motion 502 is an evidence-based solution that strikes the right balance and provides saving for the majority of Albertans on their power bills.”

Currently, the RRO is calculated based on a process called “forward pricing.” Electricity providers buy power in advance and retailers bid on it. Retailers then sell this electricity to consumers. Often, the forward price is higher than the actual price of power during the month it is used.

Changing how the rate is calculated to reflect the cost of electricity at the time of consumption results in an overall lower price and significant savings for Albertans.

Motion 502 will be debated in the Assembly this afternoon at 5 p.m.

Detailed information on the motion can be found on the Alberta Liberal Opposition website.


David Swann statement on Ministerial Order to allow Gay-Straight Alliances

Edmonton, AB (March 24, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the Ministerial Order directing two schools to allow gay-straight alliances (GSAs):

“I thank the Minister of Education for his decision to enforce the law permitting gay-straight alliances to be established in all schools where students request them.

“However, I admonish him for not having taken a firmer stance from the beginning on this matter. By allowing a situation of open defiance to continue for as long as it had, he empowered a willful act of discrimination. This is something that he should not and must not permit.

“The incident further highlights the fact that many school board LGBTQ policies simply do not make the grade – the Minister even called them ‘clunky’. In some cases, students are even discouraged from using the terms LGBTQ or GSA. This goes against both the spirit and the letter of the law.

“One way to ensure transparency and accountability in this matter is to require all school boards, including private schools, to make their GSA policies publicly accessible. That way, parents, students, and the community can review them.

“The investigation that led to the Ministerial Order also raised concerns about a school’s ability to “out” LGBTQ students by notifying parents if students attend GSAs. If true, this is deeply troubling.

“Therefore, I call on the Minister to do everything in his power to protect these vulnerable students, and ensure their privacy and confidentiality is explicitly safeguarded.

“Finally, let us not forget that GSAs save lives. While students have the legal right to form GSAs, more needs to be done to remove all barriers to establishing these safe and inclusive student-led initiatives.”

Video of David Swann questioning Minister Eggen on Gay-Straight Alliances on March 14th can be found here


Banning paid donations will not ensure a safer, more sustainable plasma supply

Edmonton, AB (March 21, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann will not support Bill 3, the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, over concerns that banning paid donation will not ensure a safer or more sustainable supply of plasma.

“Alberta currently imports 80 per cent of its plasma products from clinics in the United States which pay donors,” says Swann. “There is absolutely no way for the government to replace this capacity with volunteer donors.

“Growing our domestic plasma supply is a critical goal. Systems allowing for paid plasma donations have had success in other jurisdictions without any of the adverse effects that the NDP are raising as justification for this bill.”

Paid plasma donations are regulated by Health Canada regulations and have been deemed to be every bit as safe as those that come from unpaid donors.

Swann is also concerned about the additional burden Bill 3 might put on the public health care system.

“Health care is already the largest line item in the provincial budget. The government cannot hope to ‘bend the cost curve’ by adding more public services that could be provided through private sector partnerships,” says Swann. “We saw this same approach with private laundry services.

“Canada deserves a safe, sustainable supply of plasma. I am not convinced Bill 3 helps us get there. For those reasons, I cannot support it.”


Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann responds to Budget 2017

Edmonton, AB (March 16, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to Budget 2017:
“I would like to applaud the government on investing in public services and infrastructure, eliminating school fees, and committing to address climate change and protect the environmental. These are priorities that Alberta Liberals share.

“However, like many Albertans, I am concerned about the increasing deficits and debt our province is accumulating as a result of government borrowing for operational costs. This budget sees the NDP government borrowing $15.2 billion for operating costs this year – the beginning of a steady upward trajectory towards $30 billion in 2019-2020. In the past, we have compared this approach to paying the mortgage with a credit card or selling the family farm to pay the monthly bills. It simply does not make financial sense.

“Of course, anything is possible when you’re paying by credit, but this is not sustainable in the long-term. In this budget, as with every previous budget since this government took power, we see more spending with no plan to pay it back. Alberta’s total liabilities now sit at $85.7 billion, and higher interest rates associated with further credit rating downgrades will make this task even more difficult. I have no confidence that the NDP approach will do anything but add to the $1.4 billion in debt servicing costs Albertans are already paying.

“Fairness to future generations is a Liberal value. The NDP legacy of debt is anything but fair. We need to have an adult conversation about spending and revenue. The government cannot continue to spend at this rate while relying on volatile resource revenue.

“We would like to see the government make strategic decisions and targeted investments in areas that will reduce costs in the long run. Getting ahead of the cost curve is preferable to bending it.

“This is particularly the case for our province’s health care system. We need massive investments in home care, disease and injury prevention, wellness and mental health. This will not only save money and lower wait times by reducing the strain on the acute care system, but it will also improve quality of care and patient outcomes.

“Alberta’s legal system also needs an injection of cash to remove barriers and improve access to justice. Alberta Liberals have championed increasing funding to Legal Aid Alberta. Chronic underfunding has led to unnecessary backlogs, delays, and slower trial process when people try to self-represent. The government has committed some money to this program, but not enough to bring it out of its $10-million deficit.

“Alberta Liberals also support expanding the Drug Treatment Court program, which received no mention in this budget. The program badly underfunded for the valuable results it delivers in terms of keeping addicts out of prison and getting them back on the road to recovery.

“The Metta Clinic, which is the only specialized clinic for transgender youth, only receives enough funding to operate for half a day per month. This is totally unacceptable. We urge the government to increase funding so that these vulnerable youth can get the services they so desperately need.

“Finally, we need a savings plan. Over the last number of years, we have seen our trust and contingency funds depleted at an alarming rate – the contingency account will be gone by this time next year. We need to reverse this trend today and start saving for tomorrow.

“Overall, Alberta Liberals support the government’s attempt at protecting public goods and services, but we are calling on the NDP to show more fiscal restraint, make better investments and savings, and produce a plan to diversify our revenue and pay down the debt.”


Federal funding welcome relief for opioid crisis and health system

Calgary, AB (March 10, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann welcomed the announcement of federal government funding for the opioid crisis, mental health and home care.

“This is good news,” says Swann. “The opioid-crisis urgently needed these resources. However, money alone will not solve this. We must have better, focused leadership and a more comprehensive, cross-jurisdictional strategy.”

In addition to the $6 million in immediate support to Alberta’s opioid-crisis response, the federal government is offering targeted investments of $703.2 million for home care and $586 million for mental health initiatives over the next decade.

“Mental health is certainly an area in desperate need of substantial further investment,” says Swann. “And doubling the investment in home care is a long-standing Alberta Liberal policy.”

“We believe these measures will help improve care, reduce costs, and lower wait times by alleviating pressure on our acute care system.”


NAIT Board of Governors appointment echoes previous government patronage appointments

Edmonton, AB (March 9, 2017): Ray Martin’s appointment as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) reeks of NDP political patronage.

“This does not pass the smell test,” says Swann. “The NDP are clearly continuing the Tory legacy of posting party insiders to important public positions.”

The Order in Council, approved on March 7th, appoints Ray Martin as a member and designates him as chair of the Board of Governors of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, for a term to expire on March 6, 2020.

Alberta Liberals have been staunch advocates of the creation of an independent appointments commission that would ensure these appointments are based solely on merit and not personal or political connections.

“The NDP has only made symbolic changes to the appointments process, which amounts to advertising the position on the government’s job board,” says Swann, “It still lacks the necessary independence and transparency that only an arms-length organization would afford.”

Swann is calling on the government to put an immediate stop to political patronage by establishing an independent commission to oversee the appointments process.