More, culturally-sensitive resources needed for opioid crisis in southern Alberta

Alberta Liberals say the government must provide more targeted, culturally-sensitive resources for the opioid crisis in southern Alberta.

“We applaud the local response by Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services and the Blood Tribe Police Service,” says Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann. “First responders have done an excellent job of responding to overdoses and preventing further deaths.”

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan agrees and is calling for more government resources to be mobilized in southern Alberta for the opioid crisis.

“Opioid overdoses and fatalities in Alberta are heart-breaking,” says Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan. “While we mourn the loss of loved-ones and send our sympathies to affected families, we also know many more lives could have been lost given the potency of these drugs.

“There remains an urgent need for more resources in southern Alberta that are culturally-sensitive to Indigenous people and their communities.”

Alberta Liberals believe federal funds for opioids and future cannabis revenue should be invested in mental health and addictions prevention, and expanding access to treatment in smaller municipalities, as well as rural and Indigenous communities.

Environmental Protection Order issued for Sears Plume welcome news

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) issued today for the Sears Hydrocarbon Plume is extremely welcome news for his constituents.

“This is the culmination of decades of advocacy by the people of Calgary – Mountain View who raised concerns about the need for remediation of this site,” says Swann. “This is extremely welcome news. I am very pleased and applaud the government for taking this action.”

Last year, Swann repeatedly corresponded with the Minister of Environment about the need for remediation of the former Sears gas station at North Hill Centre in the Calgary – Mountain View community of Hounsfield Heights, as well as the responsibility for ongoing remediation given the bankruptcy of Sears Canada.

The Minister initially downplayed the risks to human health and public safety, but later saidher government’s environmental law group was having discussions about the impact of the bankruptcy.

Swann was worried the responsibility for remediating the Sears Hydrocarbon Plume would go the same route as orphaned oil and gas wells, but says the EPO makes it clear that the new owners will be fully liable for the ongoing monitoring and clean-up of these sites.

“This sends a strong statement that ownership cannot simply walk away from their environmental responsibilities,” says Swann. “It is a message that is very much needed right now.”

Statement on the detention and treatment of “Angela Cardinal.”

“The treatment Angela Cardinal received was horrendous, and the NDP government’s response to it is grossly inadequate.

“Angela Cardinal was more than a victim of sexual assault. Her rights were repeatedly violated by acts of racism, injustice, and plain stupidity.

“Despite what the justice minister claims, the system alone did not victimize her. It was the result of a series of unconscionable and incomprehensible decisions made by individuals.

“There needs to be a reckoning, and it must start with the Minister of Justice, Kathleen Ganley.

“The thought that racism might have been a factor was a fear that Minister Ganley said kept her up at night. That all but vanished in the light of day as she views it as systemic racism, not a single identifiable act.

“In the same way, she refuses to find fault with any particular individual who had contact with Angela Cardinal, including with the judge who, it is now clear, wrongfully imprisoned her.

“The fact is Angela Cardinal should never have been incarcerated. Every horrifying and demeaning event that followed was a direct result.

“That is why I am calling on the Minister of Justice to write a letter to the Canadian Judicial Council to order an inquiry into these actions, as she did previously with regard to Justice Robin Camp.

“While this may be a symbolic gesture at this point, it is an important one, and it is absolutely important that she make it.

“Perhaps the final insult is the announcement of a paltry $50,000 bursary to assist women and Indigenous peoples. I suspect this amount would pale in comparison to what might be awarded in a successful civil suit.

“Regardless, the memory of Angela Cardinal is worth much more than what the Minister of Justice and the Government of Alberta have offered.”

Liberal request for investigation into Pure North grants hits pay dirt

An Auditor General investigation requested by Liberal MLA David Swann found Alberta Health inappropriately awarded grants to Pure North.

“This confirms what we suspected,” says Swann, “I completely support what the Auditor has found, and I look forward to hearing how the Minister plans to clean up this mess.”

In a letter to the Auditor General last May, Swann formally requested an audit of the granting process and the effectiveness of the vitamin supplement program, citing concerns for public funds and potential public health risks to vulnerable populations.

The investigation found the grant lacked appropriate performance measures and reporting requirements, and concluded that departmental processes were not followed in awarding the grants to Pure North.

“How can Albertans have confidence that the government has their back when they turn a blind eye to such serious concerns as those raised by their own department, the medical community, and the public?” Swann asks.

Former Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jim Talbot warned against government involvement in the experimental program, but his concerns were ignored. Instead, the government wasted over 11 million dollars in taxpayer funds with almost no accountability whatsoever.

