The medical officer of health for the Palliser Health Authority in southeastern Alberta has been fired after publicly supporting the Kyoto Protocol.

Dr. David Swann says his employment was terminated on Wednesday. It happened after he spoke publicly on what he believes are the negative health effects of burning fossil fuels.

"I was shocked," says Swann. "This is not the board that I have worked with for five years. They have been respectful, they have been supportive of public health. They usually give me a chance to talk about what's gone wrong if something has gone wrong, so I was totally shocked."

Firing confirmed

Len Mitzel, the chair of the board that fired Swann, confirmed that Swann was dismissed for coming in conflict with the board's position that Kyoto will hurt Alberta's economy.

"The whole health industry, which the board is charged with administering and delivering, is driven by the economy," Mitzel says.

"Everything is economy-driven, and any downturn, especially as severe as this looks like it's going to be in the economy, is going to have a very detrimental effect on the health industry and the ability for us to deliver health services."

Mitzel is also president of the Cypress-Medicine Hat Progressive Conservative constituency association. The MLA for that riding is Environment Minister Lorne Taylor, one of the leading Alberta cabinet ministers fighting Kyoto.

Mitzel says Taylor had nothing to do with Swann's firing.

Swann says despite his dismissal, he sticks by his view that the medical officer must be able to speak on health issues. And he still publicly supports the Kyoto climate change accord.

"The Society of Medical Officers of Health supports the Kyoto Protocol," he explains, "as a way of improving health, particularly respiratory health in the country." Swann is president of the society.

Swann says he's now considering legal action. He continues his job as the medical officer of health for the Headwaters Health Authority.