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.


Swann questions government on fentanyl-related crime

Edmonton, AB (March 8, 2017): In Question Period today, Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann questioned the NDP government about recently-obtained statistics from the Calgary Police Service (CPS).

Swann received a briefing note from the CPS indicating a steady increase in fentanyl-related calls to police, charges being laid, and property crimes attributed to addictions.
“A briefing note I obtained from the Calgary Police Service shows the further impact fentanyl is having on policing resources and in the community. In 2016, CPS responded to 223 overdose calls, resulting in 111 fentanyl-related charges. These numbers have risen dramatically over the last 5 years. There has also been a corresponding spike in property crime driven by addiction. If the government has all the resources it needs, why do these numbers keep going up?”
Swann also questioned the government on the 10 Albertans who died while in police custody in 2016. Two of their deaths have been confirmed to be the result of overdoses, and six more cases remain pending investigation.

Finally, Swann argued that the pervasive nature of the opioid crisis requires leadership and a comprehensive, cross-jurisdictional plan, one that would have to be provided in a state of emergency. He questioned when the government would make such a plan available to the public.

A copy of the briefing note obtained by Swann, as well as a letter from Justice Minister Ganley regarding opioid deaths in remand centres, can be found on our website here


Statement from David Swann in response to the Speech from the Throne

Edmonton, AB (March 2, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the Speech from the Throne:

“Overall, I am broadly supportive of a number of government initiatives promised in today’s Speech from the Throne. Much of the proposed legislation echoes long-standing Liberal policies that I have looked forward to seeing brought into law.

“However, there are a number of areas where the Alberta Liberal Opposition differs from the NDP government, both in broad strokes and specific details. My first priority is better management of health care, particularly mental health and addiction services. I also want to make real progress in controlling the ongoing opioid crisis and saving lives, which is why I called for an emergency debate on the issue starting this Monday.

“I will be vigilant in ensuring that the government finally follows through on the implementation of the Mental Health Review. Since the committee submitted its report in December 2016, we have seen very little progress on its 32 recommendations, and the Ministry of Health has been less than forthcoming about what it is doing on this file.

“As a member of the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention, I will urge the government to take more action to prevent any further deaths of children in government care.

“Our public education system is another area in which we would like to see improvement. Affordability has always been a Liberal concern, and we firmly believe that public money should go to public education. As well, we support wrap-around services and affordable lunch programs, which we hope to see implemented in this new session.

“I am concerned that we face the true cost of electricity, which is why I will be bringing forward my own new ideas on how to make sure it is affordable for all Albertans.

“Finally, I will be vigorously holding the government to account on the performance of Alberta’s health care system. We need to reduce wait times in our emergency rooms, and improve community supports so we have less people being warehoused in our hospitals. We also need massive investments into primary care, prevention and wellness initiatives.

“The Liberal Opposition has always been a strong defender of fiscal, social, and environmental responsibility, and I will be continuing that tradition as a strong voice on the floor of the legislature in this session.”


Swann calls for emergency debate to address opioid crisis

Calgary, AB (March 1, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann is requesting government business be suspended on Monday for an emergency debate on his call to declare a state of emergency in response to Alberta’s rapidly expanding opioid crisis.

“Every day, another Alberta family loses someone to the scourge of opioid addiction and overdose, and yet the NDP government still refuses to treat this situation with the urgency that it so clearly deserves,” says Swann. “I am calling on my fellow legislators to come together and give the government clear direction on this overarching measure, including substantial new resources, which will have a significant and immediate impact in the battle against opioids.”

“It’s time to put partisanship aside, and have a thorough and thoughtful debate on this terrible crisis that is ending lives and destroying families.”

The call follows the release of the third quarter opioid report from 2016 that showed a deepening of the crisis and a continuing, dramatic rise in opioid-related deaths

A Notice of Standing Order 30 was filed with the Office of the Speaker yesterday afternoon, granting Dr. Swann the ability to present the motion after Question Period on Monday, March 6th, 2017.


Increased funding for Metta Clinic necessary to support transgender youth

Calgary, AB (February 15, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann is urging Health Minister Sarah Hoffman to support transgender and gender diverse youth by increasing funding to the Metta Clinic.

The Metta Clinic at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary is one of the only resources available for transgender youth in Alberta. The clinic only receives enough funding to operate for one day a month, adding up to a meagre two weeks per year.

The growing demand for the clinic’s services has resulted in wait times for access to care of almost three years, during which time, these youth are at risk of severe mental health challenges, suicidal and self-harming behaviours, and threats of harassment and abuse.

“These wait times are simply unacceptable,” says Swann. “The kind of support that the Metta Clinic provides is exactly what these youth need at such a critical time in their physical, mental and social development.”

“I look forward to a promise of increased funding for this important work in the upcoming provincial budget.”

Alberta Liberals are proud supporters of the LGBTQ community, recently championing the issue of making gay-straight alliances (GSAs) mandatory in schools where students request them.

Swann is now calling on the NDP government to take the next step in improving the lives of Alberta’s transgender and gender diverse youth by increasing funding for this important dedicated clinical support.


Government response to opioid crisis falls short: Swann

Calgary, AB (February 7, 2017): Alberta Liberal Leader, Dr. David Swann, says the NDP government’s response to the opioid crisis falls short of what is necessary, and renews his call for more information and coordinated action.

“Government information and action continue to be inadequate despite these new measures,” says Swann. “We are lacking timely information and are dealing with this in a piecemeal fashion when what is needed is a coordinated and comprehensive approach.”

Swann has been pressuring the government to release more data surrounding the overall impact of this crisis since last fall, when he called on the province to declare a public health state of emergency.

“Quarterly reporting on deaths resulting from overdoses is not sufficient,” says Swann. “We need a comprehensive look at the financial and human costs of the current approach on our emergency, medical, social and justice systems.”

While Swann applauds the government’s willingness to enhance treatment options in the critical stages of opioid abuse, he stresses more government leadership is required to improve communication and coordinate action.

“The NDP government has not put enough priority or urgency on this issue,” says Swann. “In addition to naloxone, it must ensure greater cooperation, more information sharing, and a better understanding of what is and what is not working.”


Information and Privacy Commissioner’s re-appointment should prompt more action on transparency

Calgary, AB (February 2, 2017): Today Dr. David Swann praised the recent re-appointment of Jill Clayton as Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Order in Council was issued on January 31st, appointing Ms. Clayton for a term lasting to 2022.

“As Commissioner, Ms. Clayton has been a champion of accountability and strong voice for public access to information,” said Swann. “I am glad to see the office remaining under her capable direction.”

With many government departments much delayed in their obligations under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP), Ms. Clayton has a big job ahead of her.

The Ministry of Justice, despite being specifically singled out by Ms. Clayton in the past,  routinely fails to meet legally mandated deadlines. An example of this can be found in its reply to a recent FOIP request, in which they warned that, “due to a high volume of requests at this office,” their response time may exceed the 30 day requirement.

Swann is calling on the government to use Jill Clayton’s reappointment to reaffirm its commitment to openness and transparency. In particular, Service Alberta should restart the practice of posting FOIP statistics publicly, which it discontinued in 2013.

“I look forward to seeing the changes Ms. Clayton will effect – not only in the Ministry of Justice, but in the Government of Alberta as a whole,” said Swann.