“This is scandalous!” says Swann. “Clearly, the money could have been better invested in areas that would actually improve our broken system. What does the minister have to show for this?”

Despite Pure North’s claims that its programs would save money and lower demands on the system, performance measures have not improved under the NDP. In many cases, wait times for ambulances, emergency visits, continuing care placement, and elective surgeries have increased.

“Albertans expected better public health care from the NDP, but all we’ve seen is a series of inappropriate decisions, more waste, and poorer outcomes,” says Swann. “Alberta Liberals have the right prescription for better healthcare for Albertans.”

Advocate for Persons with Disabilities should be a higher priority for government

Alberta Liberals say the government needs to make the creation of an office of the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities a higher priority.

“Ensuring a better quality of life for Albertans living with disabilities should be a far higher priority for this government,” says Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann. “The rush to create a new elections watchdog proves the NDP can push an issue when it wants to, or when it is politically expedient to do so.”

Yesterday, a committee approved a budget of $1.3 million for the office of an election commissioner, which was made possible by Bill 32 – an act that was introduced in the legislature during the final weeks of the Fall Sitting. Meanwhile, a bill to create an Advocate for Persons with Disabilities, which was passed in June, still has yet to be proclaimed.

The need for an Advocate for Persons with Disabilities was obvious following a scathing 2016 report by the Auditor General, in which he criticized the government’s management and delivery of the AISH program.

“There is a clear need for an advocate to help Albertans with disabilities navigate the system,” says Swann. “I am disappointed there hasn’t been more done to help some of the most vulnerable get the government services they deserve.”

Urgent action needed to stop suicide epidemic in Maskwacis

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says urgent action from all levels of government is urgently needed to stop the suicide epidemic in Maskwacis.

“I am deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life,” says Swann. “My heart goes out to this community, which has endured immense suffering and witnessed so many preventable and senseless deaths.”

A recent CBC News report said the community has experienced 14 suicide deaths in less than 2 months. This echoes a previous story from May, 2015 that warned about a dramatic rise in Maskwacis suicide rate, which had reached one or two every week.

A local health worker and community members alike are asking for the area’s leadership to declare a state of emergency, a measure Swann believes may be needed to raise awareness and mobilize additional resources.

“This is clearly an ongoing crisis that hasn’t garnered the attention and action it deserves, especially given the scale of death occurring in this particular community,” said Swann. “All levels of government, must use whatever means at their disposal and work with the community and the affected families to put an immediate stop to this.

“We need the provincial and federal governments to provide increased access to affordable housing, education, health and child care, mental health and addictions services, as well as increased professional development and business opportunities.”

Yesterday, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate also released a five year summaryshowing that, of the number of suicide deaths during involvement with child intervention services, Indigenous young people accounted for 71.4% of deaths and 37.5% of serious injuries from suicide attempts. Among the suicide risk factors it identified were depression and exposure to suicide within their families and communities, as well as the impacts of intergenerational trauma and colonization.

“Maskwacis is particularly vulnerable given the particularly high presence of all of the risk factors associated with suicide,” says Swann. “The Advocate’s report should be a clarion call to invest in culturally appropriate care and activities to strengthen individual identity and connection to the community.”

NDP breaks the bank for Christmas spending spree

Alberta Liberals are raising concerns about the NDP borrowing billions just before the holiday break.

In an Order in Council late yesterday afternoon, Cabinet removed the restriction on the use of foreign currency and authorized the Minister of Finance to borrow money up to $37 billion. The move comes just hours before the civil service goes on an extended holiday period.

“Did the NDP really think no one would notice the piggy bank was broken into and $37 billion was missing?” asks Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan, who says the decision puts the government’s cynicism on full display.

“This is extremely disrespectful to taxpayers,” says Khan. “I expect the government to tell us why billions of dollars in new debt is needed now, what it will be used for, and, most importantly, how it plans to pay it back so that Albertans aren’t saddled with this debt for Christmases to come.”

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann agrees.

“I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that this information was released without any fanfare whatsoever just before the ultimate holiday long weekend,” says Swann. “Albertans should be concerned about how, and how much, the NDP is borrowing for a Christmas spending spree.

“There is certainly going to be some sticker shock when the bill comes due in the New Year.”

NDP’s Bill 32 fails to deliver on promise to get dark money out of Alberta politics

Alberta Liberals say Bill 32 is a half-measure, and not the comprehensive regulation of Political Action Committees (PACs) needed to get dark money out of Alberta politics.

