News / Edmonton

Leadership profile: Alberta Liberal leader David Swann - martyr for the cause, any cause

It’s a party that’s formed government and, in 1993, came close to ending the multi-decade PC dynasty. But in 2015, Liberal leader David Swann may be leading his party, which currently holds five seats in the legislature, to a near disappearance in the May 5 election.

Swann is the party's interim leader, after the resignation of Raj Sherman earlier this year. In an earlier interview, he said he came close to not running in this election at all.

“I was considering retirement and then I realized I would be the last opposition member in Calgary,” he said.

Swann has been Liberal leader before – he led from 2008 to 2011 – but did not take it into the election in 2012. Instead, Swann was pushed out in 2011.

Corey Hogan, the party’s executive director at the time, said Swann was sent packing as leader largely for pushing a co-operation agenda with other parties.

“He jumped on the grenade of co-operation and he lost his leadership for it and now he is jumping on another grenade,” he said. “He likes being that guy in all of the good senses and all of the bad senses,” he said. “He’s the only MLA I can think of who has ever gone on a hunger strike outside an MP’s office.”

Indeed, Hogan said he doesn’t understand why Swann is stepping in this time.

“It looks less like principle and more like somebody who likes to jump on grenades,” he said.

After Sherman’s departure, the only other possible interim leader was Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman. She pushed for co-operation with other parties and asked the party's board to make her interim leader with that understanding, but was turned down.

Blakeman said Swann takes principled stances, but that they’re ultimately for the right reasons.

“Some people call him the yogi or the guru and we’re teasing him, but it’s not that far off,” she said. “He really is someone who lives the life he wants to see.”

For his part, Swann said he feels called to defend the centrist position the Liberals represent.  “This is about my children, my grandchildren my people in this province,” he said.

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