“The NDP told us to expect better, and we expect better,” says Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan. “This is clearly an elections amendment act with a section on third party advertisers added at the last minute in response to pressure from Alberta Liberals and Bill 214, An Act to Regulate Political Action Committees.

“Simply put, our bill is a better bill and will do a better job of getting dark money out of politics.”

Bill 32, An Act to Strengthen and Protect Democracy, includes of a series of common-sense measures aimed at improving voter access, which Alberta Liberals strongly support. However, it also contains what appears to be a rushed attempt to fix the loopholes left open by the NDP that are being exploited by political action committees.

“This is an omnibus bill that does not allow Members to support one aspect without the other,” says Liberal MLA David Swann. “Bill 32 should be split in two – one with reforms to the Elections Act, and another amending the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act.
“Nonetheless, Bill 214 remains the most comprehensive regulation of political action committees in Canada. It should be passed or adopted entirely into the government’s legislation.”

Among Bill 32’s key failures:

  • Political Action Committees are not mentioned at all. The government makes no attempt to define PACs as distinct from all other third party advertisers.
  • The Independent Election Commissioner can only conduct investigations into third party advertising, not PACs. If third parties do not advertise, there is still no accountability in terms of registration, contribution limits or disclosure requirements.
  • Prohibitions on government advertising allow for ongoing advertising, further infrastructure spending announcements, and a strange exemption for matters before the Assembly, which could easily be exploited by using government backbenchers to raise topics the ruling party plans to promote.
  • Spending limits outside of an election period have been struck down in BC as unconstitutional. This is further complicated by Alberta’s fixed election period. The NDP should have heeded the Chief Electoral Officer’s advice to set a fixed election day to reduce unnecessary confusion and uncertainty.
  • Weak anti-collusion provisions regarding incurring a campaign expense leave loopholes for other political promotion activities.
  • Refined regulations of third party advertising still permit corporate, union and out-of-province donations to PACs outside of an election period.

“Bill 32’s preamble says it is intended to keep corporate and union money out of politics, but it fails to do this,” says Khan. “Only Bill 214 defines political action committees as distinct from other third parties and has the regulations needed to get dark money out of Alberta politics once and for all.”

David Swann statement on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement on International Day of Persons with Disabilities:

“On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities we take the time to appreciate the unique struggles faced by those with disabilities, who are all too easily forgotten. One in six Albertans live with a disability, and need support to overcome the various barriers that face them. Sadly, that support is all too often lacking.

“Here in Alberta, changes need to be made to the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program; as well, a Disability Advocate remains to be appointed. The government needs to move now to make people with disabilities a higher priority, and offer them the support they need.

“Albertans with disabilities deserve the same happiness and prosperity afforded any other Albertan. As we celebrate this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we must pledge to do more so disabled Albertans have access to the same opportunities as everyone else.”

Liberal bill will shine a light on dark money influencing Alberta’s democracy

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann has introduced Bill 214, An Act to Regulate Political Action Committees, which clearly defines political action committees (PACs) and regulates them in accordance with the same rules as other political entities.

“I am very proud of the proposals being put forward in Bill 214,” says Swann. “Alberta Liberals are, once again, leading the way on this very important issue by being an impetus for change.”

The bill is the culmination of months of strong advocacy by Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan, who first raised the issue in June. If passed, Bill 214 would make Alberta a national leader with the most comprehensive law in Canada governing PACs.

“We need to shine a light on the unregulated dark money that is corrupting our democracy,” says Khan. “Albertans deserve to know who has donated and who is donating to PACs, how much they are donating, and where this money is going afterwards. It’s the only way they can be confident that big money is not buying and selling our democracy.”

Swann sought input from the Chief Electoral Officer on some aspects he incorporated into Bill 214, such as: the definition of a PAC, anti-collusion provisions between PACs and the political entities they support, standardizing the election finance and disclosure rules to include PACs, and banning corporation, union, and out-of-province donations.

He also consulted with the government on the matter by sharing the intent of his bill and discussing various approaches to resolving the issue of dark money in Alberta politics.

“Now is the time for us to get serious about protecting the integrity of our democracy by closing legislative loopholes,” says Swann. “No matter the fate of Bill 214, I expect swift and meaningful action from the government and all Members of the Assembly to protect our democracy from those who are more concerned with winning than ensuring the voice of the people is heard and the public interest is served.”

Please click here for more detailed information on Bill 214.